Friday, October 31, 2003


You have one transit system which, in theory, should feature communication between dispatchers and operators that should be as seamless as possible. Never mind that there are essentially three bus systems and two railroad networks under your direction. Never mind that there is now a systemwide radio network that conveniently broadcasts announcements on detours in South Philadelphia on buses in Delaware County. Never mind that this same system can store route signs and stop announcements for any route in the system. Yesterday's operations in West Chester raise one very important question...

How can operators on the 92 be informed as to a specific detour routing while operators on the 104 be left in the dark?

The answer is very simple... Frontier's management is infinitely superior to Red Arrow's management.

92 operators not only were aided by a white-shirt who posted detour signs at two major stops - New St/Market St and High St/Gay St - they also had a message from the Control Center that instructed them to operate via High St, Chestnut St, Wayne St, and Price St towards West Chester University, and returning via High St, Price St, Wayne St, and Washington St. In addition, a protect bus (5151) was also dispatched after 6018 block (2031) was running nearly an hour late due to the heavy congestion through town.

The 104? Ha!

At around 8:15pm, 3291, covering 4299 block (the operator is almost always on schedule, so for him to be that late is unheard of) was seen turning onto New St off of Chestnut. Unfortunately for him, he had no detour instructions, and no warning from the Control Center about the parade. To make things worse, nobody from Red Arrow bothered to make the trip out to West Chester to post signs or monitor operations.

And you wonder why I'm constantly complaining about how bad things are at Red Arrow?


And to make things worse, today's 3:15pm departure from West Chester (3261/4232 block) left Chestnut St/University Av with a standing load. A few weeks ago, the 4:15pm 104 trip (4239 block) also left with a standing load. When I saw the first incident, I was thinking that a bus was missing (which, given Red Arrow's ongoing bus shortages over the past couple of years, is a possibility).

Today's observation, however, may very well be more than an isolated incident. Unless 4237 block (the 2:45pm West Chester to 69 St run that is essentially a pull-in off the 119) never showed up, there seems to be an issue with massive overcrowding on Friday afternoons, especially when classes are in session. Needless to say, there were probably quite a few people waiting along Market St in West Chester and along West Chester Pike between West Goshen and Edgmont who are probably still waiting for a bus as this item is being posted...

If SEPTA is able to add extra trips from Cheyney on the 120, then a protect bus on Fridays for the 104 shouldn't be much of a problem. Unless the management at Red Arrow continues to have its collective head in the sand, there's no reason why someone shouldn't be looking into this...

(FOLLOW-UP: The load on the 3:45pm 104 from West Chester (3265/4231 block) wasn't as heavy as the 4232 block, but there were still quite a few people waiting at the Papa John's across from campus. My guess is that there's a either there's 92 bus that's running very late (I thought the US 202 congestion was reduced now that construction at I-76 is complete) or they got to the stop earlier than they were supposed to. I hope it's the latter rather than the former, but we'll see...)


The purchase of new bike racks for the NABI, Neo artic, and New Flyer 5400-series is on hold pending a lawsuit between two bike rack manufacturers.

John Boyle of the Bicycle Coalition of the Delaware Valley reports that Sportworks, which built the bike racks sported on the ElDorados and 5500/5600 series New Flyers, is claiming that the low bidder on the contract built a prototype rack which Sportworks claims is a copywright infringement. Sportworks is the Seattle-area bike rack firm that claims nearly all (95 percent) of the market share in the transit industry. Similar litigation in Buffalo is still pending.

On the good news front, SEPTA is planning to add stationary bike racks at some R5 stations as part of the US 202 CMS strategies. These will probably involve stations at least between Thorndale and Malvern, though the final determination has not yet been made.

Meanwhile, a Frontier bus - either an ElDorado or a 5600 - will be covering the R5 bus-bridge tomorrow and on November 15. The bus will be bike rack equipped. Based on personal observations, I would anticipate a New Flyer would be used, since you do get a halfway decent load between Thorndale and Paoli on Saturdays.


And now, the latest elected official to suffer a major brain cramp regarding $chuylkill Valley. State Senator Connie Hess Williams (D-17th), whose district includes The People's Republic of Lower Merion (that should give you a hint right there), spoke out about the $2 billion (and climbing) boondoggle at a ribbon cutting for the new I-76/US 202/US 422 interchange in Upper Merion. From today's Inquirer:

"I hope we are here in 10 years to open the Schuylkill Valley Metro," Sen. Connie Williams (D., Montgomery) said. As SEPTA struggles with state funding shortages, the agency's plans to construct a $2 billion train line from Center City to Reading are all but dormant.

Sure, Senator. And in 10 years, I hope the people in Montgomery and Delaware counties will have came to their senses and voted you out of office. (How embarrassing is it for notoriously Republican Delaware County to have Haverford and Radnor Townships represented by - gasp - a Democrat?) Considering that the not so good senator's father is the late Leon Hess (yes, as in the Central Jersey oil magnate and former owner of the New York J-E-T-S Help Help Help), I'm sure she may still be in step with the highway interests. How else can you explain her support for a rail project that - as currently proposed - may very well never be built?

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