Saturday, September 28, 2002

ARCHIVES - 09/28/02

After weeks of relative peace on the equipment front, there was yet another bus shortage encountered at Red Arrow on Thursday. This resulted in an absolute mess on the 4:05pm 104 to West Chester, which is supposed to be an express but instead ran as a local. This bus didn't even arrive at the terminal until 4:20pm to begin its run. The trip departed at 4:22pm, and arrived in West Chester well over a half hour late. It didn't help that the operator was stuck behind a tractor-trailer for a stretch between Delchester and Chester Roads and didn't even think enough to pass said truck. On a side note, the 2:45pm from West Chester was crowded yet again, and arrived about 15 minutes late yet again. If that doesn't send some red flags at 1234 Market about the need for PM peak express service from West Chester to 69 St, then I don't know what does.

The 92 and 104 buses are expected to be detoured away from the West Chester University campus next Saturday due to the annual WCU Homecoming Parade. With High Street expected to be blocked off, I would expect a lot of headaches on Saturday morning for riders on both lines.

Meanwhile, SEPTA is planning to display the first of 12 New Flyer DE40LF diesel-electric hybrid buses on Thursday between 9:00am and 2:00pm on 12 St near Arch, across from the Reading Terminal Market. These buses will be assigned to Southern, and will be numbered 5601-5612. One has to question the logic of this numbering plan as these buses will be decidedly different from the D40LFs currently on the road. The next batch of 100 D40LFs - which will be numbered 5613-5712 - are expected during the first part of next year. As noted earlier, the bulk of the buses (up to 85) will go to Midvale, with Frontier getting the rest.

SEPTA is apparently going ahead with a purchase of MCI D4500 cruisers, despite a long delay since the demos made their apperances on SEPTA property over the summer. The 15 cruisers (tentatively numbered 6000-6014) will be assigned to Red Arrow, and used on the 104 and 124/125 (though, I wouldn't be shocked if they slip one in on a Sunday 120 trip; between the large ridership on those trips and the amount of luggage carried, a cruiser would be perfect for some late Friday night and/or Sunday trips). No firm delivery date has been set, nor has it been determined if SEPTA will "piggy-back" onto New Jersey Transit's massive MCI order, as at least 30 other agencies around the country have done.

As a result of the arrival of the MCIs, SEPTA is planning to restructure the 124/125 service. Red Arrow would operate service from Center City to Gulph Mills and points north, bypassing Wissahickon, with Frontier operating service from Wissahickon to Gulph Mills and points north, using NABIs and New Flyers (when the arrive next year). Considering that express service between Center City and Wissahickon is provided by the 9 and 27 buses, this shouldn't prove to be a major issue.

The Bucks County TMA is at it again, as a fourth RUSH service is being planned for the Street Rd (PA 132) corridor in Lower Bucks. The planned "Street Rd RUSH" is tentatively slated to operate between Lower Southampton, Warminster, and Bensalem via PA 132, with buses to serve the Warminster, Trevose, and Cornwells Heights stations. For some reason, this sounds remarkably similar to SEPTA's planned Route 303 bus, which would also have operated along PA 132, but between PA 611 and Bustleton Pike, and which would have operated bewteen Doylestown and Neshaminy. In any case, the "Street Rd RUSH" could begin operating as early as next March.

In other LBC news (that's Lower Bucks County for those of you who don't speak "Lower Bucks-ese"), SEPTA is planning to rehab the Croydon and Levittown-Tullytown stations along the R7 Trenton line. SEPTA Board Chairman - and Bucks County land developer - Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. recently bragged to a local Bucks County newspaper that SEPTA had invested nearly $30 million in recent years to improve service. My question is when do the other counties get their fair share of the pie from SEPTA? I mean, some of the stations along the Marcus Hook line look as though they could use a little sprucing up...

Sunday, September 22, 2002

ARCHIVES - 09/22/02

Trolley service on the 11 was short-turned at 58 St due to a block party near 65 St/Woodland Av. Despite the printed timetables indicated 12 minute headways, there were, at points, 25 minute gaps between arriving trolleys at 58 St, which caused made for a lot of frustrated commuters between Darby and 58 St. The supervisor at 58 St was not only less than helpful in explaining why there was a 25 minute gap, he was, according to one witness, extremely rude. (If that supervisor gets taken off the road, he can always get a job as a SEPTA spokesman/apologist/liar - see Maloney, Richard.)

As expected, the 104 bus was detoured off Gay and High Sts due to the West Chester's annual Restaurant Festival (which seems to invite more arrogant drunks than a typical weekend night on off campus homes near West Chester University). Buses operated via Chestnut St to New St, then via New St, Market St and High St to the West Chester University routing before returning to High and Market and en route to 69 St. Amazingly enough, there were actually signs posted notifying passengers of the detour. That's almost a first for SEPTA as it relates to detours in West Chester.

On the schedule front, Frontier timetables are tentatively set to change on October 28. It's reported that all weekday and Saturday trips on the 92 and 133 will be through-routed, something that should've been done from the very beginning. This is being done presumably after numerous complaints from 92 passengers about missed connections at Exton Mall for the 133 (I've filed at least 3-4 of said complaints, particularly about 6019 block). The 92 will also be routed into the Main St at Exton complex currently served by the 207/Whirl and the TMACC Phlyer. There are also expected to be minor changes on the 124/125; weekend shuttle service between King of Prussia and Chesterbrook will be replaced by one-seat ride service from Center City to Chesterbrook. If there are any other changes on the Frontier routes, they may involve minor time adjustments.

  • Also set to change on October 28 is the 115, which will finally be routed to MacDade Mall in Glenolden. The routing will be via Delmar Village, Hook Rd, Primos Av, Chester Pike, and South Av to MacDade Mall. This is a change from the original proposal which sent all off Norwood into a histrionic fit of anti-transit rage (the 115 was to have been routed via Winona Av in Norwood).
  • Thursday, September 19, 2002

    ARCHIVES - 09/19/02

    And then, there was one... Due to upcoming construction around the areas of the Tasker Homes projects in South Philadelphia where the 29 has it's western terminus, it's very possible that the only trackless line remaining in service for SEPTA would be the 79 along Snyder Av. The plan by the City of Philadelphia would be to run Morris St through the complex (there are presently two turns west of 30 St).

    SEPTA's initial plan was to operate buses between 13 St and 33 St with tracklesses operating between Front and 23 St. Because of the tight turns onto 13 St, that proposal would not appear to be an option. Another option that was considered was to reroute the tracklesses on Tasker between 29 and 32 Sts, which would require (1) new overhead along 29 St between Tasker and Morris, (2) two-way operation along Tasker, which is one-way in the westbound direction, resulting in the loss of parking in that stretch (and if there's one thing people in South Philly get fired up over, it's the loss of even a single parking space) and (3) new overhead along Tasker on the eastbound side of the street. So far, neither of these options appear to be feasible.

    The planned bus substitution would start as early as the February 2003 sign-ups, and last for at least 3 years. It's probable, given SEPTA's past history towards streetcars and trackless trolleys (see the 15/23/56 controversy), that this long-term "substitution" could spell the beginning of the end for electric trackless trolley service in the City of Philadelphia, if the "temporary bus substitution" in Northeast Philadelphia hasn't hastened this already.

    Despite being about 2 weeks behind the rest of the routes, SEPTA has finally issued a new Route 108 timetable, dated September 15. Also recieving a new timetable with that date is the 28 bus between Fern Rock and Northeast Philadelphia, which is presently operating on a detour routing off of Rhawn St in Fox Chase.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2002

    ARCHIVES - 09/18/02

    SEPTA appears to be starting the phase out of the 3000-series Neos. At least two have been confirmed to be at Midvale scrap yard (3080 and 3094). This tends to tell me that either SEPTA is much closer to getting the 5600-series New Flyers or that those buses are falling apart.

    A large number of accessibe Neos and NABIs were recently swapped from Frankford to Comly, with Frankford getting some 3100s from Southern and some 3000s from Comly in exchange. There seems to be no reasonable logic for this move, since only the 3 trackless routes (which are busing for at least the next 12 months) and the J & K buses are the only non-accessible bus routes which operate out of Frankford. On a related note, some 3300s are being swiped from Frontier and appearing on routes at Southern.

    SEPTA announced that it will operate express trains on the Broad Street Line for Sunday's Eagles game against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Of course, there are no express trains to Pattison for tonight's Rolling Stones concert at the Vet, nor is there any mention of the fact that SEPTA offers direct service to the Tower Theater (across from 69 St Terminal at 69 St & Ludlow) for Sunday's concert, where about 3,500 Stones fans are expected to converge. On Sunday afternoon and evening, expect very heavy traffic along 69 St and Market St, which could cause lengthy delays on the 108 and 113 buses, and possibly on the El Shuttle, 21 and 65 buses, which reach 69 St Terminal via Market St.

    Detours are also the order of the day in West Chester on Sunday as West Chester Recreation presents the Chester County Restaurant Festival. With the eastbound re-routing of the 104 bus via High St, I have not been made aware of any detour routing for westbound travel to West Chester University. If past history is any indication, I wouldn't expect SEPTA to go out of their way to help people in West Chester get around the festival site, which will have Gay St closed between Matlack and New Sts, and High St closed between Market and Chestnut. (See, the old 104 routing was much simpler in that westbound buses could simply detour via Chestnut to New St.)

    And now, the Frankford Terminal web site is pleased to present the latest ridiculous statement from SEPTA's chief spokesman/apologist/liar Richard Maloney. Maloney recently told the Jewish Exponent newspaper an incredible whopper about the Schuylkill Valley rail project. "When it's in full service, it will serve approximately 50,000 passengers a day," he said. "That's about half [of what we currently serve] on our commuter-rail system, so it's a lot." 50,000 riders between Reading and Philadelphia? I have the gut feeling that SEPTA is just pulling numbers out of thin air in order to justify the nearly $1.9 billion price tag.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    ARCHIVES - 09/10/02

    As a follow-up to yesterday's Regional Rail fiascos, SEPTA did issue a detailed (by SEPTA standards) statement about what had happened. The Melrose Park wire problems occured at 5:03am, delaying trains arriving into Center City on the Glenside-Airport, Warminster, West Trenton, and Lansdale-Doylestown lines, and causing residual delays on the Elwyn and Paoli lines. The wire problems were caused by a maintenance crew who failed to properly repair the wiring after complete work in that area. The wire problems were worsened after a Center City bound train's pantograph was caught in the catenary at around 9:00am.

    Then, to make matters worse, switch failures at Newtown Junction caused further delays to Fox Chase and West Trenton line trains. The system was entirely halted at around 11:00am, when the Centralized Train Control system failed.

    Instead of holding trains north of Melrose Park and diverting passengers to either shuttle buses or alternate transit lines (passengers could easily have been placed on shuttle buses at Jenkintown, or directed to the 22 bus at Glenside or 55 bus in downtown Jenkintown for connections to Olney Terminal and connections to the Broad Street Line). This resulted in delays of up to 3 hours throughout the entire system, with most of the delays focused on the Glenside-Center City trunk line. Service was restored to normal sometime before the PM peak period.

    SEPTA's AGM for Operations Patrick Nowakowski called the September 9 fiascos "the worst day on the railroad in 20 or 30 years." He also noted that had maintenance done its job properly the night before, "most people would have been looking at one-hour delays." DUH! Maybe if SEPTA hired some REAL railroad professionals to manage the Regional Rail system instead of plucking people with "transit" experience, SEPTA's Regional Rail might not be the laughing stock of the industry. (Updated September 19, 2002)

    SEPTA's "statement" was published in the Metro newspaper, but not posted on-line. Presumably, there were also seat drop notices on all Regional Rail trains.

    The fire that put 5155 into the scrap yard at Midvale started in the wheel area before spreading into the interior of the bus. Another recent arrival into the Midvale scrap yard is 3133, which also suffered unrepairable fire damage.

    The Red Arrow buses are finally starting to be retrofit with the new CARD control panels. Two of the first buses to get the new system were 3126 and 5298.

    Monday, September 09, 2002

    ARCHIVES - 09/09/02

    Not a good day to be a Regional Rail commuter today. Delays over anywhere from 20-40 minutes were the norm on all Regional Rail lines due to (1) a downed wire south of Melrose Park station along the RRD Main Line; (2) a disabled train at University City station; and (3) a computer outage affecting the control of interlockings systemwide. Passenger services at both Market East and Suburban were less than forthcoming in explaining to passengers why the trains were delayed. Customers at least are owed an explaination tomorrow by RRD management as to why their commutes were as long as an hour behind schedule (as it was on one particular R7 train returning from Trenton).

    As a result of the delayed trains, an R8 Chestnut Hill West train was annulled and put into service as an R3 to Elwyn. Passengers who were en route to Chestnut Hill were ordered off the train in Center City and forced to wait for the next R8.

    There are STILL no new 108 timetables anywhere in the system, even though there were only the addition of school trippers. The only timetables available are dated from June and being distributed at the 69 St Customer Service office.

    Tuesday, September 03, 2002

    ARCHIVES - 09/03/02

    On Friday night, Frankford 5513 was involved in an accident on Roosevelt Blvd at Summerdale. There was no further information available about the cause of the accident or the damage sustained.

    Frontier 3474 suffered rear damage while on the Schuylkill Expressway near Conshohocken on Monday. 3474 caught fire while deadheading on the expressway sometime Monday afternoon. Most of the interior was undamaged, but about 80 percent of the rear exterior of the bus was damaged.

    Two days after SEPTA schedules changed, there are no 108 timetables anywhere in the system. There are no timetables dated from June or from either August or September.