DVRPC holds talk on the intersection between Transportation and Tourism

Written by Will Becker on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

On Friday, April 20, The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission's (DVRPC) held their latest Strategies for Older Suburbs Roundtable Series with a talk on the role of "Transportation and Tourism" in Philadelphia. The speakers were Christina Arlt, Senior Planner at DVRPC; Mark Cassel, Director of Suburban Service Planning and Schedules at SEPTA; Maud Lyon, President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; and Shelley Bernstein, Deputy Director of Audience Engagement and Chief Experience Officer of the Barnes Foundation. 

Each speaker has extensive knowledge of the intersection between transportation and tourism and shared their respective viewpoints with regard to their organization’s role in each area.

Christina Arlt began the event with an overview of various tourist destinations and discussed how the role of engaging with transportation benefits both the economy and the destinations themselves. For instance, a study published by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance reported that information for access to bike parking increases visitor numbers, as well as discernible information regarding public transit access to the destination. What’s more, she noted that the Independence Seaport Museum even provides information for accessing the Museum by boat!

Maud Lyon then began her presentation, which provided a wealth of insight about the role of arts and culture and their specific intersections with transportation in the city. Indeed, she noted that “Arts and Culture gets people to places they would otherwise not go to.” She went on to say that the Cultural Alliance study also found that arts and culture audiences spend an additional $892 million on event-related purchases, whether in the form of meals, souvenirs, transportation, or child care. It was found that arts programming at transit hubs encourages public transit. 

Mark Cassel spoke about the initiatives SEPTA takes part in in order to further create this relationship, in manners such as solociting members of the community, open houses, and conducting community benefits analyses. For example, SEPTA runs a program called ISEPTAPHILLY, which is a part of SEPTA perks. Through this program, visitors can use their SEPTA passes to get discounts on food, drink, museums, sports, shops and more.

Shelley Bernstein spoke about the changes in audience outreach that have occurred over recent years at the Barnes. They recently conducted a survey report through BeHeardPhilly and found that many want free, family-oriented special programming. What’s more, the report found that the more engagement that occurs with families, greater diversity will follow as well. As such, they rebranded their "Free First Sundays" into a family-oriented version of the same event, and saw both attendance and diversity to jump up. The Barnes also began a partnership with Philadelphia’s bike share program, Indego, in order to engage with environmentally sound transportation and the program’s diverse audience that engages the art of The Barnes with a community that would otherwise might view the experience as exclusive in a way. They found that the program essentially pays for itself, and has provided a dimension in tapping into new audiences.

In total, the event was extremely helpful in showing the intersection between Transportation and Tourism, particularly in that the two should not be separated, and must be viewed as an instrumental relationship in order to see to a destination’s full potential.

More information on the Strategies for Older Suburbs Roundtable Series and future events can be found here.