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.

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