DVRPC Unveils Community Investment Index

September 20, 2012

Tool Supports SEPTA's Efforts to Integrate with Livable Communities

SEPTA's recent success in securing federal funding through competitive grant programs is due in part to key support from its partners. The newly released "Community Investment Index (CI^2)," a product of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), has been particularly helpful by identifying place-based investments already on the ground to promote livable, sustainable communities across the region.

SEPTA has used this new tool to strategically advance its own transportation improvement projects in the immediate geographic vicinity of those existing investments. Ultimately, the result has been a better alignment of resources across sectors and agencies, magnifying the impact of each dollar spent on projects to achieve broader livability and sustainability goals at a neighborhood scale.

Take, for example, SEPTA's 33rd & Dauphin bus loop, serving the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia. During the 19th and early 20th century, Strawberry Mansion was home to some of the city's most affluent families. After the 1960s, residents migrated to the suburbs and factories closed, leading to a number vacant buildings and empty lots, which now account for nearly a quarter of the neighborhood's developed land. Today, more than one-third of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

But now, Strawberry Mansion is in the process of renewal. Four new housing developments are underway, including a $2.3 million housing project supported by the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development. Improvements to the 33rd & Dauphin Loop will leverage existing investments by making the transit network that serves them more efficient, more attractive, and more accessible for community residents. The newly restored facility will enhance a gateway between the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood and Fairmount Park, encouraging additional reinvestment in the area. CI^2 helped identify those existing investments and emphasize the importance of its 33rd & Dauphin loop project in its application for funding. (Click here for an example of how CI^2 supported SEPTA's 33rd & Dauphin application.)

So what exactly is CI^2? And how is it used? According to DVRPC, the program was developed based on mapping of nearly 100 types of place-based investments made between 2000 and 2010. These investments were in one of seven categories:

  • Affordable & accessible housing
  • Community & economic development
  • Environmental
  • Livability & supportive transportation
  • Planning activities
  • Regionally scaled projects
  • Selected local partners & incentives
The CI^2 "Heat Map" Graphically Displays Place-Based Investments Based on a Composite Scoring System

CI^2 pulls these datapoints together to create a coherent summary of a given location's ability to leverage new place-based investments in the livability and sustainability of a community. The results are graphically displayed in a "heat map," which is based upon a composite scoring system for each type of investment. (For a technical discussion of methodology, click here).

For SEPTA's part, CI^2 will inform the capital project planning process with a deeper understanding of what is happening in the area surrounding its potential projects. Planners will be able to develop more detailed strategies that take into account the potential community-level impacts of those projects and to emphasize them in funding applications. Funders, in turn, will have more information at their disposal to assess the extent to which SEPTA's projects will support broader community-level goals for livability and sustainability. And all of that information will be available in an easy-to-use, interactive format.

In all, CI^2 is another valuable planning tool for SEPTA to become more competitive for funding to address its state of good repair needs. In addition to 33rd & Dauphin, SEPTA used CI^2 to craft successful applications for funding renewal projects at the 69th Street Transportation Center (West Bus Terminal) and Parkside Bus Loop. In both locations, CI^2 documented substantial cross-sector, place-based investments already on the ground. Moving forward, SEPTA will continue to use this tool for developing competitive grant strategies across the region.

To learn more and use the interactive map, visit: