Monday, March 31, 2003

  • PRESIDENTIAL GRIDLOCK EXPECTED As some point during the afternoon, expect delays on SEPTA routes near the Coast Guard station along S Delaware Av, affecting the 25 and 64, and possibly the 63, as President Bush is expected to address Coast Guard officers as part of a visit to the city. Assuming that Air Force One will be landing at Philadelphia International Airport (and, no, I don't have details about the motorcade, which is justifiably top secret), you can also expect some delays on the Airport Corridor lines as well (37, 68, 108, and 305).
  • Sunday, March 30, 2003

  • 104 DIVERTED At around 11:00pm last night, West Chester Police responded to a report of a gas leak on the 100 block of West Gay St. As a result, 104 inbound buses were forced to operate via Chestnut to New St for most of the late evening.

  • EL DELAYS It's bad enough when SEPTA says they will run reduced service on the El on weekends, as this weekend's single track operation between Spring Garden and Huntington forced the El to an 18 minute headway. But it's worse when trains can't even follow that headway for whatever reason. At around 12 noon today, there was a nearly 25-30 minute gap in eastbound service from 69 St to Frankford, reportedly due to equipment problems. This incident notwithstanding, it seemed that headways were a lot longer than 18 minutes throughout the rest of the day, but maybe it was just me.

  • GLENSIDE PARKING UPDATE Montgomery Newspapers reports that Cheltenham Township is in the midst of a study to determine the design and location of a new parking deck at Glenside Station. The township has posted a power point presentation on this project which provides further details.

  • FRANKFORD TERMINAL UPDATE A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday to detail this summer's plan to shut down the El between Erie-Torresdale and Bridge-Pratt. The meeting - which begins at 6:30pm - will be held at the Frankford Memorial United Methodist Church, located at Dyre St and Oxford Av. The plan involves an extensive bus bridge between Erie-Torresdale and Bridge-Pratt, which is neccesary to link the existing El structure to the new terminal building at Frankford. Once completed, the El will begin operating into the new terminal building.
  • Saturday, March 29, 2003

  • "TANGERINE" AGAIN Less than a week after Fearless Leader had appeared to do the right thing regarding security within SEPTA - by ordering 12-hour shifts for its police department - the agency has backtracked from that position rather quickly. The Daily News reports that SEPTA has resumed its "normal" patrol routine of 8 hour shifts with days off. And now, for your humorous review, the lastest BS from SEPTA's Minister of Dis-Information Richard Maloney:

    "Based on our current assessment of security, we reduced our level, but are still in a heightened state of alert..."

    What lovely double-speak, even for Maloney, eh? And now, some more foolish spin that would anger Bill O'Reilly:

    "We believe we have the security of the system in hand as best we can."

    Really? Of course, it wouldn't happen to have anything to do with the fact that the added police overtime would cost SEPTA $400,000 to $450,000 per week, now would it? Nor, of course, is it because of the ongoing contract dispute between FOP Lodge 109. As stated before, why doesn't SEPTA just send a press release to potential terrorists to let them know that the system really isn't as safe as they want it to be? Just asking...
  • Thursday, March 27, 2003

  • SPREE IS OVER The SEPTA Board officially abandoned the Route 76/Center City Shopping Spree at it's monthly meeting today. The Spree will officially end on Friday, April 4. Somehow, I doubt that there will be as much fanfare for the end of the Spree as there was for the launch of the service in November 2001.

  • MORE FLYERS ON THE WAY For those of you who don't like New Flyers (and I would suspect those in that group are few and far between - I am not one of those people), we have ... more New Flyers. The SEPTA Board approved a contract with New Flyer to build 300 new buses over the next three years with three separate annual options for 20 new buses per year. Should all three options be exercised, then the total number of new buses over this period will be 360. As much as I'd love to see all three options exercised, it's very possible that - assuming SEPTA does a one-for-one replacement - at least one of the options won't be exercised, most likely the 2004 option. The reasoning is that SEPTA is still tentatively expected to recieve an additional 10 diesel-hybrid low floors from New Flyer over the course of this year, plus the expected arrival of the new overhauled PCC cars for the 15/Girard light rail restoration, could result in the rest of the non-accessible Neos being retired by the middle of next year, allowing full accessible service on all SEPTA bus routes. The wild card in all of this is the status of the trackless trolley fleet, particularly out of Southern Depot. If the 29 extension to Pier 70 is made permanent, there will be some pressure within SEPTA to convert the 79 to diesel bus service full time and extend that line to Pier 70 as well. As a result, all trackless service from Southern would be converted to bus operations, with the fleet being returned to Frankford, where there appears to be at least some committment to trackless service on the 59, 66, and 75 once the Frankford Terminal complex is complete. Let's just say the next three years will be very interesting from a fleet perspective as New Flyers will take over for Neoplan as the dominant bus within the SEPTA system.
  • HERE WE GO AGAIN... And now, for the monthly meltdown on SEPTA's Regional Rail system. Service on all Regional Rail lines was disrupted due to a massive signal failure between North Broad and Market East along the Reading Main Line last night. As a result, most PRR side trains were running anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes late. The #589 to Malvern arrived at Overbrook about 1 hour late; while the #591 - the last train of the night to Thorndale - arrived at 1:50am - nearly 80 minutes behind schedule. Making things worse for the 589 and 591 trains were Amtrak and subcontractor crews working between in the Overbrook station area, with work focusing on the City Avenue (US 1) bridge.

    As for the rest of the system, the last trains departing Center City were also running nearly an hour late in both directions. Trains arriving on schedule on the PRR side were delayed as they were heading to RDG side destinations or back to Roberts Yard. There's no reason why some of the earlier scheduled PRR-side trains couldn't have been annulled and/or passengers directed to Broad Street Owl buses either at Fern Rock or North Broad/North Philadelphia (Broad and Lehigh) to reach Suburban Station, then connect with protect trains at Suburban. (By this time of the night, it's very possible that the last couple of BSS trains could've still been in service at Fern Rock, but I don't have any details on that.)

    Here's the real kicker. Nobody from SEPTA bothered to report this mess to the appropriate traffic outlets (though at that late hour, the only station offering traffic reports would be KYW NewsRadio 1060 - yet, people do listen to 1060 late at night). Granted, it's late, and Richard Maloney is probably getting a good night's sleep while trying to think up his next lie to the riding public. But still, there's no reason why someone from the Control Center can't take the initiative to call KYW and alert them to major problems such as this (if anyone who works at the Control Center is paying attention, the number is (215) 724-1060, and is staffed 24/7). It's not going to do good for those who are not in Center City or stranded on the trains, but it would certainly be good for those who may be waiting at the various stations for loved ones to return home from work.

    To make things even more interesting, there was no mention of this latest meltdown by any of the TV stations - even during the morning newscasts - or by the Inquirer or Daily News - though both papers were probably well past deadline for today's editions.

    And while we're at it, is it any coincidence that there have been an alarming frequency in service disruptions on the Regional Rail over the past several months? Since last September, there have been several major shutdowns throughout the Regional Rail system, not counting the Rail Power project and the President's Day blizzard last month. That's not factoring in the numerous delays and breakdowns on individual lines during that time frame. The problems seemingly have been occuring almost once a month. But, we're still expected to shell out a lot of money to ride a Regional Rail system that is still the laughing stock of the nation (although some reports out of Boston say that the MBTA is starting to run a very close second). Perhaps it's time for Fearless Leader and the rest of the (ahem) brain trust at SEPTA to start showing more of a comittment to the Regional Rail division, though that would be asking too much, now wouldn't it?

  • ODDBALL NIGHT OWL MOVES As a direct result of the lastest RRD meltdown, it gave me the opportunity to make some observations about how runs are cut on certain lines, focusing on the 65 and G buses. To wit:
    • The 12:10am 65 bus from 69 St Terminal to Germantown & Chelten (5216 block) operates to Germantown, returns to 69 St, then deadheads back to Allegheny Depot;
    • The 12:25am 65 to Germantown (5215 block) deadheads back to Allegheny, however it displays a block sign "5396", which tends to tell me that it either changes over to the 60 after the trip for Owl service, or operates as a 60 before doing a round trip on the 65 (I'm inclined to guess the former);
    • The 65 round trip departing from 69 St at 12:51am (9628 block) does a round trip to Germantown and back before deadheading to Callowhill;
    • The Owl bus that operates on the 65 now operates out of Allegheny (5201 block). This run deadheads from Allegheny Depot to 69 St Terminal then enters into service on the 65 to Germantown;
    • The 12:31am G bus from Overbrook (7686 block), operates to the Food Center in South Philadelphia, then pulls 4 68 Express trips between UPS and Broad-Oregon;
    • The 1:26am G bus from Overbrook to the Food Center (7651 block) apparently deadheads from Southern Depot to Overbrook to enter service; while the 2:03 am from Overbrook (7687 block) arrives in revenue service from South Philadelphia, which is the last scheduled departure from Overbrook.

    Somehow, I would imagine that if some of these wasteful deadhead moves were adjusted to operate into revenue service closer to their respective depots, SEPTA might be able to reduce any operating deficts without massive systemwide cuts.

  • CHESTNUT STREET RE-OPENS Good news for SEPTA will take place on Tuesday, as the 500 block of Chestnut Street will officially re-open, allowing the 9, 21, 38, and 42 buses to return to Chestnut Street and hopefully reduce costs for the agency. For those who may have forgotten, the 9 will operate along Chestnut between 30 St and 4 St, before laying over at 4-Walnut for the return trip to Roxborough; the 21 and 42 will operate along Chestnut between 7 St and Penn's Landing; and the 38 will operate along Chestnut between 15 St and 5 St before laying over near the Bourse Building and the KYW studios. Also, the 44 and 121 are expected to resume the loop routing via Market, 6 St, Chestnut, and 5 St, before laying over at the Bourse.

  • MORE VANDALISM ON THE ELWYN LINE The Phoenix student newspaper at Swarthmore College reports a vandalism attack last Thursday at the Swarthmore Rail Station on the R3 Elwyn line. This is the latest vandalism attack along the line, following an earlier incident at the Gladstone Rail Station in Lansdowne. According to the Phoenix, a student reported graffiti at the station to Swarthmore College campus police. The graffiti was seen on the outbound platform area, on advertisements, and along the pedestrian tunnel to Magill Walk. Campus officials reported the incident to SEPTA for further investigation.
  • Monday, March 24, 2003

  • LOONIE ALERT If you do not have a good reason to go into Center City on Sunday - particulary between Penns Landing and Independence Mall - here's a simple word of advice for you: DON'T! An anti-war (or either "anti-Bush" or "anti-troops", depending on your points of view) demonstration is expected to tie up traffic along Market Street on Sunday afternoon, starting at around 2:00pm. Expect the R1 Airport shuttle buses and most surface routes along 2, 3, and Market Sts and the Penn's Landing area - 5, 9, 17, 21, 33, 38, 44, 48, and 57 - to be severely impacted. You can also expect the El to be very crowded within Center City during the height of the rally.
  • Sunday, March 23, 2003

  • MORE DELAYS FOR SOUTH JERSEY LRT If it isn't one thing, it's something else. That seems to be the motto for the South Jersey LRT system, whose start-up has been delayed yet again. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that delays in the delivery of several of the diesel powered LRVs has pushed the opening of the line back to November. When NJT officials broke ground in 2000, service was expected to begin two years later. However, cost overruns and a bridge collapse in Burlington County, not to mention a lack of support from the McGreevey administration, have caused service to be delayed for nearly a year and a half. To make matters worse, the ridership projections have decreased from nearly 9,300 trips in 1996 to nearly 5,900 today. A New Jersey Transit exec told the Inquirer that "...(s)omething would have to go very amiss for us to open next year." Like enough things haven't already gone amiss? An introductory fare of $1.10 would result in only a 6 percent cost recovery. This would almost be the equivalent of ridership on the El only being about 4,000 or so per day. The bad news is that NJT is already too far along with this boondoggle that they have no choice but to finish it.
  • Friday, March 21, 2003

  • $ECURITY AT SEPTA While the increased security at SEPTA may put passengers at ease, the costs involved may not have the same effect to the numbers crunchers at 1234 Market. According to various news sources, the changeover to 12 hour shifts for SEPTA Police and other security measures is expected to cost the agency $400,000 per week. It's really surprising that with all of the money that the newly created Department of Homeland Security has recieved from Congress, there appears to be no special funding programs for mass transit systems to be reimbursed for overtime costs related to the Condition Orange status. Should this status continue for an extended period of time, it will not only wipe out the present surplus for this fiscal year, but will make things even worse for next fiscal year.

  • SERVICE PLAN UPDATE Four public hearings have been scheduled next month regarding SEPTA's revised Fiscal Year 2004 Annual Service Plan. Of the three original proposals on the transit side - consolidation of the 63 and 64 in South Philadelphia, re-routing the 27 via the Ben Franklin Parkway, and extending peak hour trips on the 98 to Willow Grove via Fort Washington and Horsham Township, only the 63/64 consolidation made the cut for the tariff and hearing process. On the railroad side, SEPTA is proposing ending service at two inner-city stops - Lamokin St/Chester (R2 Marcus Hook/Wilmington) and 59 Street (R3 Media/Elwyn) - in addition to extending later evening service on several lines to accomodate events along Avenue of the Arts. The hearings will be held on the following dates:

    • Tuesday, April 22: St Paul CME Church, 1009 W 3 St, Chester
    • Wednesday, April 23: Tindley United Methodist Church, 750-762 S Broad St, Philadelphia
    • Thursday, April 24: Turner Middle School, 59 St & Baltimore Av, Philadelphia
    • Friday, April 25: SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market

  • All hearings will take place at 6:30pm, except for the April 25 hearing at 1234 Market, which begins at 10:30am. More details on the plan will be posted shortly. On a side note, has anyone ever noticed that the meeting room at the recently renovated Chester Transportation Center has rarely been used? It's interesting that there haven't been too many reports of community meetings - either by SEPTA or other governmental or community groups - at the CTC since it was renovated, yet that was one of the features that SEPTA had heavily promoted.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2003

  • ACCIDENT ON CHESTNUT A northbound G bus struck and killed an elderly woman yesterday in West Philadelphia. Gertrude Young, 76, of West Philadelphia, was killed as she crossed Chestnut at 57 St. The G bus struck Ms. Young as it was turning off of 57 St onto Chestnut at around 4:30pm. The victim was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania at 4:51pm. Police have released few details about the incident except that they are investigating.

  • TORRESDALE TRACKS TO BE REMOVED? The Northeast News Gleaner reports that the decision to remove the trolley tracks from Torresdale Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia was discussed at a meeting between the City Planning Commission, SEPTA, and the Tacony Civic Association. SEPTA had indicated that it was interested in bringing a proposal to the board to proceed with the track removal - essentially ending any chance of trolley service on the 56, which was "suspended" in 1992. Unlike civic leaders in Chestnut Hill, residents along Torresdale Av are not enthusiastic about potential light rail restoration, thus making the diesel bus service on the 56 appear to be a permanent decision.

  • CHAMBERSBURG FOLLOW-UP At yesterday's meeting of the Chambersburg Borough Council, Chambersburg Transit Authority officials reported better financial news for the cash strapped agency in Franklin County. As reported yesterday, CTA recently reduced it's service from 3 lines within Chambersburg proper and a 4th in Waynesboro, with a single bus that operates on a three hour loop three times every weekday. Finally, some good news for the people from Chambersburg and Waynesboro came in the form of help from PennDOT. Today's Public Opinion newspaper reports that the CTA has gotten a reprive from the IRS on back payroll taxes, thanks to a $2,500 "good faith" payment. As a result, the IRS has agreed to a May 15 deadline for full payment of $62,000 in back taxes, covering last year and the first quarter of this year. The CTA is reportedly planning to apply part - if not all of it's $55,000 quarterly subsidy check from PennDOT. Meanwhile, PennDOT has indicated that they not only wish to see CTA continue operation, but will increase the subsidy to the agency by $90,000, based in large part on increased ridership on the system.
  • Tuesday, March 18, 2003

  • FRANKLIN COUNTY FIASCO If you thought that there were a lot of problems at SEPTA, you are in for a shock. The problems of the Chambersburg Transit Authority in Franklin County (about 55 miles southwest of Harrisburg) make SEPTA's problems seem minor by comparison. According to the Public Opinion newspaper in Chambersburg, the CTA has encountered major financial problems. Among other things:
    • Service which had operated more or less hourly Monday through Saturday along three lines within Chambersburg and one line within Waynesboro has been reduced to a single loop operating every 3 hours Monday through Friday only;
    • In October 2002, CTA was forced to suspend operations for a day due to the non-payment of it's vehicle insurance;
    • The CTA is facing a $47,000 tax lien from the Internal Revenue Service due to unpaid payroll taxes for 2002, even after encountering a similar situation in 2001;
    • The CTA reportedly only has enough money remaining to meet this week's payroll - $10,000; and
    • The Chambersburg Borough Council is expected to determine whether or not to continue funding the service; all signs indicate that Borough funding will no longer be available to CTA.

  • For all the cricitism of SEPTA - most of it justified - what's happening in Chambersburg is horrendous. It's amazing that PennDOT hasn't been aware of what was happening, to say the very least.
  • NOW THEY GO ORANGE... Either it's a genuine attempt to enhance security or a response to last month's embarassing article by the Daily News during the last Condition Orange declaration. In any case, SEPTA has announced that Transit Police officers will be working on 12 hour shifts until further notice. If you thought that SEPTA was experiencing budget problems now, wait until they see the overtime bill for added police protection.

  • IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN... The "silly season" for budgets is now upon us. SEPTA released the dates for the FY 2004 Operating Budget today. As in year's past, one hearing will be held in each county. Interestingly enough, there has been no mention of a possible fare increase, which tends to tell me that SEPTA is using that as a last resort (at least we hope so). The hearings will take place on the following days:
    • Monday, May 5: Doylestown Courthouse, Main & Court Sts
    • Wednesday, May 7: Delaware County Council Meeting Room, 1st Floor, Media Courthouse
    • Thursday, May 8: Montgomery County Human Services Bldg, 1430 DeKalb Pike, Norristown
    • Friday, May 9: West Chester Borough Hall, 401 W Gay St
    • Monday, May 12: SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market, Philadelphia

  • The hearings in the suburban counties will begin at 1:30pm; for the Philadelphia hearings, the morning session will take place at 11:00am, and the evening session will take place at 5:00pm (speakers must register no later than 5:30pm). The actual budget proposal will not be released until the first week of April. Let the rampant speculation begin...
  • HOPE YOU HAVE A HEALTHY HEART... Two years ago, SEPTA purchased 5 state of the art mobile cardiac defibrillators. After training most of the SEPTA Police department on these life saving devices during that time, the Daily News reports that SEPTA hasn't even bothered to deploy them. They are presently stored in a closet in the basement of 1234 Market. Continuing to show why he is the most arrogant person associated with SEPTA, chief spokesman/apologist/liar Richard Maloney sums up the status of these now 2 year old devices:

    "We've had some testing and some training, but a decision has not been made on deployment ... It's under review. We're still studying them."

    Oh. It takes two years to train over 200 police officers on how to use a defibrilator? But wait, there's more. In another classic gem, Maloney also had this to say:

    "Where are you going to deploy them? ... How many do you have to maintain? Do you put them in all police cars? In major Center City stations?"

    Well, how about (1) deploying them in all SEPTA Police vehicles and at major police zone offices; (2) training railroad employees and surface supervisors on these devices; and (3) stop delaying already and use them.

    Of course, I'm sure the SEPTA Police union is having a good laugh over this final quote from the article:

    The cost of buying and maintaining the units, as well as the potential legal liability from their use or misuse, is also being weighed, said Maloney.

    Gee, that's why they have this neat little concept called "training". Of course, this being SEPTA, that's not exactly a popular concept.

    Remember a few months ago when a passenger on board an MBTA commuter train suffered a heart attack and died? Is it going to take a similar event on the railroad or on the El for SEPTA to take some action?

  • DEFICIT UPDATE In the same Daily News article, it is now being reported that SEPTA faces an "accumulated deficit" of $14 million, plus a loss in state aid of nearly $16 million, pending adoption of Ed Rendell's budget from hell. So now, within the past few months, there have been at least three different estimates as to how much red ink SEPTA is swimming in. Somebody say service cuts?

  • ANTI-WAR MORONS A group of "anti-war protestors" staged a "die in" last night near City Hall, causing a major traffic headache for both SEPTA and NJ Transit buses. One organizer told KYW 3 that if (when) the U.S. takes action against Saddam Hussein, "the city will have to get used to such protests and warn they will be longer and more frequent." Bear in mind that most of these morons don't seem to be as much against the war itself as they are against President Bush. Guess what, folks. We've tried peaceful tactics against Iraq for 12 years, and it's gotten us nowhere. Then again, you can blame Bill Clinton for not having a backbone to attack Iraq or fight terrorism during his administration (though he did distract the nation by attacking on the eve of his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives).

    Here's a little unsolicited advice to Emperor Street and Police Commissioner Johnson. If these idiots disrupt traffic during the height of rush hour, there's a neat little concept you may want to try: it's called arresting people. If they want to protest, fine. They certainly have the right to do so, but they do not have the right to inconvenience commuters who are trying to get home from work. I believe the proper term is called "Obstructing The Highway."
  • Sunday, March 16, 2003

  • PREPARE TO PAY THROUGH THE NOSE If you didn't happen to stumble onto this article from Friday's Boston Globe about the MBTA's proposed fare increase, don't feel bad. You're going to feel worse after you discover that this tidbit was buried towards the end of the article:

    Philadelphia's SEPTA is proposing a 25-cent increase, which could make it the most expensive transit ride in the nation at $2.25.

    Gee, this is the first I've heard of SEPTA proposing a fare increase. Wouldn't it have made more sense for the newspapers in Philadelphia to have reported this first (disclosure note: I work for the Inquirer at the Downington home delivery warehouse)? Unless that's what SEPTA wanted to have happen...

    Then there's this tidbit of bad news from Friday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the financial problems at the Port Authority of Allegheny County (the transit operator in the Pittsburgh area):

    Philadelphia-based Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which is three times bigger than Port Authority and whose base fare has been $2 for two years now, is facing an estimated $55 million operating budget problem for the 2003-04 fiscal year.

    Again, it would've been nice if the folks at home would've heard about this without having to go on a UN mission across the internet to find out. But, again, that's SEPTA's modus operandi. By the time the public figures out what's going on, it's too late to stop it. That's what SEPTA tried to do with the Schuylkill Valley "MetroRail" boondoggle, but failed thanks to the efforts of DVARP and the Federal Transit Administration. How much are you willing to bet that along with the fare increase comes dramatic service cuts? And are Fearless Leader and the rest of the stooges running SEPTA even willing to fight Harrisburg to get increased funding for the system to keep it relatively in tact? Don't bet on it...
  • Wednesday, March 12, 2003

  • SEPTA TO THE RESCUE? As strange as this sounds, SEPTA actually did something this week that made people in West Oak Lane very happy. The Daily News reports that a SEPTA work crew spent most of yesterday and today covering nearly 60 potholes along Ogontz Avenue between Nedro Av and 65 Av. Most of the potholes surfaced along the stretch where the 6 ran as a trolley until 1985. Normally, SEPTA would be responsible for the road within three feet of either side of tracks, however conditions were so bad, a maintenance supervisor ordered the entire width of Ogontz covered. This problem could've been prevented as State Rep. Dwight Evans had reportedly been lobbying the city to repave the entire stretch of Ogontz as far back as 2001. The city, however, hadn't gotten around to it, but plans to this spring.

  • SNOW DISPUTE Now, back to reality. KYW News Radio reports of a dispute between Philadelphia City Council and SEPTA over who is responsible for clearing snow from major bus stops throughout the city. Councilman Darrell Clark (D-5th) suggested that it was SEPTA's responsibility to clear snow from bus shelters. However, in a RARE PUBLIC APPEARANCE, Fearless Leader turned around and said it should be the city's responsibility, since they own the shelters. This is what happens when two incompetent govermental bodies - SEPTA and the City of Philadelphia - start pointing fingers at each other.

  • RAIL POWER SHUTTLE REMINDER SEPTA will resume the shutdown of the Center City tunnel this weekend as part of the Rail Power project. This weekend, however, will be particularly dicey for those attending Sunday's St. Patrick's Day parade. Most of the changes to the shuttle schedules will affect the PRR side of the Regional Rail system. The R1 Airport Shuttle buses will resume service from University City to Eastwick via the Airport and Center City. The R3 Media/Elwyn line will only operate as far as University City, with shuttle buses to connect University City with Center City. The R2 Marcus Hook, R5 Paoli/Thorndale, R7 Trenton, and R8 Chestnut Hill West lines will be diverted to the lower level of 30 St Station. The Reading-side trains will terminate at Suburban Station as they had done so before. On Sunday, the Rail Power Shuttle buses will not directly serve Suburban Station, instead stopping at 17 St and Market (to Market East) and at 18 St and JFK Blvd (to 30 St and University City), due to the St. Patrick's Day parade. The R1 and R3 shuttle buses will bypass the Suburban Station area completely, stopping only at University City, 30 Street Station, and Market East.
  • Tuesday, March 11, 2003

  • MOVING UP? SEPTA Board member and former Cheltenham Township supervisor Thomas Jay Ellis recently was endored by the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee in his bid to replace Michael Marino as Montgomery County Commissioner. Marino, the former MontCo DA who was elected to his first term in 1999, chose not to seek re-election this year. In a somewhat strange twist of irony, Marino and James (brother of "Hardball's" Chris) Matthews defeated Mario Mele in the 1999 GOP primary. A couple of years ago, Mele was replaced on the SEPTA Board by ... Thomas Jay Ellis. Talk about full circle...

  • DART HEARING AHEAD DART First State is planning a public hearing workshop on Tuesday, March 25 at the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington. The workshop, which will take place between 11:00am and 2:00pm, is part of DART's schedule adjustment process. There are very few changes in New Castle County, however, a new Route 7 is proposed to operate between Rodney Square and the Canby Park section of Wilmington. Most of the changes are proposed for Resort Transit service in Sussex County, which would involve reduced service until July 1 (when the new fiscal year begins).
  • Monday, March 10, 2003

  • MORE PROOF THAT THE FORDS ARE DISAPPEARING As if the report of 10 Fords being pulled from service wasn't enough evidence that the cutaways are finally going the way of the Edsel, today on the 92/133, at least 5 runs saw ElDorados - 6017, 6018, 6019, 6020, and 6021 blocks. I didn't have a chance to see what vehicles were covering 6015 or 6016 blocks (the first departures from King of Prussia and West Chester, respectively), but even 5 ElDorados on this line is highly unusual. Up until recently, only 6020 and 6021 blocks (who start their runs off as the 5:25pm and 6:20pm departures from West Chester) were the only buses that didn't see Fords on weekdays. Not that I'm complaining...
  • Sunday, March 09, 2003

  • R3 GRASSROOTS GROUP FORMS A grassroots group who supports the full restoration of the R3 Media/Elwyn line to West Chester will hold their first meeting in Media next Tuesday (the day after St. Patrick's Day). The meeting will be held at the offices of KDB, located at 115 West State Street (near the Olive St stop on the 101 Media Trolley) on March 18 at 3:30pm. Contact information will be posted shortly. KDB is the consulting firm that was co-founded by SEPTA Board member Tom Killion, though his role in this group is unknown for now. However, it should be pointed out that Killion does live in the Chester Heights/Glen Riddle area, which is along the West Chester Branch corridor.
  • FTA SMACKS DOWN SEPTA DVARP reports that the Federal Transit Administration recently told SEPTA the same thing that DVARP has been telling them about the proposed "MetroRail" alignment for the Schuylkill Valley corridor: GET REAL! After years of brainwashing by Jack Leary and his counterparts at BARTA, the FTA rated the "Schuylkill Valley Metro" - specifically, the MetroRail alternative - "Not Recommended". Details about the FTA's reasoning behind the Not Recommended rating were released as part of the FY 2004 New Starts program recently submitted to Congress.

  • SMILE! YOU'RE ON CANDID CAMERA... SEPTA installed video cameras in all Neoplan artics within the past month or two. The cameras are located in a partition behind the operator's area, however it apparently covers the entire bus. This is SEPTA's first full experiment with cameras since a handful of 3000s were retrofit with them several years ago for use on the 23. Whether or not this program will be expanded to the entire fleet remains to be seen.

  • NEW FLYER UPDATE As of today, Southern has recieved all of its 45 bus allotment from the 5600-series order. Frontier is expected to recieve their buses (5658-5667) within the next few days. Comly 5562 is presently at Frontier as a training vehicle. Southern 5613 is reportedly the training vehicle now at Midvale, who should start seeing their batch (5668-5713) in a matter of weeks.

  • SUBURBAN SCHEDULE CHANGES So far, there haven't really been any earth shattering changes to the new Red Arrow or Frontier timetables, which take effect on March 17 (presumably to capture the luck of the Irish, no doubt). Some highlights include the extension of weekday 108 Airport trips to the Airport Business Center, extension of the 125 to PFPC (whatever the heck that is) and a corresponding restructuring of service to Valley Forge Towers; restoration of P&W reverse-peak express stops to Ardmore Jct; Media and Sharon Hill express service stopping at Lansdowne Avenue; and, amazingly enough, no relief for West Chester PM reverse peak commuters on the 104. Timetables on the 94, 130, 201, 203, and 206 will not be changing (the 200-series lines will probably change when the Regional Rail schedules change again, whenever that is). More details will be posted as new timetables are issued.

  • FAREWELL TO THE FORDS (AND NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON) At least 10 Ford cutaways have been pulled from service, and as the headline indicates, not a moment too soon. The list roster reflects these removals, however the depot rosters have not yet been changed (they will be by tomorrow or Tuesday at the very latest). Though it's not listed on the roster, I wouldn't be shocked if 2033 - long a regular on the 92/133 during the morning hours (just ask operator Frank Williams how much he's going to miss that bus) - was one of those buses pulled. Until recently, 2033 was never retrofit with the CARD radio system. In fact, 2033 still ran with the old radio for at least a month or two after other Fords had them installed. That, plus the fact that the steering was absolutely horrendous, as several drivers found out, may have hastened 2033's retirement. I'm hoping to get more details about those recently pulled buses soon. In any case, it's an odd move since the order for replacements for the Fords have yet to been awarded. Still, you won't hear me - or most of the operators at Frontier - complaining...

  • FIRE IN THE TUNNEL A gas used by welders was the cause of a minor fire in the subway-surface tunnel early Saturday morning. The Philadelphia Fire Department's Haz-Mat unit was called, since the fire originated in an acetylene tank. Early morning streetcar service was forced to operate over-the-top for a couple of hours until the fire was declared under control.

  • THE DEON "ERROR" CONTINUES In a very dramatic scene at last month's SEPTA Board Meeting (if you consider reading from a script dramatic), SEPTA Board Chairman/Radio Impresario/Turnpike Commissioner/Land Developer Extraordinaire/Former Convention Center Board Member and all around weasel Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. was (ahem) elected to a fifth term as Chairman and CMO (Chief Micro-Managing Officer) of SEPTA Board. Deon served as Vice Chairman under former Delaware County Council President Tom Hayward in 1998, replacing Richard Voith (and a lot of people who follow SEPTA from the outside still miss Mr. Voith's voice of reason on the board) who had left the board for non-political reasons, before being elected Chairman the following year (and it's no coincidence that the western suburbs have been relegated to second class status compared to Bucks and Montgomery County since Deon has been Chairman).
    In an even bigger shock with much drama (yes, that is sarcasm), James C. Schwartzman was re-elected Vice Chairman of the SEPTA Board, also for a fifth term. Schwartzman - a Republican from Radnor who was appointed by the Minority Leader of the Pennsylvania Senate (who is a Democrat) - has served on the SEPTA Board since 1991.
    On a humorous side note, the news was also posted at the Miami Herald's web site. To steal a line from Dave Barry (a Haverford College alum and former Daily Local News columnist who now works for the Miami Herald): "I am not making this up." I highly doubt that it appeared in the print edition of the Miami Herald, though...
  • Wednesday, March 05, 2003

  • MORE MONEY PROBLEMS Gov. Rendell released his Fiscal Year 2003-04 state budget yesterday, which meant bad news for most areas of state government, including mass transit subsidies for transit systems throughout the Commonwealth. Transit systems statewide are looking at a combined $16.1 million reduction in state aid. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that SEPTA could lose up to 6 percent of their state subsidy - or $14.9 million. So far, SEPTA has not commented on potential fare increases or service cutbacks. Notably enough, SEPTA hasn't made any mention of potential cuts within SEPTA management (surprise, surprise), nor does SEPTA seem to be considering possibly replacing gas guzzling SUVs with more fuel efficient sedans or economy cars as the City of Philadelphia is now attempting to do. (While they're at it, they could fire Richard Maloney and not replace his slot. Then again, there are a few managers at SEPTA who probably also deserve to get fired and not have their positions filled.)
  • Monday, March 03, 2003

  • HERE WE GO AGAIN... Either Richard Maloney is in a state of denial, or the SEPTA Spin Patrol is in high gear. As a follow-up to Friday's Inquirer article, SEPTA's Chief Spokeman/Apologist/Liar fired off a rebuttal which appears in today's Inquirer. Well, seeing as I have nothing better to do today, I figure on doing some rebutting of my own. To wit (King Richard the Liar's comments are in italics):

    Ralph Vigoda's article on SEPTA Regional Rail service during the past month of deplorable weather ("Snow-related troubles are simply the tip of the iceberg for SEPTA", Feb. 28) begins with a blatant inaccuracy and degenerates from there.

    Really? Would that inaccuracy happen to be the fact that Jim Whitaker was quoted and not you?

    After the President's Day blizzard, SEPTA never said service the following day would return to "normal." We repeatedly stated that Tuesday railroad service would run on a Saturday schedule, and to expect delays.

    Oh. I guess some of those reports about railroad service that I heard on the news were also inaccurate, huh? And let's not forget passengers west of Malvern on the R5 Paoli/Thorndale line who had to make do with only 2 trains the entire morning on Tuesday. Of course, the fact that most trains were cut back to Malvern wasn't broadcast over the media outlets (it was posted at the SEPTA web site) might have led to more than a few angry phone calls from the west-central and central parts of Chester County.

    Vigoda's article and some critics quoted in it do a disservice to the hundreds of SEPTA employees who worked days on end, often in horrific weather conditions, to keep the trains running.

    That's not to say the employees were working hard, but it seems that some of them were completely clueless. There were reports that managers at 1234 Market were unable to keep track of which employees were available and which ones weren't, leading to many botched assignments. Then again, your majesty, you tend to do a disservice to the public at large when you make ludicrous statements as you have in the past.

    In the 20 years since SEPTA acquired operations of the commuter rail network, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild a system run into the ground by bankrupt private railroads. More needs to be done, but we have come a long way.

    You sure have, your majesty. SEPTA is now one of the slowest commuter railroads in the country, and among other systems, is the laughing stock of commuter rail operations (although the MBTA in Boston is slowly creeping up to take away that honor). There hasn't been a person in charge of the Railroad Division exclusively since Mike Burns was promoted to become Jack Leary's AGM (and of course, Mr. Burns is now heading up the San Francisco Municipal Railway, and having some success from reports I've been reading). Of course, in the long haul, maybe we should've kept Burns in Philly and sent Fearless Leader to San Francisco...

  • ON THE MOVE, AGAIN With Southern's full complement from the 5600 series New Flyers due to arrive within the next 2-3 weeks, prepare for some major bus moves throughout the system, as has been reported earlier at this site. Already, some NABIs from Southern are starting to show up on Red Arrow routes (such as 5365 running the 104/4218 block last night) and some 3300 Neos are showing up at Frontier (such as 3327 and 3328 on consecutive days on the 124/125). When the dust is settled, though, most of the 3000s will be off the property, leaving the 3132-3251 series as the last non wheelchair accessible buses in the entire system.

  • DEFECIT FOLLOW-UP According to SEPTA Treasurer Joe Casey, the authority is in fact running a surplus as of the end of January. However, SEPTA is anticipating a decrease in subsidies of nearly $41 million, mainly due to the financial problems at the state and federal government levels. This clarifies the statements made the spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Transit Police posted nearly two weeks ago. SEPTA is in better shape financially than other systems (yet, at what cost, you're probably thinking of asking Fearless Leader), however next year may be a different story...