A couple weeks ago, in the span of two days, I heard two different stories that illustrate just how bad Philly’s pothole problem is:
One: An infrequent city driver who comes to town once a week for meetings has twice—twice!—in the last two weeks driven into a pothole. The first was on I-95 near the stadiums and the second was on I-76 near Montgomery, with both resulting in flat tires. He ended each week with a $200 bill to replace said tires
Two: Someone who waits for the bus at 44th and Chestnut streets commented on the scene that takes place there daily. As cars approach the corner, regular bus riders get quiet and peer around, with bated breath. Drivers experienced with the spot swerve expertly; those who aren’t, flop loudly and painfully into and out of the hole. This repeats every few minutes or so.
Yes, no doubt, someone has reported these potholes to 3-1-1; the Streets Department promises on its website to fill reported potholes within three days. As anyone who has ever driven in Philly, or reported a pothole knows: That, um, doesn’t always happen.
In fairness, the City has filled many potholes. As Victor Fiorillo noted in his comprehensive guide to potholes in Philly Mag, Streets fills somewhere between 30,000 and 70,000 holes every single year. And yet, there seems an endless supply of the scourges.
As Citizen Co-founder Larry Platt noted a few weeks ago, Mayor Kenney could do more:
Memphis has provided city buses with cameras capturing road footage to then be put through an AI application. In Tarrant County, Texas, officials have opted for a less complicated approach: they monitor the traffic app Waze and auto-generate work orders the moment a pothole warning appears on screen. Under dynamic Mayor Quinton Lucas, Kansas City uses gel-based bags to fill holes temporarily until the city is able to make the fix permanent. Imagine calling 311 and, ten minutes later, spying a city worker on your street, smoothing things over until a truck can make it to your block.
We have advocated before planting flowers in potholes, part of a much-needed greening of Philly, if not exactly a solid road-care solution. Businessman and philanthropist Richard Vague has waxed whimsical on the subject, using his imagination “to soar across the world! I imagine the potholes on 15th Street as foxholes in the Battle of Verdun. If you look closely, you can see Wonder Woman coming to the rescue! The potholes on Pine Street remind me of the lunar surface. I’m now Neil Armstrong piloting the Eagle safely to its landing!”
Neither of those are serious answers to what is no doubt a serious problem. But the state of our roads is also part of the absurdity of living in, or traveling by car to, Philadelphia.
And so, we invite you to play an equally absurd, only-in-Philly parlor game: Pothole Whack-a-Hole.
Here’s how you play:
- Pick a pothole (any pothole) that you pass by regularly.
- Go to Philly311’s pothole reporting page to alert the Streets Department about the problem.
- Send us a screenshot of the top of your request via email, like this:
- Also send us a photo of your pothole if you’re able.
- Keep track of your pothole’s progress, either through communications from the city or with your own eyeballs.
- If—when?—it gets fixed, let us know. You are a winner!
- We’ll send you some Citizen swag as a reward. (Because if you have to suffer the indignity of pothole-induced car damage, at least you can sport a jaunty lightning bolt while you’re doing it.)
And please, please, take care out there. The roads are (absurdly) brutal.
Photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons