Wednesday, August 27, 2003

WATER-GATE A revenue collection officer working on the Broad St Subway noticed a suspicious item at the Hunting Park Subway station Monday night. According to the Daily News, 31 bottles filled with a "suspicious" substance were spotted at emergency exits along both the Broad St Line and Ridge Av Spur. Tests by the Philadelphia Fire Department's Haz-Mat unit determined that the substance in question was ... water.

Yesterday, Philadelphia Police and SEPTA officials held a joint press conference at the Roundhouse (Philadelphia Police Headquarters) to reassure Broad Street Line riders that all is well.

"We expect this to be an absolutely non-story. Non-issue. We're making sure that it's safe for our customers, and there's no reason to believe at this moment that it's anything but safe." - SEPTA Minister of Misinformation Richard Maloney

"There was nothing found that was of any hazard to anyone or anything. It's not anything that we would deem as being a serious threat to anybody. People don't have to be concerned with getting on the subway and going to work in the morning." - Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joseph O'Connor

Well, gentlemen, terrorism is probably the furthest thing from the minds of most Broad St line riders; the top concern for most would be getting to work without fear of being shot, as was the case on August 6 at Girard station.

According to reports, most of the bottles were placed at emergency exits leading from the tunnel to Broad St along the line between Olney and Pattison, and along the Ridge Spur. Police have ruled out terrorism, and believe that it may have been either a prank or some homeless people responsible for the scare. If this was a prank, it was a pretty stupid prank at that. If it was homeless related, then haven't these people heard of shelters? The last time I checked, the Broad Street Subway is not a homeless shelter, but that's another rant for another time.

(Of course, it could've been worse. The water could've been confiscated by Iggles officials at the Linc's first NFL game last Friday night - in which the Iggles showed less enthusiasm than the Phils did over the past two days...)

Philadelphia Inquirer

POLICING ITSELF? Six years ago, SEPTA commissioned a management audit by the Phoenix Group of Chadds Ford (who reportedly got the contract thanks to some strong support by former Delaware County Councilman and SEPTA Board member Wally Nunn). Now, SEPTA is required by law to conduct a management audit every five years. To that end, SEPTA recently issued an RFP seeking a company to perform a management audit of ... SEPTA. What may have seemed like a great idea in 1996-97, thanks in part to some actual forward thinking by Nunn (political connections notwithstanding), now seems like a bad idea, given the current micromanagement of SEPTA by Don Pasquale and the rudderless leadership of Fearless Leader and the rotating resumes at 1234 Market.

Somehow, given the fact that SEPTA management (and to a greater extend, the SEPTA Board under Don Pasquale) in recent years couldn't figure out how to be accountable to the public, for PennDOT to allow SEPTA to conduct a management audit of itself is akin to the Philadelphia Police allowing drug dealers to police their own neighborhoods. If SEPTA is required to have it's management structure audited, fine. The audit, however, should originate at either PennDOT or through the Auditor General's office in Harrisburg, not from 1234 Market. What's to stop the consultants from rigging the audit to come out favorably of SEPTA instead of uncovering the truth about the mismanagement that seems to occur on a regular basis, or to take shots at a union that - in the eyes of some outside observers - is not exactly unified (see the ongoing controversies involving TWU Local 234 President Jean Alexander and some of her more vocal critics within the union).

The report from the former Amtrak executive commissioned by Governor Rendell will probably have more of an impact on what changes need to be made within SEPTA more than a hand-picked consultant prone to rigging results to curry favor with the SEPTA Board. Then again, given the unwillingness by SEPTA to even consider even some of the most fundamental changes (such as an AGM solely for the Railroad instead of an AGM level manager overseeing both transit and Regional Rail operations), don't hold your breath, unless Fearless Leader actually decides to quit before 2004 (Faye Moore's contract, though publicized as a 5 year deal, is actually a 3 year deal with two 1-year options).

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