Monday, July 28, 2003

SWING UNDERWAY Considering the confusion that was bound to happen, the Frankford SWING operation and bus-bridges have been going fairly well so far, considering the complexity of it all. This was in spite of some SWING Shuttle operators taking a circuitous routing from Arrott Terminal to Bridge-Pratt on Sunday, with some drivers departing from the bus lanes, then running via Margaret St and Penn St before turning RIGHT on Oxford Av, left on Frankford, left on Harrison, and right on Griscom before heading north on Oxford towards Bridge St. Today, however, the circuitous routing was dropped.

El trains are operating as far as Margaret-Orthodox, with single track operations on the westbound platforms between Margaret-Orthodox and just north of Erie-Torresdale. On Sunday, the train operators had to leave the cab and visually inspect the platform area before closing the doors (the CCTV system is not operational at Church due to the ongoing renovations). Today, a porter was stationed at Church, allowing the operators to stay within the cab of the train.

Over the weekend, SEPTA staffers had maps of the re-routed bus routes available at Erie-Torresdale; today, none were to be found.

Overall, though, considering SEPTA's track record regarding service disruptions, things haven't really been that bad.

EDITOR'S NOTE I will catch up on some of the older news items that have been out there over the past week. I've been very busy with other things lately, so I haven't had the chance to update the blogger lately. I hope to have more items posted tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

RAIL PROBLEMS STRIKE AGAIN... Stop me if you've heard this one before. On two consecutive days, SEPTA's Regional Rail system was stymied due to power problems. At around 6:00pm Monday, Amtrak lost power along most of the Northeast and Keystone corridors through the Philadelphia area. Most service was delayed nearly 45 minutes, however riders on the R5 Paoli/Thorndale, R6 Cynwyd, and R7 Trenton line saw service suspended for nearly 90 minutes. The Inquirer reported that passengers stranded aboard one R5 train got off the train at Overbrook and walked over the 63 St/City Av, most likely to catch the 65. Passegners on a Paoli bound R5 saw their train halted as it approached Wayne, then forced to back up to St David's, where passengers were forced to get off. Without being shocked, SEPTA didn't provide any alternate transit options (read: shuttle buses) despite the incident occuring during the end of the rush hour. SEPTA announced in a seat flyer that the "Service Guarantee" would not be honored because it was Amtrak's fault, not SEPTA's.

Meanwhile, late night service was disrupted on Tuesday, after reports of wire problems near Jenkintown. Trains heading on the PRR side were departing nearly 30 minutes late. The last R5 to Thorndale (#591) left nearly 30 minutes late, but not until a replacement train was sent from Frazer into Center City. Did it ever occur to SEPTA to pull a two-car trainset from Powelton Yard as opposed to having to call out to Frazer - which is between Malvern and Exton towards the outer end of the Thorndale branch - so riders on the #591 wouldn't have to wait as long? If you had to replace missing train sets, then have a yard crew recover the used set after the train returns to Frazer and send it back to Powelton.

But wait, this is SEPTA we're dealing with. You know, the owners of the laughing stock of commuter railroads...

SEPTA REALLY DOES STINK! So says Daily News "Stink-meister" Dan Geringer. Over the past three weeks, Geringer has been pointing out several SEPTA locations which have become virtual open air toilets.

On July 7, Geringer paid a visit to the virtual homeless city that exists in the plaza area near Burger King at Suburban Station (16 St at JFK Plaza):

What used to be an oasis of planters and picnic tables for SEPTA commuters is now a thoroughly-trashed hobo camp where the homeless eat, sleep, urinate and defecate amid their bedrolls and their junk.

Inside the Suburban Station concourse, commuters can watch this pigsty patio through dirt-streaked picture windows.

But wait, there's more...

While much of the surface-streets malodor emanates from Philadelphia's growing homeless population, one of Stinkmeister's faithful colleagues has twice spotted well-dressed men peeing in the Suburban Station concourse, blissfully ignoring its 24-hour restroom.

Leslie Hickman, chief officer of SEPTA's High Speed Operations, said the homeless are ousted nightly when stations are shut down for cleaning, so the subterranean system's most prolific pee-and-poop perps are regular rail riders, not drip-dry drifters.

Oh, so it's the fault of commuters and not the slime who desire to call the plazas and concourses home, right? Talk about passing the buck...

Meanwhile, it wasn't just the Suburban Station concourses that are under attack by such stenches:

On a good day, the SEPTA stairwell on the 15th Street side of the Municipal Services Building reeks of urine. But this was a bad day. Descending the stairs toward Suburban Station, the Stinkmeister almost stepped in a cowpie-sized deposit of human excrement. Luckily, the sight of flies landing on it alerted the Stinkmeister in the nick time.


Directly across 15th Street from the Stairwell of Stench lies the Exit of Excrement, an ancient SEPTA stairway that opens on the west side of LOVE Park. Recently, a stinking pile of feces, covered with a hyperactive posse of flies, lay on the urine-stained landing. It did not look fresh.


The stink-weary Stinkmeister was almost pooped in more ways than one while ascending the City Hall SEPTA stairwell at Broad and Juniper streets, and encountering: Manpie!

A takeout menu from a well-known pizzeria had obviously been used as toilet paper. Flies buzzed. The stench was overwhelming. Emerging at the top of the pee-pool-pocked stairwell and taking huge gulps of fresh air almost gave the Stinkmeister the bends.

A couple of days later, SEPTA had poured so much disinfectant on the stairwell that the Stinkmeister had tears in his eyes. A few days after that, the forces of feces had returned.

July 8: Geringer filed a report from City Hall station on the Broad St line, finding similar results.

Posted on Tue, Jul. 08, 2003

After the Daily News Stinkmeister, voice of the pee-and-poop plagued public, reported the city's urine-and-feces infested hotspots yesterday, readers roared: SEPTA! SEPTA! SEPTA!

And the subterranean transportation giant replied: We know! We know! We know!

"Years and years of 'stuff' has accumulated at our City Hall stations," said Leslie Hickman, SEPTA chief officer for high-speed operations. "Urine is the larger problem, 24-7. Then there are 'intermittent deposits' of the other stuff. The hotter it gets, the more it smells - until the odor just about knocks you off your feet."

So what does SEPTA do about it?

"We mop. We deodorize," said Hickman. "But when people stand on the edges of the platform and urinate into the track area, the urine embeds itself into the track, a hole, a crack. You can't deodorize that."

Larry Smith, director of SEPTA stations, said his guys dumped 1,200 gallons of enzyme deodorizer on City Hall platforms and stairwells this spring.

"Plus, I put 400 stickup deodorizers under the platforms," he said. "We powerwash the floors with hot water at 3,600 PSI (pounds-per-square-inch pressure). But they still smell of urine and our customers still complain."

This is despite the fact that 163 employees over three shifts clean most - if not all - of the 61 subway-elevated and subway-surface stations throughout the system. At City Hall, in particular, law enforcement is non-existent, which is typical for high profile stations such as City Hall.

July 15:

Good news and bad news to report on the SEPTA stink front. First the good news, regarding the Suburban Station homeless camp:

Thanks to SEPTA's swift sanitizing safari, the former courtyard of crap is now a vagrants-and-their-fragrance-free zone.

Construction workers who are renovating Suburban Station walled off the patio, ensuring that it will remain clean until it's rehabbed as a new atrium for SEPTA commuters.

Now the bad news. Geringer stumbled upon a new stink zone, which fortunately for riders will no longer be in service after tomorrow:

"I say goodbye to my family and make my way up the stairs on the corner of Frankford and Pratt," writes Manny Santos. "I smell the foulness of the built-up urine layers that cover the floor and walls in the dark recesses of this trainstop. Imagine walking up two long flights of stairs and, as you reach the top to catch your breath, you inhale the foul microbes from the heavily urine-stained walls."

The Stinkmeister doesn't have to imagine, Manny. He walked those stinking stairs yesterday of the Frankford Transportation Center from the Entrance of Elimination to the Exit of Excretion. He feels your nose's pain.

July 16: The owner of a newsstand at the Margaret-Orthodox/Arrott Terminal complex complained to Geringer about people urinating into the soda machines.

... Raoji Prajapati ... said, "I have a newsstand at Frankford and Oxford, under the Margaret-Orthodox El station. They're urinating in my Coke machine and in my Pepsi machine. You reach in there for a soda, you don't know what you're touching."

Grabbing his gas mask, the voice of the pee-and-poop-plagued public sped to Prajapati's pee-stained newsstand.

The urine stench emanating from the two soda machines brought tears to S-Meister's eyes.

So did the thought of reaching into those machines - after Prajapati pointed out the urine stains near their delivery holes.

The space between the machines was soaked in fresh urine.

It gets better, folks. The area in front of Prajapati's newsstand is a much smaller scale of the Suburban Station homeless city.

"They sleep behind my newsstand every night," Prajapati said. "They pee. They poop. I work here from 6 in the morning to 7 at night. I clean with Pine Sol and with bleach. They keep coming back. This is their bedroom and their bathroom. Mostly, their bathroom."

Neither SEPTA Transit Poice nor the Philadelphia Police seem willing nor able to assist Mr. Prajapati in maintaining a clean and presumably successful business.

Prajapati is not sure whether the property his newsstand sits on is SEPTA's or the city's. He only knows that neither SEPTA nor city cops have rid him of the oozing boozehounds.

"When I call, sometimes the police come, sometimes they don't," he said. "When they do come, they say, 'If we don't see them drinking, we can't do anything.' The drunks hide their bottles when they see cops."

The Philadelphia Police seem to have a valid excuse. Apparently, since that stretch of Frankford Av isn't part of Emperor Street's "Operation Save Street - um, I mean Safe Streets" initiative, you'd have an easier time scoring seats behind home plate at "Not Your Typical Ballpark" next season than you have of finding a Philadelphia cop anywhere near Frankford and Oxford. The SEPTA Transit Police zone office is a few blocks away, near the Church St El station (until the new terminal at Bridge-Pratt opens next month), but except for traffic control near the construction site where Bridge St, Frankford Av, and Bustleton Av converge, SEPTA Police coverage in the Northeast is sporadic at best.

July 21: Back to Center City. Geringer reports on the plight of El passengers at the Spring Garden El station.

Pee stench overpowers the public entering SEPTA's Market-Frankford El stop on Spring Garden Street near 2nd, or waiting for SEPTA buses underneath it. A long-shuttered newsstand, piled with festering garbage, has become a reeking open-air urinal in the middle of a heavily-traveled public sidewalk. Yoo hoo, SEPTA? You got some explainin' to do!

"The summer stench at that SEPTA bus stop can make your nose run and your eyes water," wrote reader David Cornish. "I blame the lack of public restrooms for the urine stain on Philly's name. SEPTA transports hundreds of thousands each day, but you can count the restrooms open to its riding passengers on just one hand!"

Despite calls for more public toilets from the riding public, SEPTA seems to think the complainers are full of (ahem) s---. With that, we present the latest idiotic grumblings from SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information, Richard Maloney:

"You and I and the 400,000 people who work in Center City each day know where to go when Nature calls. ... In any area of Center City, you kind of learn intuitively where there are available places to do that - Suburban Station, Market Street East (sic), Reading Terminal, a store, a restaurant."

Has Maloney ever used the bathrooms at Market East? Everyday Center City workers may know where to go, but tourists and most other infrequent Center City visitors aren't going to know off the top of their heads where to go if they have to go.

"So you're looking at a social/psychological question rather than a functional problem. ... I ride the train every day. When I leave work to go home, I go to the bathroom before I go to the station. I believe that 99.9 percent of people who live in this urban area and ride public transportation know how to make those kind of plans."

Gee, thanks for talking down to us, oh great Minister of Mis-Information. Perhaps if stations were open at more convenient hours during from the AM peak through the PM peak, people wouldn't have such problems, now would they?

"Would more public facilities eliminate that problem? My guess is: not much, if at all. And it's a nonstop problem for us to keep the facilities that we do have clean and safe. They become gathering places for people that other people don't want to associate with."

Apparently, our Minister of Mis-Information has never had the honor of using the restrooms at 69 St Terminal; at least the ones near the West Terminal. It also doesn't help that the restrooms close at 8:00pm, which really does nobody any good if they get to 69 St at, say, 8:15pm, and have to wait over an hour for the next 104 or 109 bus to head home.

"I am hearing no clarion call for more public restrooms."

Guess what, Minister. Now you are.

This, by the way, is apparently the after-effects of SEPTA sponsoring those stupid animated "Race to the Vet" features at Phillies games this season. Well, I hope it's worth it for SEPTA to blow tons of money on animated bus and/or subway races at Phillies games while commuters start considering whether or not to bring gas masks along for their commutes.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

MISSING: PARENTING SKILLS? A 9 year old Philadelphia boy managed to find his way to Upper Darby over the weekend, causing a massive search throughout the city. At around 8:20pm Saturday, Asher Twine slipped away from relatives in Germantown and boarded an R-8 Chestnut Hill West train (believed to be the #1860 CHW to Fox Chase) en route to 30 St Station. A SEPTA employee reported seeing the child in the station later that evening, however police were not able to find him there. The child was later spotted at the UA movie theater complex on S 69 St in Upper Darby, having apparently taken the El to 69 St Terminal. A movie patron reported the child to authorities, who later placed him in a foster home in Chester.

This is not the first time that young Asher Twine slipped away on an adventure. His mother told 6 ABC:

"The Fourth of July he slipped away in a crowd that was headed downtown for the fireworks and he got caught at 30th Street Station."

6 ABC also reports that Asher Twine suffers from autism, but it didn't specifiy the severity.

Okay, three questions: (1) Wouldn't some red flags have been raised among the train crew on the #1860 after seeing a 9 year old riding alone on a Saturday night? (2) Wouldn't somebody at either 30 St or even 69 St Terminal have had the same thoughts, assuming the fare was not paid? (3) Why the hell were the parents paying better attention as to where their son was (see the P&W tragedy last month, when the mother was reportedly surfing the internet while her 4 year old son was struck by an inbound P&W train)?

(On a side note, when I was much younger - about 13-14 - and living in New England, I'd occasionally ride the T into Boston and spend a little time riding the subway system when I spent time with my aunt in Lincoln - whose condo was near the Lincoln Rail Station on the Fitchburg line. Of course, I was a little bit older than Asher Twine, and didn't spend too much time that my mother or aunt would've called the state police. At the same time, I was once able to bike about 12-15 miles between Nashua and Manchester; now I can barely ride 1-2 miles without feeling pain in my legs. All of this was about 15 years ago, in case anyone was asking...)

It's fortunate that Asher Twine is still alive. Could you imagine the PR nightmare SEPTA would've faced if this child ended up falling into the El tracks or was struck by an R8 train (to say nothing of the harsh criticism of the parenting skills by Mr. and Mrs. Twine)? Considering that we're talking about an autistic 9 year old, I'd suspect that would require far more supervision than was apparently provided this past weekend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

MORE GREAT ADVENTURES It appears that NJ Transit is slowly expanding the number of bus routes serving the Six Flags/Great Adventure theme park in Jackson Twp, Ocean County. As early as three years ago, there were only two lines available - the 308 from New York and Newark and the 318 from Philadelphia and Camden. Two years ago, the 307 from Freehold and the 309 from Toms River were added. Earlier this year, NJT introduced the 310 from Trenton Rail Station. Now, a fourth new line to Great Aventure has been added - the 311 from Point Pleasant Beach, Sea Girt, and Belmar. Connections from Philadelphia, Camden, and Mt Holly are available at Point Pleasant Beach via the 317 line.

Monday, July 14, 2003

52 CHANGES NOT SITTING WELL WITH SOME The St. Joseph's University dorm construction project at 54 St/City Av brings along some good news/bad news for riders on the 52 and residents in the Wynnefield area.

The good news (at least for riders) is that the during daytime hours, the 52 will be re-routed to serve Overbrook Rail Station, allowing a connection for West Philadelphia residents to the R5 Paoli-Thorndale line; the daytime routing will be via 54 St, City Av, Cardinal Av, Overbrook Av, 59 St, Drexel Rd, and City Av to 54 St south of City Av, using most of the same streets as the G bus. The evening routing will not serve Overbrook Rail Station, but will simply loop through a parking lot across from the construction site on 54 St.

Now, the bad news... the Inquirer reported on Friday at some residents in Wynnefield are less than thrilled about the prospect of more buses through the neighborhood.

But one problem with (St. Joseph's) new plan is SEPTA buses. (Wynnefield Residents Association Director Robin) Trent said that in the past, buses on the 52 route used the property where the dorms will be built to turn around. Now the buses are using Overbrook Avenue, and that bothers residents, Trent said.

The new routing took effect on Sunday. In fliers passed out by SEPTA, it's noted that the routing is being instituted on an experimental basis. I'm sure the WRA will be very thrilled with that.

Whether or not SEPTA or St. Joe's dropped the ball on this one is up for debate. The re-routing was forced since the former turn-around point for the 52 is now part of the new dorm's construction site.

RAIL POWER PROJECT REDUX? It appears that SEPTA will be operating subway-surface trolleys over the top (that's via the diversion routing in local parlance) for three weeks starting the weekend of August 8th. The diversion is required to repair the eastbound rail between 22 St and 15 St. Let's see how SEPTA handles the public relations on this project...

SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME... Sunday's Inquirer had an interesting story about why SEPTA isn't getting what it claims to be a sufficient amount of funding from Harrisburg. The legislature created a Public Utility Realty Tax fund (PURTA) that earmarked a portion of its funding to transit agencies across Pennsylvania. In 1997, SEPTA recieved $37.4 million out of this fund. 1997 was the year that Harrisburg de-regulated the industry, which led to power-plant taxes no longer being paid into the PURTA. Since 1997, SEPTA's share of state funding from PURTA collections decreased to nearly $18.6 million - a nearly 50 percent drop-off from 1997. As a result, SEPTA is joining the City and School District of Philadelphia in legal action regarding the Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant in Salem Twp, Luzerne County. The Inquirer article notes that the PPL-owned plant was once a source of nearly $30 million in PURTA revenues. For once, this mess can't be blamed on SEPTA, but rather TPTB in Harrisburg, who didn't really think about the repercussions of de-regulating the electric industry.

95/IKEA UPDATE The latest on the proposed (but stalled) re-routing of the 95 into the Market Place at Plymouth Center complex is being delayed due to problems at IKEA's end. Apparently, IKEA's management had signed off on the idea, but the owners of MPPC have yet to give formal permission for the 95 to enter the property. One would think that SEPTA would've held off on an announcement in the Metro paper and other outlets until after all the I's were dotted and T's were crossed, but it's hard to pin all the blame on SEPTA.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

ROADEO RECAP SEPTA held it's annual Bus Roadeo at the Philadelphia Park racetrack in Bensalem Twp, Bucks County yesterday. After using the NABIs as Roadeo buses for the past three years, SEPTA began using the New Flyers for the first time at course buses. Red Arrow 5404 (which now has the two arrows on the rear engine cover, replacing the yellow "CAUTION: FREQUENT STOPS AND WIDE TURNS" sticker), Callowhill 5421, Frankford 5524, 5531, Comly 5583, Southern 5630, and Midvale 5710 and 5711 were this year's course buses; Frankford 5513 was used as the "photo op" bus, while 2025 - which will probably be off the roster by the end of the year, and not a minute too soon - was used as the "judge's" bus.

In addition to the standard historic fleet buses, SEPTA's display buses included Frontier 2053 (Ford), Red Arrow 4536 (ElDorado), Southern 3332 (Neoplan 40-ft), Callowhill 5271 (NABI), Allegheny 7131 (Neo artic - your editor managed to get a "104 WEST CHESTER" sign on the display for a photo, like you'd ever see an artic along West Chester Pike), and Midvale 5712 (New Flyer - same thing, only the sign read "92 EXTON SQUARE MALL"; at last year's event, I was able to get a picture of a New Flyer with a "133 EXTON SQUARE MALL" sign, but have since lost the disposable camara during a recent move - d'oh!).

Visiting companies included David Thomas tours with a brand new D4000 (complete with NJT type turn signals), Krapf's with one of its two brand new MCI J4500s (great, they can afford brand new J-series coaches, but don't even bother asking them about getting better transit buses on the Coatesville-West Chester run), Martz Trailways (bringing an older MCI 102A3 coach with an 8V92 engine), DART First State (NABI Low Floor #560), the Maryland Transit Administration (Neoplan low floor #0284B - B designates which garage the bus is from; in this case, Bush Division), Greyhound (G4500 #7202), and NJ Transit (MCI D4500 #8250 from Howell). The School District of Philadelphia also brought five of their school buses to the event.

Usually, the highlight of the Roadeo is the celebrity competition, in which personalities from the print and electonic media outlets drive a bus through a modified version of the Roadeo course. However, this year's celebrity event featured one of the weakest fields in recent memory. Mainstays such as Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky and 6 ABC's Sally Ann Mosey were scheduled to attend, as was 6 ABC's Cecily Tynan, but were no shows. Last year's celebrity roadeo champion Tug McGraw did not compete this year as he's recovering from a brain tumor.

Competing in the celebrity roadeo this year were Fearless Leader (5630), NBC 10's Via Sikahema (5531), CBS 3's traffic reporter Bob Kelly (5421), TWU 234 President Jean Alexander (5404 - yes, I've already noted the irony in the president of the union that represents city and Frontier operators was driving a Red Arrow bus), Tony McPete from the Philadelphia Kixx indoor soccer team (5524), KYW NewsRadio's Amy Caplan (5583), Kixx mascot "Socceroo" (5711), and SEPTA's training officer Tracy Innaurato (5710).

Innaurato won this year's celebrity event despite doing fairly poorly in the "diminished clearance" portion of the course (replace "clearance" with "judgement" and that tends to sum up SEPTA management at times); Alexander placed second, and McPete finished third.

In the real Roadeo:
  • The Berridge/Wyoming team of Tim Mason, Lee Zdunkiewicz, and Al Swander won the maintenance competition, defeating teams from Allegheny, Callowhill, Comly, Frontier, and Midvale.
  • John Rinylo from Southern repeated as Roadeo champion for the "who knows how many-th" time (I think it's 4th, but don't hold me to it); Mike Shepard from Elmwood finished second overall - amazing since (1) no buses are stored at Elmwood and (2) the only buses used on scheduled bus bridges are the 40-ft Neos; Allegheny's Carl Porter finished third overall - a remarkable feat since the only buses at Allegheny are the Neo artics.
  • This year's Depot winners:
    • ALLEGHENY: Porter
    • CALLOWHILL: Victor Tarver
    • COMLY: Hal McCleary
    • ELMWOOD: Leon Spencer
    • FRANKFORD: Brian Murphy
    • FRONTIER: Joe Schrier
    • MIDVALE: Marcus James
    • SOUTHERN (non-Rinylo division): Michael Thompkins

  • MORE RED ARROW PROBLEMS More problems seem to be popping up within Red Arrow's management. On Saturday, a New Flyer working the 5:05pm 104 to West Chester broke down on West Chester Pike just past PA 926 in Willistown. Passengers on that bus were stranded for nearly an hour before the 6:05pm 104 arrived to finish the trip. Two major issues seemed to arise from the incident: (1) A passenger reported that the operator had called into the control center to report that the bus was overheating, yet was instructed to "keep running the bus until it broke down." (2) Despite the fact that service to West Chester on Saturdays runs hourly after 5:00pm, no replacement bus was brought out in order to allow the 6:10pm from West Chester to 69 St Terminal to be covered. Remember that this is not during the height of Friday rush hour, but on a Saturday, when vehicle requirements are significantly smaller.

    Thursday, July 10, 2003

    JUMPER HALTS EL SERVICE Reports of a jumper near 40 St Station caused major delays on the El last night. At around 5:20pm last night, an unidentified person reportedly jumped in front of a westbound El trains. Reports of 20-25 minute delays throughout the subway portion of the El was reported. Most passengers were forced to detrain at 15 St/City Hall or at 30 St. Service was restored about an hour later, however there were no reports of shuttle buses being deployed to lessen the loads once train service was restored.
    DELAYS IN WEST CHESTER The 92, 104, and 119 are being detoured off of Gay St between High and New Sts in West Chester due to West Chester Borough's monthly "Swinging Summer Thursday" event. As usual, there was no notice given to operators or the public. Why the powers that be in West Chester think this is a great idea to draw people into town is beyond me. It's one thing to hold a street festival on a Sunday, but you can't block off a major street during the height of rush hour once a month and not expect to get criticized for it.

    TROLLEY MESSES NEXT WEEKEND In addition to the scheduled grade renewal at Lansdowne and Garrett on the Red Arrow trolley main line, the subway surface lines will also be diverted to the 40/Market El Station next weekend, with a "scheduled construction project" as the reason.

    FRANKFORD SWING STARTS SUNDAY The first phase of the "Frankford Swing" - which will eventually move all bus routes presently terminating around the Frankford Terminal area - begins on Sunday, when the 3, 5, 8, 24, R, and Market-Frankford OWL buses are moved from various locations at or near Pratt St to "new" Bridge St: The 3, 5, and Market-Frankford OWL buses board on the south side of Bridge adjacent to Frankford Depot; the 8, 24, and R board on the north side of Bridge adjacent to the El yard. The new locations will be in effect until at least August 4, when the new terminal building will begin seeing El trains. Phase 2, which starts July 25, will see El service cut-back to Margaret-Orthodox and most Frankford Terminal bus routes operating to Erie-Torresdale. Expect a lot of confusion during this time period.

    Wednesday, July 09, 2003

    NOW, HERE'S A CONCEPT... More living proof why Philadelphia is a national joke compared to other large cities. According to the Chicago Tribune (viewing link requires free registration to the Tribune web site), the Chicago Transit Authority - which is similar to SEPTA in that it features an aging subway/elevated rail system and a substantial bus network - is cracking down on quality of life crimes within the system. A 51-year-old Chicago man with nearly 50 violations of CTA policy has been banned from the system for 18 months, and faces a 12 month jail term if he violates the ban.

    Robert Ross pleaded guilty last month to two counts of criminal trespassing for asking riders for cab fare and selling individual cigarettes on CTA property...

    Under the new program, which began in October, people convicted more than once of soliciting, begging or other unlawful conduct on CTA property will be barred, agency spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said.

    The offenses are "annoying and worrisome for our customers, and we want it to be a pleasant ride for them," Ziegler said.

    Although many of us who ride SEPTA wish that something similar was placed into effect in order to improve the quality of life on SEPTA - especially when passing through major terminals and rail stations - don't count on it. Between SEPTA's seeming inability to remove many of these vagrants from the property and the spineless judges - save for Seamus McCaffery - elected by the people of Philadelphia (or, more accurately, hand picked by the various ward leaders and other political scum), it would be too much to ask for SEPTA or even the City of Philadelphia to even attempt to be aggressive.

    It certainly doesn't help that Emperor Street appointed one of the weakest Police Commissioners in recent memory - and father of a SEPTA Police Lieutenant presently invovled in a racial discrimination lawsuit - who seems to take a very favorable view on idiot protestors who illegally obstruct Center City streets.

    Heck, the Upper Darby Township police seem to have an "I don't give a damn" attitude towards this issue when it comes to 69 St Terminal, especially after midnight, when several of Philadelphia's finest collection of vagrants plop themselves along benches outside South Terminal, seemingly with nowhere to go.

    Okay, I'm done venting ... for now...

    Monday, July 07, 2003

    MIXED BAG ON SCHEDULES The 95 is not operating to the IKEA in the Market Place at Plymouth Center complex in Plymouth Twp, as was supposed to have happened today. The 95 was to have operated via Ridge Pk and Alan Wood Rd to Market Place, then via Alan Wood, Seven Stars Rd, and Gallager Rd to Metroplex, and on route to Plymouth Meeting Mall and Penn Square. Whether this decision came from SEPTA, Plymouth Township officials, or the shopping center's management is unclear at this time. My gut feeling is that someone at SEPTA once again dropped the ball; in fact, there was nothing noted about this last minute change in today's SEPTA Page in the Philadelphia Metro paper, nor is there anything posted about it on the SEPTA web site. Meanwhile, new Sunday service was supposed to start operating between Conshohocken and Plymouth Meeting Mall is still tentatively slated to start, but that hasn't been finalized. Peak hour 95 service between Gulph Mills and the Conshohocken Rail Station has finally been reduced to 15 minutes in order to match P&W schedules (even though P&W service was reduced from 12 to 15 minutes nearly a year ago).

    On a related note, southbound 92 trips to Parkway Shopping Center is only operating via Gay, New, and Market Sts by request only. Northbound trips will still loop to New & Market Sts. It appears that SEPTA has streamlined the number of buses used on the 92/133 as the 6016 block covered the 1:25pm departure from West Chester, which was formally covered by 6019 block; 6019 block now appears to start its run as the 3:00pm 133 to King of Prussia as opposed to the first trip on 6019 block departing King of Prussia at 12:00pm. This is apparently resulting in only 6 vehicles being used over the course of the day as opposed to 8 during the last sign-ups.

    At Red Arrow, the only major changes are the seasonal suspension of school trippers on the 108 and 115 and the limited weekday only schedule on the 120 to Cheyney.

    MONEY NOT WELL $PENT If you were wondering how SEPTA managed to get into a nearly $41 million hole to start the fiscal year off, a perfect example can be found at the corner of Broad and Pattison, and on telecasts of Phillies home games. Between the really stupid "Race to the Vet" animations during pitching changes (one features a red Neoplan "racing" a blue Neoplan down Broad St; the second one features a red Broad St subway car "racing" a blue BSS car underneath Broad St) and the so-called "Commuter Choice" graphics that appear sporadically during Phillies home telecasts on Comcast SportsNet and UPN 57, that certainly cost SEPTA a lot of money. As in money that could've been used on Saturday to accomodate nearly 50,000 angry Phillies fans and thousands more spectators returning from the Penn's Landing fireworks. There was no additional El service heading westbound to 69 St Terminal, but about 20 minutes after the fireworks ended at the Vet, there was an extra eastbound train to Bridge-Pratt that had apparently been deadheaded to 15 St/City Hall.

    Then, after Sunday's game, there was a 3-4 minute gap at Pattison where there were no trains on the platform at all. Nice planning, SEPTA. Those stupid "Race to the Vet" fillers are worthless if you don't run a sufficient amount of service to avoid alienating your remaining riders.

    Then again, a lack of adequate subway-elevated service following special events either at the Sports Complex or in Center City has been a major problem for SEPTA over the past several years. Same thing with the subway-surface lines, especially after the "Hurry Up and Go Home, America!" fireworks on the Parkway, where long lines have stretched as far as half a block out of the 19 St and 22 St subway-surface stations onto Market St. But, SEPTA still manages to waste money on frivolous and pointless advertising. Amazing...

    NORRISTOWN DELAYS The 9:05pm departures at Norristown Transportation Center were delayed 7 minutes tonight. While no reason was given (this was heard over the radio system on board one of the buses), it appears that there was a delay on the R6 Norristown line earlier this evening. More info if and/or when it becomes available...

    Tuesday, July 01, 2003

    PHLASH RESTRUCTURED AGAIN After the City of Philadelphia recieved some private outside funding to continue the Phlash, the route and fare schedules have been restructured yet again. Nearly than a year and a half after the Phlash was extended to the Philadelphia Zoo, the service has been rebranded the "Summer Phlash", and will now remain in Center City. The route will be restructured as follows:

    Start at 6 St/Market St - Independence Visitor Center operating via 6 St, Arch St, the Parkway, Philadelphia Art Museum, the Parkway, 20 St, Arch St, 15 St, City Hall, Market St and 6 St before returning to the IVC. Buses will make the following stops: 6 St/Market St; 6 St/Arch St; 12 St/Arch St; Broad St/Arch St; 16 St/Arch St; Parkway between 18 & 19 Sts; 21 St/Parkway; 26 St/Parkway; 20 St/Winter St; 16 St/Arch St; Broad St between City Hall and Chestnut St; 12 St/Market St; 8 St/Market St; and 6 St/Market St

    The new fare for the service will be $1.00, and buses will operate daily between today and Labor Day from 10:00am to 8:00pm. Even though SEPTA is still operating the Summer Phlash for the city, SEPTA fare instruments will not be accepted.
    PARATRANSIT BUS IN FREAK ACCIDENT NBC 10 reports that a paratransit bus fell off I-76 last night near 26 St in University City. Fortunately, the driver was the only person on board the vehicle at the time and is recovering from relatively minor injuries at HUP. The driver of the van driving on 76 when she was cut off by another car. The van then lost control and fell nearly 40 feet onto a nearby street. A chain link fence along the expressway slowed the fall of the bus.
    SUBURBAN/RAILROAD SCHEDULE CHANGES Timetables in the Red Arrow, Frontier, and Railroad divisions will change this weekend. The new Frontier and Railroad timetables go into effect on Sunday, while Red Arrow schedules will change on Monday.

    On the Railroad side of things, R5 Paoli-Thorndale and R6 Norristown riders will be displeased to learn that the "temporary" schedule changes that were part of the Rail Power Project schedule fiasco are being made permanent. Meanwhile, the cry babies in the People's Republic of Lower Merion got their way after one too many temper tantrums as it pertains to the R6 Cynwyd line. The full schedule will be restored on Monday, however service will reportedly be cut back to Suburban Station instead of Market East, with single car trains to be utilized (pending Amtrak approval). Maybe I missed something, but wasn't the Paoli line supposed to be the most powerful and influential group of Regional Rail riders?

    And now, the official line from SEPTA is that the R5 and R6 trains that were cut for the RPP, courtesy of Friday's Inquirer:

    These trains, yanked so the Rail Power project could install new electric overhead wire last winter, do not fit well back in the schedule, Charles Webb, SEPTA's chief service planning officer, told the board.

    It sounds like the folks along the Main Line were out politiced by the cry babies in Bala Cynwyd and Gladwynne. Either that, or BLE spokesman Tom Dorricott has identified a more accurate reason:

    "This budget is a subterfuge for them not being able to run the system ... I think it stinks."

    And yet, some SEPTA Board members - most notably State Sen. Stuart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) are often the first to criticize those who criticize the why the Regional Rail system is being mis-managed.

    Adding insult to injury for Paoli and Norristown line riders, the remaining proposed cuts will not take effect until September, except for the closing of Lamokin St/Chester station on the R2 Marcus Hook line.

    Then again, the way some people in SEPTA are treating the Cynwyd Line, it makes you wonder if the riders on the other lines are getting screwed over, particularly the Paoli line riders (especially those who board between Thorndale and Malvern). Take this recent line from SEPTA's Minister of Mis-information Richard Maloney in the recent edition of the Main Line Times weekly:

    [M]aloney said the two lines will not only spared from elimination, but they also didn't expect to trim down the level of service in the area. He added that people are expressing relief over the decision.

    "The R-6, that's the one they're all cheering," Maloney said.

    Of course they're cheering the restoration of the Cynwyd line. I'm sure there are people at SEPTA cheering as well, since the full schedule restoration of the Cynwyd line seems to be coming at the expense of the Paoli and Norristown lines.

    Meanwhile, in the suburbs, there are few changes that will be in effect with the new pickings. The most notable changes are in Frontier territory, as the 92 will no longer serve New/Market Sts in West Chester in the southbound direction except upon request to the operator, and the 95 will now serve the new IKEA at the Plymouth Shopping Center across from Frontier Depot in Plymouth Twp.

    For some odd reason, Red Arrow timetables were issued with an effective date of June 16, even though the schedules take effect on July 7. The official notice indicates that this was due to a "scheduling conflict" (read: "We screwed up, again").

    ON THE MONEY ANALYSIS Daily News op-ed columnist Mark Allen Hughes offered an interesting, if not accurate, analysis of SEPTA's latest fiscal crisis in today's editions, splitting the blame between Harrisburg and SEPTA itself.

    ANOTHER POL SLAMS SEPTA According to the Delaware County Daily Times, State Rep. Mario Civera (R-Delaware) is not too thrilled with SEPTA and PennDOT. Yesterday, during a meeting which included Upper Darby Twp mayor Raymond Shay and officials from the township, PennDOT and SEPTA, Civera blasted the SEPTA for delaying a crossing renewal project on the Red Arrow trolley trunk line at Lansdowne Avenue, which was to have taken place on the weekend of June 20-22, but was pushed back to the weekend of July 18-21. The heavy rain on June 20 essentially delayed the project for about a month. The construction materials are now being stored at the parking lot of the Lansdowne Av trolley station.

    BASS RIVER UPDATE Burlington County freeholders are preparing a plan that would provide shuttle van service to residents of Bass River Township to replace NJ Transit's 559 bus, which has been detoured since the start of this year. According to the Burlington County Times, two county-owned 10 passenger vans would be deployed in order to get Bass River residents to the nearest NJT bus stop in Little Egg Harbor Twp, Ocean County. The county is seeking assistance from NJDOT for help in defraying the $112,400 price tag.