Saturday, December 28, 2002

  • MERRY CHRISTMAS? HA! It would've been a great holiday if SEPTA could even have been bothered to clear the parking lots along the R5 Paoli during the recent snowstorm. As of Saturday morning, the inbound parking lot at Paoli was still not clear of snow. How embarrasing must it be for SEPTA to do such a pathetic job of plowing the parking lots at one of the most important suburban stations in the system?

  • DOWN FOR THE COUNT Even more embarrasing than the Eagles colossal choke job against the Giants on Saturday afternoon (the defense seems to have taken lessons from 69 St Terminal Manager Joseph O'Rourke on how to disappear when the going gets rough), SEPTA's web site is not accessible as of 6:00pm Saturday evening.

  • IT'S BACK The Rail Power shuttles return next weekend. I'm hoping that SEPTA is able to work the bugs out of the scheduling of buses between the three Center City rail stations, but I have my doubts (this is SEPTA we're talking about). On a side note, SEPTA took away the Airport shuttle runs from Red Arrow. This may very well be in retaliation for the UTU's rejection of a single list covering three modes. And remember, their contract expires in 16 months...
  • Monday, December 23, 2002

  • HOLIDAY SERVICE (Updated from December 17) Several Frontier routes will operate on a modified Sunday schedule on Christmas Day. The 93, 94, 96, 97, 98, 99, and 130 will operate every 2 hours instead of hourly. Also, neither the 112 nor 123 will not operate at all on Christmas. Center City to King of Prussia service will operate hourly between 6:00am and 6:00pm on the 125 via the S Gulph Rd routing; there will be no service along Henderson Rd via the 124 routing. On the railroad, the R1 Airport will operate its normal 30 minute headways; the R3 Elwyn and R8 Fox Chase will operate every 3 hours, with Fox Chase trains being through-routed to Elwyn and vice versa; the R7 Trenton will see hourly headways (mainly due to the NJT connections at Trenton); all other rail lines will operate every 2 hours. One extra train will be added to all Regional Rail lines, excluding the R1 Airport and R6 Cynwyd, during the 1:00am hour to accomodate New Year's Eve traffic. I would expect that the Market-Frankford El and Broad Street Lines will also have extended train service before Owl bus service kicks in.
  • Friday, December 20, 2002

  • DAYS NUMBERED It appears that the 76 (aka Spree) is about to go the way of the Mid-City Loop - that is to the dead list. SEPTA is planning a public hearing on Wednesday, January 23 at 10:00am to begin the elimination of the Center City money drain that is the Spree. Despite a recent claim by SEPTA that the Spree was carrying nearly 400 riders per day, most observers saw maybe a handful of riders at any given time. Unless the City of Philadelphia or the Center City District is planning to cut funding, I would expect a lot of political heavy hitters to cry foul...

  • BUSTED Four juveniles were arrested by Lansdowne Police after an investigation into the vandalism at the Gladstone Rail Station (R3 Elwyn). The graffiti, some of which included ethnic slurs, was discovered on December 8 and reported to SEPTA and Lansdowne Police. According to the Delaware County Daily Times, the four juveniles, who were not identified but reportedly do not live in Lansdowne, face several charges including institutional vandalism, criminal mischief, and ethnic intimidation. Well, here's hoping that upon conviction, these punks should be forced to perfom community service by cleaning up litter at SEPTA's rail stations and possibly at the main bus terminals as well. I'm sure the unions aren't going to be too happy with that idea (in that it's their work), but it's not fair to the employees of SEPTA to be taken off other maintenance projects to clean up after vandals.

  • SILLY ITEM OF THE WEEK This week's City Paper brings us the following item which deserved a laugh or two:
    SEPTA blames fallen leaves for last month's abysmal on-time record. Environmentalists decry insensitive remarks; general manager appears on Discovery Channel to apologize.
    For once SEPTA has it right as several rail lines were impacted because of slippery rail conditions (especially the R5 Paoli Thorndale line, where the #591 train was routinely 10-15 minutes late getting into Thorndale). Here's my problem: City Paper should know that "Fearless Leader" wouldn't be the one making the apology. That job would go to SEPTA's chief spokesman/apologist/liar Richard Maloney, as "Fearless Leader" does a better job ducking the media than Andy Reid. And we all know that "The Big Guy" ( (C) Bob Grotz of the Daily Times) has a far better track record coaching the Iggles than "Fearless Leader" has done at SEPTA.

  • 27 TROUBLES In recent weeks, service on the 27 during the evening hours has been even less reliable than some Red Arrow routes, if that's even possible. Between the heavy congestion on I-76 and in the area of Plymouth Meeting Mall, plus the poor acceleration of some of the 3 year old Neoplan artics, the on-time performance of the 27 has become spotty to say the very least. Perhaps SEPTA might want to explore running some peak hour and "shift change" 27 trips express via 476 and the Schuylkill Expressway to Center City via Wissahickon in order to give some passengers a faster trip to the city.

  • CAN'T PLEASE ALL OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME No matter what SEPTA does with the 35, it seems that some groups in Manayunk is always complaining. This time, the complaints center over the congestion caused by the 30 footers operating along the narrow streets of Manayunk such as Sliverwood and Leverington. The constant congestion along Main St also doesn't help matters much, particularly that difficult turn off of Green Ln onto Main. Now, SEPTA is reportedly considering changing the routing again, though no firm details have come out yet. Talk about your no win situation...

  • 63 UPDATE Apparently, there is increased ridership on the 63, at least on the eastern end of the line near the Pier 70/Walmart complex off Delaware Av. Hence the departure of the ElDorados from Callowhill. As part of the as yet released FY 2004 Annual Service Plan, SEPTA is reportedly proposing to consolidate the 63 and 64 into a single line with service operating on Washington Av to Pier 70 via the Ellsworth-Federal Subway Station as opposed operating along Christian and Catherine (63) or Ellsworth and Federal (64). One of the reasons the often poor performing 63 seemed to hang on as long as it did was political pressures by some players in South Philly.
  • Thursday, December 19, 2002

  • BODY FOUND (Updated December 20) Philadelphia Police are investigating the death of a tresspasser along the R6 Norristown Line tracks near Allegheny Station. KYW 3 reports that the victim was struck by outbound #6612 around 6:00am this morning along the inbound tracks at the overpass at 22 St and Westmoreland in the Nicetown-Tioga section of the city. As one can suspect, R6 service was delayed due to the police investigation. Undoubtedly, many passengers were diverted to other local bus routes as service was delayed, including the nearby 33 and 60 buses along 23 St and Allegheny Av respectively.
  • Tuesday, December 17, 2002

  • SARDINE LINES Never mind bus shortages, there seems to be a brain shortage at 1234 Market. In addition to the constant and dangerous overcrowding on some 104 PM peak trips from West Chester to 69 St Terminal (especially the 2:45pm pull-in off of the 119), there now appears to be another run where SEPTA has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to dangerous overcrowding. The 3:45pm, 4:45pm, and 5:45pm 113 short turns to Darby has been using an ElDorado almost daily since the August schedule change. The 3:45pm and 4:45pm trips in particular are overcrowded to the point where there's no reason not to use a 40 foot bus. The excuse from SEPTA is that the particular run which includes those 3 Darby short turns either begins or ends as a 305. You mean to tell me that there's no way SEPTA could do a bus swap at Darby or at 69 St Terminal upon completion of the last Darby short turn? Remember that when SEPTA tries to beg for $2 billion for it's Schuylkill Valley boondoggle...
  • Monday, December 16, 2002

  • END OF THE EXPERIMENT? The apparent use of ElDorados on two Callowhill routes - the 30 and 63 - appears to have ended, as the 6 ElDos assigned to Callowhill - 4575-4580 - were recently re-assigned to Frontier. The ElDorados rarely saw service on the 30, as most runs were covered by a New Flyer low floor. As for the 63, I haven't had a chance to head down to that part of South Philadelphia, but I would imagine that ridership on the 63 may have outgrown the 30 foot buses.

  • NEW BRIDGE BUILT Contractors are in the process of replacing the Pennsylvania Av bridge in North Wales, which carries Pennsylvania Av over the R5 Lansdale line. The Lansdale Reporter notes that work on the span will resume in March.

  • ROUTE 35 CHANGES After many complaints from residents in Manayunk, SEPTA has finally agreed to re-route the 35 over portions of the former loop routing which was in place prior to the September schedule change. This change will only affect eastbound buses traveling to Wissahickon Transfer Center. From Leverington Av and Silverwood St, the 35 will operate via Leverington to lower Silverwood, then via lower Silverwood and Green Ln to Main St en route to Wissahickon. This was proposed during the Annual Service Plan hearings over the summer. Doesn't it seem odd that when people in Manayunk complain about the 35, SEPTA reacts fairly quickly, but when people in other suburbs complain about poor service, SEPTA blows them off? (Not that I don't think the new 35 routing shouldn't take effect, because is should. But, it took two years for SEPTA to cross-route all 92 and 133 buses, even when the 95 and 97 were being cross-routed at Penn Square.)
  • Sunday, December 15, 2002

  • OOPS... There are certain parts of a motor vehicle that are absolutely essential for the safe operation along Pennsylvania's highways (or any highways, for that matter). One such part is the horn. Someone at Red Arrow seems to have forgotten that simple piece of advice as 5134 departed 69 St Terminal on the 12:05pm 104 to West Chester with a non-functioning horn. Despite my phone call to SEPTA Customer Service at 12:51pm (aren't cell phones great?) and an assurance by the Customer Service rep that the complaint would be passed along, 5134 was STILL on the road for the 2:05pm departure to West Chester as I observed 5134 passing by on Gay St in West Chester at 3:10pm. Isn't it nice to know that SEPTA really cares about abiding by the motor vehicle laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?
  • Friday, December 13, 2002

  • ROUTE ADJUSTMENTS IN PORT RICHMOND SEPTA is planning a public hearing to make the Tioga Marine Terminal routing on the 60 permanent while eliminating the 73 routing through that same area. The hearing will be held on Friday, January 17 at 2:00pm at the Lithuanian Music Hall, 2715 E Allegheny, Port Richmond.

  • ONE RAIL PROJECT ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS The R8 Fox Chase mid-day shuttle buses are slated to end today. Starting Monday, the mid-day round trip on the R6 Cynwyd Line will be bused due to a rail project. More details will be posted this weekend. (I can also promise that more news in general will be posted over the weekend.)
  • Sunday, December 08, 2002

  • DIVERSION DISASTER Subway-surface trolleys were on diversion starting at around 4:00pm yesterday, due to wire problems in the tunnel. A problem with an insulator at 30 St caused several trains to stall at various locations in the tunnel, the lead car of which was 9008, which was operating on the 11 to Darby. 9086, operating on the 36, was directly behind 9008 when the power went out. During a nearly 75 minute stretch along Woodland Av, several 36 cars were spotted heading in both directions; passengers waiting for the 11 weren't as fortunate, as there was nearly an hour long wait between trolleys heading towards Darby. During that time, only one bus passed by 49 St and Woodland heading towards Darby (3056 - which was carrying a full load and didn't stop to pick anyone up at 49 St), while only 2 cars on the 11 went towards the 40 St El station. Anyone travelling along Woodland west of 49 St were essentially stranded for a good chunk of time as nightfall approached. From past experience, including last night, Woodland Av is not exactly the safest place to be waiting for SEPTA in Southwest Philadelphia as darkness approaches.

    At the same time the subway-surface tunnel went out of service, an eastbound El train was taken out of service due to a door problem on car 1048. Siffuce to say that the next El train was very overcrowded.

    Additionally, over the past 2-3 days, there have been numerous problems reported along Baltimore Av, with shuttle buses filling in for trolleys on the 34 off and on.

  • SCHUYLKILL VALLEY FOLLOW-UP The Associated Press picked up on the Inquirer's story that Philadelphia Mayor/Emperor John Street had endoresed the Schuylkill Valley Metrorail project. Check out this interesting line from the AP article:
    SEPTA wants to begin construction by 2003 and have the service running by 2007. The service would have stops in Phoenixville, Royersford, Pottstown, King of Prussia and other suburbs northwest of the city with major commuter traffic problems.

    2007? What planet is SEPTA on if they think they can get this "Metrorail" mode built by 2007? Remember that neither Delaware County nor Bucks County has given a full committment to Schuylkill Valley, and there's a strong shot that Delaware County could derail this plan, unless they get something tangible in return (read: a full restoration of the R3 Elwyn line to Wawa and West Chester).
  • Saturday, December 07, 2002

  • WEST CHESTER FIASCO Apparently, the idiots who are in charge of West Chester's Christmas celebration seem to think it's a neat idea to hold said parade on a Friday night during the middle of the evening rush hour. As a result, bus service on the 92, 104, and 119 were completely thrown off schedule. Between 5:00pm and 8:00pm, buses were seemingly lost as to how go get from the north end of the borough to the south end, as the annual Christmas Parade blocked off Gay, Market, Matlack, and New Sts. To make things worse, there were no signs posted instructing passengers as to where to board buses (as per SEPTA tradition), nor was there a supervisor dispatched to West Chester until around 7:00pm. The 6:25pm and 7:20pm 92 buses to Exton failed to show up; the next 92 bus didn't leave for Exton and King of Prussia (via the 133) until 8:20pm. About 15 minutes later, 5325 showed up either as a protect bus, or a bus running very late. At least one 104 operator was so lost, he somehow ended up turning off of Marshall St onto High St, even though the 104 doesn't even come near Marshall. At least these two things are certain: (1) West Chester Borough Council can expect an earful at the next meeting, and (2) so can the SEPTA Board.

  • CUSTOMER DIS-SERVICE So much for the helpful people at SEPTA Passenger Services at Suburban Station. Early Friday morning, I was unfortunate enough to have misplaced my cell phone on the 12:15am R5 to Thorndale (#591). After leaving work, I went from Downingtown to Suburban Station to file a report with Passenger Services. For starters, the jerk behind the counter basically said that no cell phones were turned in, yet didn't even bother to look before telling me so. After I filled out a lost item report, I had requested a copy for my records. In true SEPTA fashion, my request for a copy was denied. Now, if one is filing a lost item report, wouldn't one suspect that he or she would recieve a copy of said report? Not at SEPTA. I then attempted to ask as to when items were turned in from Frazer Yard (where this particular crew and trainset were destined after finishing their run), I was basically blown off by SEPTA's infamous Spokesman/Apologist/Liar Richard Maloney's "mini-me" at the Passenger Services office. Let me point out that the woman who apparently was in charge of Passenger Services at Suburban Station (I'm sure most of the Regional Rail riders who read this site who know who I'm referring to) was probably one of the most customer-oriented employees that SEPTA had to offer. If they in fact replaced her with the aforementioned "mini-Maloney", then for all intents and purposes, customer relations on the Regional Rail side must be at an all-time low.

  • THORNDALE TROUBLES The past 12 hours (since posting of this message) haven't been a great time for R5 Thorndale line riders. On Friday night, train #581 (the 8:15pm from Suburban) was running at least 25 minutes behind schedule into Exton. Also causing problems was the delayed Amtrak Keystone #655 train, which was also well over a half hour late mainly due to problems on the mainline Northeast Corridor from New York. This morning, riders west of Malvern were in for a rude shock in the bitter cold, as the 8:14am from Thorndale to Doylestown via Center City (#1530) didn't operate due to equipment failure at Thorndale. Thanks to protect trains on standby at Powelton Yard (which is the yard adjacent to 30 St Station), the Doylestown side of the run was able to be filled. Unfortunately, one SEPTA conductor who was supposed to catch the #1530 to make her assignment was stranded at Paoli. The #8532 (9:04am from Paoli) was undoubtedly filled with a lot of irate passengers between Paoli and Overbrook who were squeezed into the 2 car trains like sardines.

  • NEXT STOP ON THE BOONDOGGLE EXPRESS ... BROAD & MARKET Philadelphia (via Norristown) Mayor/Emperor John Street has apparently changed his tune on the City of Philadelphia's position on the Schuylkill Valley corridor. Jere Downs reports in today's Inquirer that Emperor Street recently spoke with Greater Philadelphia First's lame duck leader (and Emperor Street's possible opponent next year) Sam Katz and SEPTA's very own "Fearless Leader". Apparently, Lame Duck and Fearless Leader have convinced Emperor Street of the benefits of the $2 billion boondoggle. This can be interpreted as a sign that:

  • Emperor Street seems to think that SEPTA's glorified trolley plan will actually benefit the city
  • Emperor Street still has a soft spot for his native Norristown and really wants to see the borough succeed (even if Norristown Mayor Ted LeBlanc is a dead ringer for WIP's public idiot #1 Howard Eskin)
  • Emperor Street is starting to see the writing on the wall from the Republicans in Harrisburg to start playing along or endure more political embarassments (see: Parking Authority, School District of Philadelphia, Convention Center), or
  • Emperor Street has been getting bad advice from his policy makers at Broad and Market, which wouldn't be much of a shock.

  • The Inquirer article also notes that while Emperor Street's change of heart on Schuylkill Valley could increase the boondoggle's chances in Washington and Harrisburg, the wild cards in this matter are the continued luke warm reactions from Bucks County and Delaware County. Bucks County seems to have two advantages to turn the tide in favor of Schuylkill Valley: (1) SEPTA Board Chairman/Radio Impresarior/Turnpike Commissioner/Land Developer Extraordinaire and All-Around Arrogant Tyrant Pasquale T. Deon Sr. seems to be SEPTA's second biggest cheerleader for the MetroRail boondoggle (behind Fearless Leader, natch); (2) Gov. Really Lame Duck (Mark Schwieker) - a Lower Bucks native - is the new president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which is planning to merge with GPF, which is one of the biggest SVM boosters; and (3) Bucks County stands to see more boondoggle bucks if and when the Cross County MetroRail boondoggle ($1.2 billion and counting) is ever built.

    Meanwhile, I wouldn't expect Delaware County to suddenly become enthusiastic over Schuylkill Valley anytime soon. Even though a P&W extension to King of Prussia would obstensively benefit Delaware County, the entire project would be built in Montgomery County. Plus, the extension of the R3 Elwyn line to Wawa (the now inactive station located on US 1 in Chester Heights) has seemingly been pushed to the back-burner, as has potential further restoration to West Chester. No offense to Delaware County's two board members - Tom Babcock and Tom Killion, both of whom seem to have the best interest of their consituencies - but where's Wally Nunn when you need him? I highly doubt MetroRail would even be on the radar screen for either Cross County or Schuylkill Valley if Nunn were still active within the SEPTA Board.

    Long story short, at a time when property taxes are skyrocketing within Philadelphia, Emperor Street couldn't have picked a worse message to send to most city residents (save for those in the Manayunk area, where the SVM would operate) that the city is behind a $2 billion boondoggle that would mainly benefit Berks and Montgomery Counties (and have a token impact on Chester County).

  • CONSTRUCTION CONTROVERSY A pair of West Philadelphia based community advocacy groups protested outside Emperor Street's offices yesterday in response to a lack of minority hiring at publicly funded construction projects within the city. "Enough Is Enough" and "Hands On Coalition" were the two groups responsible for disrupting construction at the 60 St El Station on Wednesday. An injunction was issued by a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge prohibiting the two groups from disrupting construction. Although SEPTA has made good-faith efforts in hiring minorities - specifically residents in the West Philadelphia area - for the Market Street El Reconstruction Project, organizers have threatened to disrupt other publicly funded construction projects, including SEPTA projects.
  • Friday, December 06, 2002

  • MORE WINTER WEATHER PROBLEMS In addition to some of the incidents noted yesterday:
    • The R2 Warminster Line suffered delays due to downed wires near 9 St and Girard, right near the portal entering Market East Station. The incident occured at around 4:00pm. Service on the R7 Chestnut Hill East line was also affected by the downed wires
    • Despite reports that buses were running about 15 to 20 minutes late, during the tail end of the AM peak, the 92/133 was running at least 30 to 40 minutes late
    • The 101 Media trolley is still running buses as of 2:00pm Friday due to impassible conditions on State St in downtown Media
    • A passenger suffered a head laceration after getting off an R3 train at Primos. The victim was transported to Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, though neither his condition nor his name was released.

  • Still, SEPTA's decision to offer only generic transit updates instead of detailed detour information hasn't sat well with too many people.

    Thursday, December 05, 2002

  • ON YOUR OWN... That's the attitude SEPTA is taking with most of it's bus and streetcar riders today as 6 to 8 inches of snow fall on the Philadelphia area. All that is said at the SEPTA web site as of 5:30pm is that "...a number of City and Suburban bus routes are operating with detours." Fine. It would be nice to know where some of the major detours and delays are taking place. Of course, that would require actually doing work, which is not exactly a SEPTA hallmark. At least DART First State provided details about some of the major adjustments in Delaware.

  • AMONG OTHER THINGS... Red Arrow 4539 slid off the road while operating on the 114 towards Boothwyn this morning. The accident occured at 12 St and Yarnall in Chester Twp at around 10:30am. At least 12 of the 16 passengers on board were taken to Crozer-Chester and other area hospitals for evaluation. I'm sure that there were other minor incidents involving SEPTA vehicles, but right now, this was the only one that was reported by the area press.
  • Wednesday, December 04, 2002

  • BAD LUCK DEPARTMENT Amtrak Police arrested a 21 year old Yeadon man at the Trenton Rail Station on weapons possession charges after suffering a seizure on board an R7 train to Center City and Chestnut Hill East. According to The Trentonian (probably the last news source I'd ever consider using for this site, since I can't stand that paper - ed.), Ernest Jerome Selby Tymes III, of the 1100 block of Bell Avenue, Yeadon Borough, suffered a seizure on board the 10:38am departure to Chestnut Hill East (#734). As EMTs were attending to him, a 9mm weapon allegedly fell out of Tymes' waistband. Tymes was arrested by Amtrak Police and transported to Trenton Police headquarters, and was expected to be arraigned in Trenton Municipal Court this morning on charges of illegally possessing a weapon.
  • Monday, December 02, 2002

  • COMING SOON... The third batch of New Flyer low floor buses are due to arrive at SEPTA within the next 6-8 weeks. The first of the 5613-5712 batch is tentatively scheduled to be on SEPTA property around the third week of January. It now appears that Midvale will not get most of the order as originally scheduled; the original plan was to assign 85 of the low floors to Midvale with the remainder going to Frontier. Now, it appears that Midvale and Southern will get 45 new buses each, with the remaining 10 to be sent to Frontier, where they will most likely see service on the 124/125.

  • NEW BUS UPDATE SEPTA is apparently planning to proceed with a purchase of about 50 buses to replace the Ford cutaway bus fleet, most of which are literally starting to fall apart. On the Fords operated by Keystone on the 314, the destination sign has been removed. On many of the older Frontier-based Fords, the interiors of these buses have, to say the least, seen better days.

  • NJT HOLIDAY SERVICE NJ Transit will be added extra service from Camden to Cherry Hill and Moorestown Malls via the 404, 405, and 407 lines; a few 404 extras will be extended into Center City Philadelphia.

  • DART'S NEW TROLLEY BUSES DART First State put three brand new Chance AT-28 replica trolley buses into service on the #32/City Circuit Line which connects Downtown Wilmington with the Frawley Stadium complex area. The existing 30-ft and 40-ft Gilligs which were given a special livery will now be placed back into service on the regular New Castle County lines.
  • Sunday, December 01, 2002

  • LANCASTER AVE PROBLEMS Trolley service on the 10 is encountering major problems due to an accident in West Philadelphia. At around 10:50am, a pickup truck passed a westbound 10 (believed to be 8054 block, with LRV 9069 - I am unsure of the number, but it was in the old middle ribbon livery) on the 5000 block of Lancaster Av. The truck reportedly struck a car traveling eastbound on Lancaster before striking a utility pole, causing a power outage along Lancaster between 40 St and 52 St. Witnesses at the scene tell me that there were no injuries.

    As a result, SEPTA is running buses along the 10 route between Malvern Loop and 36-Lancaster with a diversion around the accident scene via 51 St, Merion Av, and 50 St. At least 4 buses from Callowhill were confirmed to be covering the shuttle - 3083, 3433, 5428, and 5431. Three LRVs are effectively cut off from Elmwood Depot until PECO Energy repairs the pole. 9069 (or whatever number it is) was seen laying over at 53 St between Lancaster and Lansdowne; 9029 (8053 block) was stuck at 51-Lancaster - directly behind the accident scene, and 9032 (8055 block) which was still at Malvern Loop. At last report, service was expected to be restored by mid-afternoon.