Finding a Ride in Fairhill

May 17, 2010

Residents of Fairhill are fully aware that their neighborhood has picked up a distinctive nickname in recent years. “This isn’t Fairhill,” says a little boy as he rides his bicycle down Cambria Street, “this is The Badlands.”

Unfortunately for Fairhill residents, living in a neighborhood with such a repellant nickname comes with certain challenges. One challenge in particular is in transportation, which is often sparse in poor, urban communities–especially ones like Fairhill that are known for high levels of crime.

The Three-Wheeled Gang

The large Philadelphia taxi companies, for instance, almost never travel through Fairhill.

“Some people weigh the risk of delivering that service and being safe,” explains Captain Daniel Castro of Philadelphia’s 24th Police District, which is the district adjacent to Fairhill’s 25th Police District. Captain Castro says that he frequently gets calls from various service providers, such as pizza deliverers and taxi companies, asking for his opinion as to whether or not they should deliver in the area.

While some companies have ceased operating all-together in certain areas, other companies have implemented strategies that allow them to partly service these neglected communities. “What they will do, for instance, a taxi will take a fare to a designated safe location in the area in lieu of taking them to their destination,” says Castro. But these measures do little to replace the door-to-door service that is offered to other Philadelphia residents. Castro recognizes this inequality, saying, “It’s unfortunate that certain pockets in the community don’t enjoy the same services as other parts of the city such as delivery services.”

Residents, however, have in turn created their own taxi companies which service only the neighborhoods that have been neglected by the traditional cab companies. When asked about taxi services in his neighborhood, 34-year-old Fairhill resident Lou Crespo automatically skips any discussion of well-known Philadelphia companies and instead describes a small neighborhood company known only as the “Dominican cab service”. “They only go to the hood”, explains Crespo.

The service as Crespo describes it is much like what one would expect a cab service to be like, with a variety of low and high-end cars available to its customers. And while this “Dominican cab service” may or may not have a legitimate title, it certainly knows how to service its customers, as most residents on Crespo’s block knew of the service and could even spot the cabs on the street.

But while these taxi services can be reliable, they fail to answer Fairhill’s day-to-day travel needs, meaning that residents like Crespo have to come up with other creative methods to get from one place to another. Like many of his neighbors, Crespo has turned to bicycles, which are both cost efficient and relatively easy to maintain. This method of transportation is one of the most popular in Fairhill, as the neighborhood streets and sidewalks are almost always packed with young and adult bike riders alike as they peddle to their next destination.

Damian Rivero, a 14-year-old student at Julia De Burgos Middle School, finds that he rides his bicycle often, using it to get to school and then riding it around the neighborhood with his friends after school. These bikes are a source of pride for Rivero and his neighborhood friends as they are quick to show off their “rides” to anyone willing to listen. The frequency in which the kids use their bikes makes the up-front price of the bicycles well worth the investment.

Of course, there is always the option of public transportation, and South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has both a bus and an El system that stops in or near the Fairhill vicinity. But for residents like Rivero, who uses his bike to reach closer areas within Fairhill, or Crespo, who uses his bicycle as a way to cut back on wasting gasoline, the simplicity of the bicycle and its popularity in Fairhill makes it the obvious choice for traveling. And if Crespo or Rivero are ever in need of a taxi cab, they know that they can count on the “hood taxies” to get them to their destination.

So in reality, the neighborhood of Fairhill might not get the same amount of services as its neighborhood counterparts, but they still manage to get around just fine.

“Finding a Ride in Fairhill” Video

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