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Why Do The Triangles Matter?

Updated: May 6, 2019

The triangle spaces were formed as leftovers when diagonal streets end in the orthogonal grid of Center City, are a typical Philadelphian occurrence. Almost every neighborhood around Center City has them; Moyamensing, Passyunk, Ridge, Germantown, and our very own Grays Ferry Avenue. They have historical roots as they were formed typically around the outskirts of the original Center City grid where outlying roads, trails, or paths met William Penn’s original city plan.

These trails, in many cases, predated the development of the neighborhoods and represented the straightest lines and easiest routes into the city from communities like Germantown or significant landmarks like “Grays Ferry”, a Schuylkill River ferry crossing operated by the Gray family. People walked, produce was delivered, and animals were driven in the most direct line from nearby towns and farms to the city along these routes. As Philadelphia grew and the surrounding neighborhoods developed by extending the grid of streets derived from Center City’s original layout, the diagonal routes were awkwardly reconciled into the expanding grid. The resulting leftover triangular spaces are a rare opportunity in our city of orthogonal grids, to make public spaces in places where overlapping streets are redundant or under used.


About eight years ago residents from SOSNA and CCRA formed the Triangles Committee to address the intersections on Grays Ferry Avenue at South and Bainbridge Streets. The committee hired a traffic consulting firm to study the area and came up with a few ideas for changing the intersection, and we shared them in a large public meeting. Thereafter, the city offered us the opportunity to apply for a pedestrian plaza, so we created a design for the plaza, and with 97% of polled residences, proprietors and property owners within three blocks radius, in agreement, it became a beloved neighborhood amenity, which is currently on its third temporary permit.

Recently, the Vision Zero Committee (formerly the Safety Committee) decided to revisit the design of the intersection at Grays Ferry Avenue and Bainbridge. In a meeting with several City departments, we were invited to write a grant with the City that seeks funding for a redesign and reconstruction of this intersection to improve traffic flow and increase safety for all, while creating a more attractive intersection

We now invite you to share your thoughts about the intersection and the plaza and to see some of the ideas that have been presented to us