Even though Philadelphia recently won national recognition as a walkable town, the city's downtown crosswalks may be truly safe only once a year: when dozens of police officers show up to direct traffic at intersections during the week-long Philadelphia Flower Show.
With the flower show just passed, pedestrians face another year of crossing at their own risk.
So it's welcome to see a new study of downtown traffic congestion make the compelling case for city officials to take a fresh, coordinated look at bringing more order to Center City streets.
The study commissioned by the Center City District offers a smorgasbord of promising proposals to speed cars and buses on their way, ease deliveries to businesses, and accommodate bicyclists - all of which would better safeguard pedestrians.
The ideas run from low-cost to high-tech to controversial. Freshening paint at crosswalks and removing parking spaces near corners would improve motorists' visibility of pedestrians. Real-time posting of parking availability would ease circling-the-block traffic.
Banning daytime deliveries along busy Walnut and Chestnut Streets, with expanded designated loading zones on flanking streets, would improve crosstown bus travel.
Mayor Nutter is well-poised to run with these and other ideas, since he just restored a deputy-level appointee for transportation issues by naming former Philadelphia Parking Authority and PennDOT official Rina Cutler to the post.
No thanks to former Mayor John F. Street, who left the job vacant for eight years, the city paid a price in growing traffic congestion and several missed "federal transportation funding opportunities," the CCD study said.
Cutler has a full plate, of course, and could easily get lost in the weeds of transportation policy. But the CCD study provides her with a menu of ideas for high-impact and high-visibility improvements at the street level.
That's a good place for her to focus.
One challenge goes beyond Cutler, and rests with Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. The study makes clear that the anything-goes atmosphere at busy downtown intersections is due, in large part, to the lack of basic police traffic enforcement.
Traffic cops posted at key intersections - particularly during rush hour - would help crack down on an epidemic of vehicles blocking lanes and crosswalks. That, in turn, would improve traffic flow, enhance pedestrian safety, and ease drivers' tension.
It may be costly, but the benefits would be priceless.