Friday, February 28, 2003

  • OUT OF TOUCH? If anyone thought that some SEPTA Board members were completely out of touch with the riding public, then State Sen. Stuart Greenleaf (R-12) proved that point. In today's editions of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Greenleaf was asked about complaints from commuters regarding the recent performance decline on the Regional Rail system:

    "Except for a union representative who comes to our meetings all the time and usually beats up on us," [Greenleaf] had heard little complaining from the public.

    Oh. So, if Sen. Greenleaf hasn't heard too many complaints from his constituents, then SEPTA must be doing a good job, right? Umm, no. Incidentially, the "union representative" Greenleaf is trashing is Tom Dorricott of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, who, in a perfect world, deserves to be in charge of the Railroad Division (he can't do any worse than the bozos in charge now). Apparently, Sen. Greenleaf seems to have a better grasp on the issues affecting employees in the Railroad Division than the head of one of their largest unions. Then again, I highly doubt that Dorricott would take Greenleaf's senate seat when a major issues affects his district, which covers the Willow Grove, Horsham Twp, and Hatboro areas.

    One does have to question Greenleaf's true dedication to his duties on the SEPTA Board, as over the past few years, he has been known to participate by telephone - from the Bahamas (I don't recall exactly which board meeting it was, but I do recall him calling in from there a few years ago). That may have happened only a handful of times, but still, it's enough to question his dedication to the job.

    Meanwhile, an unnamed board member refuted Greenleaf's idiotic statements in the same Inquirer article:

    But another longtime board member, who asked that his name not be used, said he thought service on the commuter rail lines had been deteriorating for the last couple of years.

    "I worked there when [former SEPTA chief David] Gunn was there," this member said, referring to the early 1980s. "He was a take-charge guy who imbued that place with spirit. One of his favorite management statements was if you find a problem, the worst thing you can do is nothing. We've sort of lost that. People are not willing to step up. I don't know if it's a malaise, or they say, 'Hey, that's not my job.' Some of the infrastructure is fragile and old. But the communications problems, that's inexcusable."

    Far be it for me to blow this board member's cover - intentionally or otherwise - but I have a feeling that the board member in question may be Robert Wooten, the gubernatorial appointee to the SEPTA Board who was originally appointed by Gov. Ridge in 1997 as sort of a consolation prize for not being named General Manager, or so the story goes. Please note that this has not been confirmed or denied by any source, but it is simply a guess based on what I know about the background of some board members. The reason I suspect it may be Wooten is because he was reportedly working for SEPTA during this time (again, this is second hand info that I haven't confirmed independently) up until 1997. Wooten applied for the General Manager's position which had been vacated by Lou Gambacinni and subsequently filled by Jack Leary. When Leary was hired, Wooten was reportedly appointed to the SEPTA Board by Ridge, and the rest is history.

    On an somewhat related note, it appears that Jim Whitaker has been serving as the chief spokesman for SEPTA over the past few weeks. That, all things considered, isn't really a bad thing, since Whitaker has more professionalism in his right pinky finger than Richard Maloney has in his entire body...

  • NO TRAILS IN UPPER SOUTHAMPTON SEPTA made a surprising move as far as those advocating the restoration of rail service on the Newtown Branch are concerned. SEPTA recently told officials in Upper Southampton Township that they will not cede the existing right-of-way for this project. According to the Courier-Times, SEPTA wants to maintain control of the right-of-way in order to make it available in the event the line is reactivated. However, a Lower Moreland Township supervisor has expressed interest in converting its section of the Newtown Branch into a rail trail. Bear in mind that most of the opposition to rail restoration to Newtown via Fox Chase is centered around the Lower Moreland/Bryn Athyn area.

  • NEW TRANSIT HUB IN STORE? Officials in Newark, Del. are in the early stages of proposing a new transit hub within the city that would link DART First State, the University of Delaware Shuttle system, and the city's UniCity system. If all goes according to plan, the $2 million hub (half of the cost would be for land acquisition; the other half for actual construction) would be located on the abandoned Pomeroy Railroad right-of-way, located at Main St and Delaware Av in Newark. The State of Delaware is expected to cover most - if not all - of the costs.

  • NEW BOSS AT DRPA New Jersey State Sen. John Matthussen of Gloucester County was appointed by Gov. McGreevey to serve as CEO of the Delaware River Port Authority, the parent agency of the PATCO Hi-Speed Line. Matthussen replaces Paul Drayton, who was appointed CEO during the end of the Florio administration. Former Atlantic City Mayor James Whelan was also considered a candidate for the position, and was recommended by Gov. Rendell. However, New Jersey gets to name the vice chairman and CEO of the DRPA, while Pennsylvania names the board's chairman.
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