Wednesday, June 18, 2003

  • MIXED BAG OF NEWS The SEPTA Board will meet next Thursday to finalize the FY 2004 Operating Budget ... sort of.

    Most of the Draconian Service Cuts that were being proposed, including the elimination of several bus and rail lines, are on hold for now. SEPTA is, however, proceeding with these changes:

    • Increasing the parking fees at Regional Rail stations from $.50 to $1.00 and at Subway parking lots (69 St, Bridge St, and Fern Rock) from $1.00 to $2.00
    • Converting the 5 trackless lines - 29, 59, 66, 75, and 79 - to diesel bus operations
    • Weekend closings of Allegheny and Frankford depots, with operating moving to Midvale and Comly, respectively
    • Changes in service frequencies on some bus routes and rail lines (whether or not these were part of what was originally proposed has yet to be confirmed)
    • Service changes on the R1 Airport, R6 Cynwyd, and R8 Chestnut Hill West lines - the R8 will most likely see an increased headways from 30 minutes to hourly during the mid-day hours

  • As for the fare increases and service cuts, those are delayed pending adoption of the Commonwealth's operating budget. Once Harrisburg passes its budget, SEPTA will then review the remaining items that were under consideration during the hearing process, depending on whether or not additional funding comes from Harrisburg.

    These moves were based upon the report of the hearing examiners, who released their reports last week.

    Inquirer - June 14
    Daily News - June 14

  • LABOR UNREST... All apparently is not well within the leadership of SEPTA's largest union. According to Tuesday's Inquirer, Jean Alexander, president of TWU Local 234, was suspended from her position, pending a union hearing. There are rumblings within the union that the suspension was political at best.

    "I was elected with a split board. They have been against me from day one," Alexander said (on Monday). "I don't know why they're doing it, other than they just don't want me because I am a woman."

    A union attorney told the Inquirer that Alexander may have been suspended for requesting time to review an order from the union's Executive Board regarding an insurance provider. Attorney Joshua Rubinsky told the Inquirer:

    "It's highly unlikely that you can remove a chief executive officer for wanting to look at something before she signs it."

    Rubinsky also noted that it was very likely that the suspension would be overturned at a hearing to be scheduled within 20 days. This certainly seems like a strange time for TWU 234 to be in the middle of an internal war, with the current collective bargaining agreement for City Transit Division employees set to expire 9 months from now.

  • ...AND SOME WISHFUL THINKING Meanwhile, some rumblings have also come from 1234 Market regarding the status of Fearless Leader herself. Based upon some rumors that had been floating around 1234 Market, Fearless Leader wrote a "candid" memo to employees that was recently posted at elevators within 1234 Market:

    "The SEPTA challenge... is not the toughest thing I've had to face ... I appreciate all of those concerned about my stamina and sympathize with those who want these rumors to be true, BUT I'M NOT GOING ANYWHERE!!!"

    SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney provided yet another classic for the "Stupidest Things Ever Said by a Liar" file by saying this after the rumors began to fly around 1234 Market:

    "When a major rumor comes up, she's going to address it head on."

    Ah, yes, leave it to Richard Maloney to make statements so ridiculous, that it makes "Baghdad Bob" as credible as Bill O'Reilly. Well, if Fearless Leader is willing to address major rumors "head on" as Maloney mis-stated, why is it that she has practically disappeared during this recent budget crisis? It wouldn't happen to be because of the horrendous performance of the Regional Rail Division, would it? Or the fact that her credibility is virtually non-existant after misleading the public regarding SEPTA's financial status, not to mention the contoversy involving the Market Street Elevated reconstruction project? Or could it be that as some of the mismanagment occured while Jack Leary was finishing up his stint as GM, Fearless Leader was SEPTA's Treasurer?

    Well, it's too bad that the rumors about Fearless Leader's departure were unfounded, because hiring her was one of the biggest mistakes that SEPTA has ever made.

  • NOT GUARANTEED One area that may be cut is the often controversial Service Guarantee on Regional Rail. According to Sunday's Inquirer, SEPTA plans to dump the Service Guarantee due to an increase in claims, mainly as a result of SEPTA's horrendous on-time performance since the start of the current fiscal year. When the program was initiated in the early 1990s, Regional Rail's on-time performance was around 93 percent. In FY 1999, the performance level dipped slightly to 91 percent. Now, as of the end of April, on-time performance is an appalling 84 percent. Instead of admitting that the conversion to the new Control Center at 1234 Market has been a contributing factor in the constant delays on the railroad, SEPTA's Minster of Mis-Information Richard Maloney passed the buck and found a convenient scapegoat:

    [Maloney] puts most of the blame for the system's delays on Mother Nature.

    Old power lines were snapped by the cold and stretched by last summer's heat, he said. In the fall, "our slippery rail season was the worst in our recorded history."

    Oh. Well, Maloney apparently forgot to mention the major meltdowns that have occured on the Regional Rail system in the past 10 months alone, and not all of the blame can be placed on Mother Nature.

    SEPTA's problems cannot be pinned entirely on weather, said Tom Dorricott, a spokesman for the Philadelphia area chapter of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

    Since a new regional rail dispatching system debuted in September, he said, engineers have grappled with slow signal changes and confused traffic control.

    In any case, Maloney's predecessor as the Mis-Information Minister at SEPTA, Stephan Rosenfeld - who was a marketing manager when the program was instituted - offered this ominous warning about ending the Service Guarantee program:

    "(SEPTA) put it into effect because we needed to restore passenger confidence in the railroad, [and] we had to do something dramatic to show we were serious ... If you kill the program, you chill the relationship with your passenger [who is] struggling to decide between driving and continuing to [take the] train. It might be the added push."

    No kidding. Here's a concept for SEPTA - try improving your on-time performance on the railroad, and maybe, just maybe, you'll get some of those costs down.

  • CONTRACT SETTLEMENT? SEPTA appears to have reached an agreement with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 109 - the union which represents SEPTA Transit Police officers. Although the actual resolution was not included in the agenda package for next Thursday's board meeting, the fact that it's on the agenda indicates that an agreement has been reached. Last month, SEPTA Transit Police officers had authorized a strike if a contract hadn't been reached.
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