Thursday, March 27, 2003

  • 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.
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