The money drain that is the 203 bus may be running its last miles this month. The early indications are that the 203 will either be scaled back or eliminated entirely due to poor ridership. Weekday ridership in the most recent quarter (April through June) has fallen to under 50 passenger trips per day. The 203, which connects the Woodbourne Rail Station on the R3 West Trenton line with Oxford Valley Mall and Bucks County Office Park in Middletown (Bucks), had been funded in part by a CMAQ grant, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
According to inside sources, a SEPTA Board member recently rode the 203, and was the only person on the bus for the entire round trip, save for the operator. It would not be a shock if elimination of the 203 - which may have been well intentioned, but a total failure - comes up as part of next month's SEPTA Board meeting, with the elimination or reduction in service to take place as early as October 27, when timetables change for Frontier routes.
MISSING BUS FOLLOW-UP
It turns out there are quite a few buses out of service due to accidents or missing parts. As noted earlier, several artics from Midvale are out of service due to parts shortages (7210, 7211, 7214, 7221, and 7251 were confirmed to be awaiting parts) or accidents (7212 and 7252). Two ElDorados from Frontier - 4519 and 4528 are out due to accidents, as is Red Arrow 5317. Callowhill's 5275 is out due to fire damage, as was Southern 5399.
Some New Flyers are also out of service for various reasons. Southern 5597 was returned to the New Flyer factory for various repairs, while 5637 is out due to a damaged engine block. And, in what can only be described as very strange, Midvale 5684 is reportedly being used as a "parts bus," complete with stripped windows. 5684 has only been on SEPTA property for a few months, and already, it's being stripped of most of its parts.
Hopefully that $15 million in flexible highway funding that will be transferred to SEPTA will go towards getting most of these buses back on the road.
EL LAWSUIT UNDERWAY
The Daily News reported in yesterday's editions that the lawsuit filed by a construction group which lost a bid to reconstruct the Market Street El despite a lower bid is underway. Testimony is being taken in federal court in which Conti Enterprises, which submitted a bid of $138 million, accuses SEPTA of favoritism by granting the contract to Market Street Constructors, a group which includes the Bucks County based Neshaminy Constructors, whose bid was $1 million higher than Conti's. Earlier reports state that Conti claimed that SEPTA may have interfered with MSC's bid following the bid opening process.