Saturday, November 15, 2003


In this past Sunday's Inquirer, Jere Down reports that SEPTA will be cancelling the Magincal Holiday Railway display that has graced the lobby of 1234 Market due to financial constraints. The net savings? A whopping $40,000.

On Thursday, the Inky ran an editorial bemoaning the loss of the railway display, which attracted a significant number of people over the past several years.

Meanwhile, while the Magical Holiday Railway is grounded, SEPTA is somehow able to offer discounts for the Philadelphia Kixx indoor soccer team. I wonder where that money is coming from?


The past three evenings haven't exactly been fun for SEPTA...

On Wednesday evening, apparent signal problems caused delays to the last R5 en route to Thorndale (#591), which ran 15-20 minutes late.

On Thursday evening, the #581 (8:10pm from Market East) reportedly struck a deer east of Downingtown. A rescue train was dispatched nearly an hour later to recover the #581, however that resulted in the apparent anullment of the #596 (9:43pm Thorndale to Lansdale). The #585 (9:10pm from Market East) was stuck in the congestion and arrived in Thorndale nearly 30 minutes late. This was despite repeated attempts by dispatchers to turn the train before Thorndale to cover the #596. The #598, as a result, left Thorndale about 30-40 minutes late and had to cover both the #596 and #598 loads on the Paoli side. There was no word on how or if the Lansdale side of the runs were covered.

Then, last night, an R5 train arrived at Exton at 6:27pm. Was this the #7565 Great Valley Flyer (5:41pm express to Paoli, local to Thorndale)? Nope. It was the #9559 (5:08pm Thorndale Limited to Wayne. It did not appear to be a signal problem on Amtrak's side, as the #649 arrived at Exton only a minute or two late.

Yet, on both Thursday and Friday nights, KYW 1060 - which is usually on top of any major railroad delays - had no reports of major problems. The excuse from KYW was that SEPTA never let them know about it. Given SEPTA's past history, that sounds about right...


Anybody who thought SEPTA was bad has never had the misfortune of dealing with a bus line that makes SEPTA look like DART. The line in question is the Krapf's (ahem) Transit "A" bus between Coatesville and West Chester - the same line that is in direct competition with SEPTA's 92 bus.

This afternoon, several passengers trying to get to Coatesville were waiting for an "A" bus in downtown West Chester shortly after 3:00pm. The only problem was that many of them had been waiting since 2:00pm. Allegedly, neither the 2:00pm nor the 3:00pm departures ever showed up. Calls to Krapf's by these passengers went nowhere, with the dispatchers reportedly blaming the passengers for not getting to the stop on time (a page right out of SEPTA's playbook).

Even for this poor excuse of a transit line, this is an all-time low. When one bus doesn't show up on this line, that tends to cause problems. When neither bus shows up and passengers are stranded with virtually no alternate means to get to Coatesville, that becomes a major problem.

The biggest problem of them all is that Krapf's can get away with it.

A suggestion to complain to Coatesville City Council went on deaf ears, with the common refrain by Council being "Call the dispatcher." Right, like that's going to do any good on a Saturday when nobody knows what the hell is going on...

Because Krapf's relies on no government funding and apparently strong protection from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission, trying to hold anyone accountable is virtually impossible. (In theory, SEPTA is supposed to be held accountable by PennDOT, FTA, the counties, and the City of Philadelphia, but in practice, anyone can tell you that it's all a bunch of crap.) Without the strings of PennDOT or federal funding attached, it's pretty much a license to screw the people of Chester County over. This means that the "A" bus:

  • Is permitted to operate vehicles that are not accessible to passengers with disabilities;
  • Does not accept nor honor SEPTA passes, transfers, or other fare instruments, and apparently have no desire to do so;
  • Is permitted to operate vehicles that most transit agencies wouldn't even think about running, including junk transit buses (the Thomas TL960 buses are in horrible shape; 1 bus is out of service, the other breaks down a lot), older MCI over-the-road coaches, small cutaway buses, and the occasional school bus, while at the same time, purchases brand new MCI J-series coaches for its charter operation and enables the Krapf's family to make a huge profit (so much so that they own an enormous "McMansion" in East Bradford Twp, just west of West Chester);
  • Has nobody within the government structure - either at the county, state, or federal level - to hold them accountable;
  • Has minimal supervision on the road to prevent fiascos like today; and
  • Is permitted to operate two SEPTA bus routes under contract to SEPTA (204 and 207/WHIRL) at the expense of SEPTA's generally hard working bus operators

  • Were the "A" bus operated under SEPTA's jurisdiction, there would be so many complaints coming from Coatesville and Downingtown (among other places) that Fearless Leader herself would have to personally address these issues. (Which, of course, is highly unlikely, since it's obvious that Fearless Leader can't seem to find West Chester on a map, much less Coatesville).

    Any transit agency that allows a bus line to go to hell as the "A" bus has would be in major trouble with the alphabet soup of state and federal agencies responsible for oversight in mass transit (FTA, USDOT, PennDOT, PUC, et al). But, if it's a private company with little oversight, what can be done? Sadly, next to nothing...

    If there were ever a time for SEPTA to consider a hostile takeover of the line, this would be it. Don't count on it happening, though...

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