Wednesday, June 04, 2003

  • LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL? The Philadelphia Inquirer reports in today's editions that there's an outside shot of Harrisburg restoring some of the funding cuts that led to the proposed Draconian Service Cuts. State Rep. Don Walko (D-20, Allegheny) is drafting legislation that would the nearly $16 million in statewide transit funding cuts. This, in effect, would restore the $15 million that SEPTA stood to lose in state aid and corresponding matching local aid. Walko has also been attempting to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow gas tax revenues to be used by transit systems, a prohibition in effect since 1945. In Pennsylvania, both houses of the legislature must approve a resolution in two consecutive sessions before the amendment is placed on the ballot in a future election, which makes Walko's amendment proposal an uphill battle at best.

    In addition to Walko's proposal, State Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2, Philadelphia) introduced a bill that would double the tire-sale tax to $2.00, and the car-rental tax to $4.00. Tartaglione's proposal would raise an additional $38 million for transit systems across the state. State Rep. Joseph Markosek (D-25, Allegheny/Westmoreland) also introduced a bill that would increase the cap on transit's share of sales tax revenue from $75 million to $93 million.

    Yet, despite potential relief from Harrisburg, both SEPTA and the Port Authority of Allegheny County (which is suffering some severe budget problems of its own) are still being targeted by Republicans in Harrisburg to see what additional administrative costs can be pared in order to increase efficiency. To that end, former Amtrak financial executive Arlene Friner has been reviewing the financial records of both SEPTA and PAAC. In reality, all Ms. Friner has to do is get in touch with DVARP and other critics of SEPTA's current mis-management (including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers) to find out where the waste within SEPTA exists.

  • CALL BOX UPDATE Three of the damaged emergency call boxes exposed in a scathing news report last month still remain out of service, according to today's editions of the Daily News. The two call boxes at the Girard Av El station and the 19 St subway-surface station remain out of order due to additional problems with the boxes. Despite SEPTA promises to affix stickers on the damaged boxes, only the 19 St box had such a sticker. Somehow, I doubt anyone at the Daily News took a look at the call boxes on the southbound platform at the City Hall subway station, since those boxes were still covered as of Sunday afternoon.

  • MORE FALLOUT OVER SOUTH JERSEY LRT In the latest black eye for NJ Transit, the Cherry Hill Courier Post noted in an editorial that NJ Transit planned to dump the equivalent of nearly 8,000 large dump trucks of contaminated soil in East Camden. Officials claimed that the soil came mostly from Camden, then later admitted that the soil in fact came from towns outside of the city. Doesn't it seem strange that NJ Transit's management tends to get dumber the further south of Trenton it goes?

  • ON THE OTHER HAND... For every Trenton-Camden LRT fiasco that occurs at NJ Transit, there's usually something along the line that actually improves the system in South Jersey - even though there are people in South Jersey who still think they get blown off by North Jersey. The new Vineland Regional Transportation Center officially opened last Wednesday, despite delays due to the rotten winter and funding issues. The new terminal replaces an obsolete location along Landis Avenue which had long been the source of operator complaints, due to its location. Operators had been forced to drop passengers off along Landis, which made for some very unsafe conditions. The new terminal includes a newsstand, clothing store, electornics/furniture store, and a modernized ticket office. A hair salon, day care center, taxi stand, and home-ownership/employee training office will open in the near future, adding to the mix of services offered. The Vineland Regional Transportation Center serves bus routes 313, 408, and 553.
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