The Other 'Philadelphia Plan': Community Philanthropy and Corporate Investment in Critical Infrastructure for Back-to-the-City Movements, 1950-1985
Aidoo, Fallon Samuels
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CitationAidoo, Fallon Samuels. 2017. The Other 'Philadelphia Plan': Community Philanthropy and Corporate Investment in Critical Infrastructure for Back-to-the-City Movements, 1950-1985. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the development, implementation, impact and legacy of the ‘Philadelphia Plan for Balanced Transportation,’ a loose set of postwar governmental programs and nongovernmental projects that preserved the historic role of commuter rail in resettlement of the shrinking city. Privately owned and operated until the mid-1980s, commuter rail companies, concessionaires and conservancies serving the Pennjerdel region long integrated new residents and companies into the social and spatial fabric of Philadelphia and its suburbs via special railroad property and passenger management programs such as railroad gardening and park-n-ride planning. These corporate acts of participatory governance became government enterprises of New Public Management between 1950 and 1985 as philanthropic bodies—both private foundations and public charities—invested in citizens councils, commuter clubs and community associations that researched and reclaimed railways undergoing divestment, degradation, disintegration, debt restructuring and desertion. Building on the ‘new suburban history’ of voluntary associations, this case study of strategic partnerships in critical infrastructure protection shows how a participatory praxis of infrastructure planning, policymaking and provision perpetuates private management and philanthropic finance of the public realm.
A dizzying array of foundation-funded civic bodies and community-based organizations have sustained private equity in public transportation across Greater Philadelphia. The financial resources, technical knowledge and social capital of six nonprofit corporations operating in the postwar period are the focus of this dissertation for they developed provisional forms of rail revitalization (e.g. ‘park-n-ride’ lots and paratransit fleets) as well as more permanent foundations for railway reclamation (e.g. land trusts, long-term leases and easements). Some acts of critical infrastructure protection undermined the agency of municipal corporations, metropolitan compacts, state agencies and federal administrators, while others underwrote public access to private property and public accommodations in protected spaces. Some emerged from the bottom up via coalition-building amongst corporate builders and community foundations before the tenure of U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert Weaver; others benefited from federal sponsorship of public-private partnership in metropolitan transportation planning, policymaking and provision, namely CONRAIL and AMTRAK. In spite of differences in their temporality and spatiality, origins and objectives, each inquiry, intervention and institution recast rail rights-of-way as avenues to the right to the city.
Paratransit, park-n-ride lots and passenger recruitment programs are rarely the focus of urban history or planning theory. Case studies of these marginal places, practices and products of back-to-the-city movements illuminate (in)equity in transportation-land use planning and policymaking. Rail rehabilitation, ridership retention and real estate redevelopment initiatives not only relied on but reified civil rights activism in Greater Philadelphia. Charters for the Passenger Service Improvement Corporation of Philadelphia (est. 1960), unlike congressional entrées into transportation equity that came more than two decades later, brought diverse competencies, capacities, and communities to bear on planning roles, development rights and managerial responsibilities of the third sector in the post-civil rights era. The dissertation lays bare how the most progressive of postwar fixatives for splintering urbanism still privileged former fixers of the fractured metropolis: philanthropic “friends” of regional rail.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140254
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