Thanks to a successful campaign headed by Esperanza’s Housing and Economic Development department and the support of its Hunting Park Community Collaborative partners, SEPTA began providing bus service along the Hunting Park Avenue corridor on February 21, 2016. This extension of Route 53 will greatly benefit Esperanza’s constituency including students, clients, and business owners.
A Philly.com article cited the growing commercial corridor as well as a number of schools that could benefit from this extension. Esperanza has worked with the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce department to revitalize businesses in the community and is a major charter operator along the Hunting Park corridor, serving over 1400 students many of whom ride the bus to school every morning. SEPTA estimated the more direct route will attract 90,000 new riders to a bus that now has 700,000 patrons.
Philip Dawson, Esperanza’s Senior Director of Housing and Economic Development serves as the Chairman of the SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee and spoke at SEPTA’s press conference launching the new route. In his speech, Dawson credited various community organizations that worked together to generate community involvement and collect letters of support, including: Hunting Park United, Hunting Park Business Association, Esperanza Health Center, Esperanza College of Eastern University, Esperanza Academy, Grace Kids Academy, Casa Del Carmen, and the Eastern North Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation. But of course, it would not have been possible without the community member who first brought the accessibility issue to SEPTA’s attention, Ms. Epifania Hernandez collecting 125 signatures from her neighbors in support of the route expansion.
This is a testament to the unity of the Hunting Park neighborhood and what can be achieved when a single citizen decides to take action for their community.