Wednesday, February 12, 2003

  • HERE WE GO AGAIN... KYW 1060 reported yet another problem on the Regional Rail this morning. At around 10:00am, an auxiliary wire broke, causing "minor" delays of between 15 to 20 minutes on the railroad. The news reports have not identified where the wire problems occured, but the word "minor" is used in comparison to Monday and Tuesday.

  • RAIL FIASCO FOLLOW-UP It turns out that the wire problems between 30 Street and Suburban stations were not the only overhead catenary problems on the Regional Rail last night. At around 6:00pm, there were reports of a downed wire in the small tunnel connecting 30 Street Station with University City, affecting R2 Marcus Hook and R3 Elwyn trains. The R1 Airport line was still using shuttle buses by this time. Gee, how nice of SEPTA to alert the people of Delaware County about these problems; they thought they could sneak this one by since all of the attention was focused on the problems on the 22 Street viaduct.

    As for the trains themselves, in addition to the R1 Airport line shuttle buses and the diversion of R6 Cynwyd passengers to the R5 Paoli line (and a connecting shuttle at Overbrook), the Glenside branch trains (R2 Warminster, R3 West Trenton, R5 Lansdale, and one would presume the R1 trains that originate at Glenside) terminated at Fern Rock; the R6 Norristown, R7 Chestnut Hill East, and R8 Fox Chase ran as far as Market East. R2 Marcus Hook/Wilmington and R7 Trenton trains were able to use the lower level of 30th Street, but not the R5 Paoli/Thorndale. R5 Paoli/Thorndale riders were forced to change to a shuttle bus at Overbrook, then transfer to the El at 69 Street Terminal (never mind that Amtrak could've made more space available to allow Paoli Line riders a more direct shot into Philadelphia).

    The only advice given by SEPTA to riders on the R3 Elwyn, R5 Paoli/Thorndale and R8 Chestnut Hill West riders were to "seek alternate means of transportation" (read: drive or stay home). Here's a silly thought: SEPTA could've just told people to get off at North Philadelphia and take the C bus or Broad Street Line (or even, heaven forbid, a shuttle bus) to City Hall. Another shuttle should've been set up between Center City and University City to connect with the R3 Elwyn. For most of the day, shuttle buses were used on the R3 Elwyn line, including (if you can believe this) ElDorados from Red Arrow. Sure, use 30 foot buses on one of the busier rail lines for a shuttle, that makes a lot of sense. It also explains why there was a bit of a shortage at Red Arrow yesterday, though the problem has been ongoing there due to some frozen lines on some of the buses...

    But, of course, given Fearless Leader's penny pinching ways and lack of actual leadership as it pertains to running a transit system (instead of taking orders from the Oxford Valley/Norristown Mob faction that runs the board), you can certainly expect incompetence and a raspberry to Regional Rail riders in the western suburbs.

  • MORE PROBLEMS ON THE RAILS According to some reliable sources at Frazer Yard, SEPTA has been having some maintenance problems with it's push-pull trains. Electric engine #2308 (the ALP-44 "given" to SEPTA following the N-5 car fiasco on the P&W) has had major maintenace issues. My source tells me that the 2308 has been in the shop almost like clockwork "every two weeks" for quite some time. But wait, there's more... The Bombardier coaches used on the push-pull trains - and maintained primarily at Frazer Yard - have started to suffer major problems as well. The Bombardiers have been known to leak fluids, the source reported, and that maintenance has been stymied, most likely by incompetent management (take a bow, AGM for Operations Patrick Nowakowski, for not lobbying for someone with real railroad experience in charge of the RRD). Remember, this is the same management that fleeced 10 center-door Bombardier coaches from PennDOT under the guise of "added train service", but really only added cars to the trains and stole a push-pull set from the Paoli line and sent it to onto the Trenton line (not to mention the one push-pull train on the Warminster line, which makes little sense given the relatively short spacing and lower speeds of that line), while degrading the quality of equipment on the Paoli line (where passengers tend not to take to kindly to the smallest inconvenience even more so than any other line in the system).

  • ONE STEP BEHIND... As if the problems on the railroad aren't a slap in the face to SEPTA, then there's the matter of SEPTA's preparedness in the event of a catastrophic attack. The Daily News reports that, unlike the rest of the country, SEPTA has not officially activated Condition Orange as recommended by the Office of Homeland Security. The Daily News also notes that there's been a contract dispute between the union representing SEPTA Transit Police officers and SEPTA management as SEPTA Transit Police officers have been working without a contract since the end of September. (Note to self: Why don't we just tell our enemies that we're not in step with the rest of the country when it comes to emergency preparedness?)

  • MONEY PROBLEMS ON THE HORIZON? In the same Daily News article, it was noted that SEPTA could run a deficit as high as $41 million by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. This raises the question, "Huh?" At the December Board Meeting, SEPTA reported a $1.1 million surplus after subsidies for the first six months of the current fiscal year. Either someone at SEPTA is deliberately giving out false numbers to the press, or the same folks who gave us the Enron and Adelphia scandals are now managing the books at SEPTA. In fairness, though, Treasurer Joe Casey is more upfront with the public than Fearless Leader, so I'm sure this was a management ploy to shame FOP 109 and to justify the lack of "Condition Orange" within SEPTA. Then again, the $41 million figure came from the FOP spokesman, so I'm not sure he's telling the whole story.

  • 5600s UPDATE On a happier note, the 5613-5712 series New Flyers are now starting to trickle into the Berridge Shops. This will mean the start of a massive bus move within the next couple of weeks. 5471 and 5472, which were at Midvale for use as training buses, are now back at Southern. Most of the 3000-3131 series of Neoplans should be off the property by the end of the summer, though a few could still linger at Callowhill (for use on the 15 before the rehabbed PCCs arrive), Comly (mainly for use on school trippers), and Frankford (for use on the 59, 66, and 75 bus-titution).
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