Sunday, March 09, 2003

  • 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...
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