Thursday, September 11, 2003

SEPTA STUPIDITY STRIKES AGAIN... It's amazing how SEPTA's parochial attitudes manage to affect not only commuters travelling to Philadelphia, but now residents of southern Bucks County who travel to New York and North Jersey are feeling the impact as well. Last month, the Bucks County Courier Times reported that plans for a NJ Transit rail station in Falls Twp, which was proposed as part of NJT's new rail yard for Northeast Corridor Line trains, has stalled. Let the finger pointing begin...

Last week, NJ Transit spokesman Ken Hitchner said his agency is still receptive to picking up commuters in Bucks. As proof, he noted that in designing the maintenance yard - which is scheduled to be completed this fall - space was left to accommodate a passenger station. But ironically, now that the philosophical hurdles have been cleared, neglect, lack of money and engineering problems have conspired to kill the project.

For example, Falls township Manager Wayne Bergman said that while there was initially some interest over the station, that has since waned.

"Perhaps SEPTA can take the lead now," he said.

Mr. Bergman, welcome to the world of SEPTA, where stupidity in planning reigns supreme, even over providing quality transit service. Asking SEPTA to take the lead in another agency's project is like asking Larry Bowa to coach the Iggles (though he can't do any worse than Dumbo Reid did last Monday night).

SEPTA's director of capital and long-range planning, Chris Patton, did indeed meet with NJ Transit officials earlier this year. But during that meeting, they talked about space set aside for a SEPTA station in Falls, not the NJ Transit station.

That SEPTA station would be the last stop on the Cross Country Metro connecting Bucks and Chester counties. That line is many, many years in the future, Patton concedes.

"It's news to me that NJ Transit won't pay for the station," he said last week about a Falls NJ Transit station.

Yes, friends, this is the same Cross County Boondoggle that SEPTA is attempting to extort nearly $1 billion from Washington and Harrisburg (on top of the nearly $2 billion for Schuylkill Valley), complete with the ridiculous bells and whistles that will drive the project costs upward.

PennDOT is also putting pressure on SEPTA to take the lead in constructing the station. Yeah, right. We're talking about a transit agency that took four years to renovate the Overbrook Rail Station, not to mention a transit system that claims wheelchair access to new rail stations, but forgets to build the proper ramps to allow access while claiming the project is "complete" (see Chester, Radnor, and Strafford stations as prime examples) - and it appears that Overbrook will be in the same situation.

Yet, the problems may be more than just inter-state finger pointing. State Rep. Dave Steil (R-Bucks) claims that despite three possibile locations for the platform, all three are unworkable due to various engineering quirks. Uh huh. He also added this gem right out of the SEPTA Ministry of Misinformation's playbook:

"It just proved to be too costly ... It probably won't happen until SEPTA builds the Cross County Metro and that probably won't happen in my lifetime."

That would be the understatement of the century...

Meanwhile, the Courier Times penned an editorial on this issue the very next day. The editorial passed the blamed - among other people - the overrated Congressman from Bucks County Jim Greenwood (R-8th), who despite his relative high senority in Washington, has done very little in recent years, except get into a shouting match last year with a Pennsbury High student, and the Bucks County Commissioners, who won't sign off on the plan unless parking fees pay for the construction.

Conspicously missing from all of this? None other than your favorite SEPTA Board Chairman/Turnpike Commissioner/Radio Station Owner/Land Developer and alleged champion of public transit (at least in Bucks County) Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. Considering that Don Pasquale has done a lot for SEPTA riders in Bucks (at the expense of the other three suburban counties and the City of Philadelphia), he has been remarkably silent on this issue.

Perhaps he's too busy irritating homeowners in a section of Bristol Twp where the Turnpike Commission is planning to build a massive interchange between the Turnpike and I-95, at the expense of dozens of homes in that area.

Perhaps he's too busy turning SEPTA Board meetings into a less democratic forum that is more inflexible to public comment than your typical United Nations meetings (now, public comments are limited to 2 minutes, which is dangerously close to being a borderline violation of open meetings laws).

Or, perhaps, he just doesn't give a damn...

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