Wednesday, January 28, 2004


In between all the hoopla regarding the "River Line" and some of the bizarre happenings going on at SEPTA (which so far have been relatively few), NJ Transit schedules changed at the beginning of the month. Here are some of the highlights:


  • 313/315 Service between Wildwood and Cape May will now operate via US 9
    317 Re-routed via Pleasant Valley in Moorestown Twp en route to/from Moorestown Mall; time adjustments between Cassville and Lakewood


  • 400 Addition of two new timepoints: Cross Keys Commons Shopping Center in Turnersville (Washington Twp), and Main St/US 322 in Williamstown (Monroe Twp)
    403 Increased service to Echelon Mall in Voorhees Twp
    405/407/410 New timetable issued, no major changes reported
    409 Re-routed in Trenton to operate via State St between Broad and Warren Sts on all trips to Philadelphia


  • 451 New timepoint added at Haddonfield-Berlin Rd/Brace Rd in Cherry Hill Twp
    463 New timetable issued, no major changes reported


  • 501 Two new weekday/Saturday express trips from Atlantic City Bus Terminal to Brigantine Beach departing at 7:25am and 8:25am added, will bypass Marina District casinos; New Sunday 8:25am express between Atlantic City Bus Terminal and Brigantine Beach, will bypass Marina District casinos
    502 Sunday headways improved to every 30 minutes between Atlantic City and Hamilton Mall
    504/505/507/509 New timetables issued, no major changes reported
    508 Expanded daily service to Absecon Manor Nursing/Rehabilitation Facility via Pitney Rd


  • 551 Some weekend trips eliminated due to low ridership
    552 Four weekday trips now adjusted to operate via Crest Haven County Complex in Middle Twp; weekday and weekend timetables now separate


  • 600 Mid-day service reduced from every 75 minutes to every 90 minutes; last five weekday departures from Plainsboro departing 15 minutes later
    601/602/608/976 New timetables issued, no major changes reported
    603 Expanded weekday early morning/late evening service to Nassau Park
    605 New daily 7:45pm departure from Montgomery Twp to Quaker Bridge Mall
    606 Minor weekday trip time adjustments
    609 Sunday headways adjusted to operate every 75 minutes

An editorial in today's Inquirer essentially sends a message to elected officials regarding the boondoggle-in-the-making rail line between Center City Philadelphia and Reading. It's pretty self-explanitory...


In Friday's editions, The Daily News took time out from it's near daily overdose of Bush Bashing and it's mourning over the Iggles' latest choke job to call out Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) and the legislature to come up with a long-term solution to SEPTA's ongoing financial crisis. Perhaps the Daily News' editorial board should focus on the fact that both transit and railroad service in the area has deteriorated over the past two years since Fearless Leader took over.


In addition to the posting of detoured bus routes in both Philadelphia and the suburbs, during this morning's commute, express service on both the 22 and 55 were suspended, with all runs operating in local service. Most other bus and rail routes were running about 5-15 minutes late. The usual detours in Manyunk and Roxborough are presently in effect (the 27 and 35), but also, there are detours reported on both the 15 and 40 in West Philadelphia. It would be nice if the SEPTA web site stated where the detours were in place, but that might be asking too much.

It might also be asking too much to have work crews clear snow off the platforms at most of the Regional Rail stations. This morning, there was still a couple of inches of snow waiting to be shoveled at Downingtown. Who knows how bad it was at other stations? And what is it going to take before SEPTA does a better job with snow removal at outlying stations, an slip-and-fall accident resulting in a concussion?

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Don Pasquale and Fearless Leader addressed the media following today's rubber-stamp session of the SEPTA Board, in which SEPTA once again called on Harrisburg to support a long term solution for funding transit systems in the Commonwealth. Don Pasquale indicated that he was "optimistic that there can be a long term solution" and that SEPTA "will lurch from crisis to crisis" without dedicated funding.

Fearless Leader then noted that the Fiscal Year 2005 budget was being developed for release in early April. Figures wouldn't be in place until the first week of February at the earliest, pending the release of the state budget by Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet). Another wild card is the due to expire contracts of the Transport Workers Union Local 234 - which is in it's own apparent state of disarray due to internal leadership issues mentioned last month. An exchange of proposals between SEPTA management and TWU leadership - whomever they may be - is scheduled for Tuesday, February 9.

During the press confab, Don Pasquale pointed out a proposal issued by the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association (PDF file - requires Adobe Acrobat reader).

The most telling remarks came from Fearless Leader:

"Hold us accountable, but give us the tools to do so."

Perhaps these comments uttered by American Idol's Simon Cowell on last night's telecast could put SEPTA into perspective:

"If I were to call you mediocre, that would be the biggest compliment you've ever been paid."


In more vehicle-relevant news from today's rubber-stamp session, the SEPTA Board approved separate options for 18 New Flyer D40LF buses and 20 New Flyer DE40LF buses. The 18 diesel low floors are part of the 5700-series order, which is supposedly due to start delivery next month (though how that's going to happen remains to be seen).

Among the major changes starting with the 5700-series diesel buses, the Allison B400R transmission will be replaced with the ZF Ecomat transmission. SEPTA staff cited technical issues and increased reliability of the ZF transmission, plus a $773,058 savings (plus $114,162 in reduced warranty costs) certainly helps as well.

The ZF transmission utilizes an integral cooler that has been proven to be extremely reliable. SEPTA has used this configuration on 500 (actually 492 - ed.) buses with great success. The ZF transmission allows SEPTA flexibility in the choice of fluid used to lubricate the unit. The Allison transmission requires the use of proprietary fluid, which increases operating costs significantly. The retarder calibration of the ZF transmission helps increase foundation brake lining life. Numerous transit authorities that are using the same power train configuration as proposed for our buses have confirmed this fact. From Staff Summary

In addition, the next batch of buses will have a more reliable alternator, which has been cited as a key factor in the poor performance of the Neoplan artics.

Recent experience with Niehoff altenrators on Neoplan articulated buses have shown these units to be extremely unreliable. Furthermore, the Niehoff Organization has not offered technical expertise or assistance in resolving these issues. The Delco alternator (50-DN) has been installed on the last 300 New Flyer buses. The charging system reliability on this group of buses has been acceptable. From Staff Summary

In addition, a new feature starting with the 5700-series New Flyers will be a storage box directly over the front curbside wheelhouse to prevent passengers from storing items and obstructing the circulation of passengers on the bus. The kneeling feature will now be full curb side to allow easier alighting from the rear of the bus. The current batch of New Flyers have front kneeling. SEPTA will also get a $295,000 reduction for an earlier contractual delivery date, which was to have been June 1, but has been moved to February 1 - which is only 10 days away. While it's doubtful that 5713 (or 5733, depending on how the hybrids are numbered) will be on the property by February 1, at the very least, it means that the days for the 3000-3251 Neos are numbered.

The total price per vehicle, with all of the changes, plus factoring in the 18 additional buses, is $319,842; the original unit price per bus (without the option) was $316,865 - this is a 4 percent increase in capital costs.

As for the hybrids, the board approved an option for 20 more buses to go along with the existing 12 hybrids now assigned to Southern. Thus far, the testing of the initial 12 hybrids has been fairly successful for SEPTA.

Two pilot buses (5601H and 5602H - ed.) were recieved in October 2002 and placed into revenue service and have accumulated over 19,000 miles training, charter, demonstration, and revenue miles operating from the Southern Depot. Bus performance has been exceptional including driver acceptance.

Fuel performance comparison with regular diesel powered buses inidcates that the Hybrid Bus is twenty-five (25%) percent more fuel efficent which results in an estimated savings of 2,250 gallons of fuel per year per bus. Fuel efficency is 48% better than a similar 40-foot low floor bus powered by a Series 50 Diesel Engine. It should also be noted, however, that the Hybrid buses are being run with Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel which is currently 20-25% more expensive than #2 diesel fuel, thereby reducing some of the savings.

The Hybrid bus is a slightly quieter bus than a similar Series 50 powered bus.

Rear braking lining life is projected to be over 38,000 miles, which compares favorably to a diesel powered 40-foot New Flyer low floor bus rear linings, which averages 20,000-25,000 miles. The improvement to rear brake life is due to the supplemental regenerative dynamic braking obtained from the drive motors that are connected to the rear axles. This will allow the rear brake linings, that are normally replaced twice for every front brake lining, to now last as long as the front brake linings, which is over a year of service.

The first year operating experience for the two Pilot Buses has been satisfactory. The Hybrid labor and material costs compared to a sample average of 10 Southern Depot operated D40LF's over a recent 6 month period, show the Hybrids' cost per mile @ $0.376 vs. $0.391 per mile for the diesel buses.

The option accelerates the ability of SEPTA to ascertain the evaluation of the Hybrid bus technology, monitor bus costs, and evaluate flexibility, dependability, and reliability of bus systems. A fleet size of 32 Hybrid buses would provide the capability to deploy Hybrids on entire routes for extended periods to fully demonstrate the performance of this new technology when compared to a diesel fleet operating over the same route.

The route assignment diversity performance labor and material costs evaluations will be crucial over the next 3 to 4 years as SEPTA develops technology requirements for the next replacement bus procurement program (for the NABI fleet - ed.). Initial Vehicle Maintenance Information System (VMIS) cost and performance data indicate the Hybrids have a 3.89% lower cost per mile when compared to a diesel bus.
From Staff Summary

Yes, I know that's a lot to digest, but suffice to say that this has been one program that's actually proven to be successful for SEPTA - and that's saying a hell of a lot (see the P&W and El car procurement fiascos from the past 10 years). The cost of the 20 new Hybrid buses comes out to $515,578.81 per bus. By comparison, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, Texas recently purchased two hybrids from New Flyer for $576,000 (though specs would obviously be different between the two systems). The remaining 20 Hybrids are due on SEPTA property by the summer.


At the same rubber-stamp session of the SEPTA Board, a contract change order was approved to allow Urban Engineers, SEPTA's "parrot" on the Schuylkill Valley project, extending the current contract to September 30. This change was neccestated by several factors that have been noted at this site over the past few days. The changes to the contract will have Urban Engineers:

  • Develop three project phasing plans, comprised of at least two minimum operable segments each. These phasing plans and associated segments will be developed from the short list of alternatives identified in the SVM MIS/DEIS, and new alternatives may also be considered (emphasis added - ed.).
  • Screen the phasing plans for potential "fatal flaws" with respect to laws, regulatory issues, SEPTA labor agreements, and Norfolk Southern issues. Remove any phasing plans that show "fatal flaws" in any of these areas.
  • Develop capital costs and operating costs for these phasing plans that have no "fatal flaws." Costs will be shown by individual segment, and, where possible, cost data from the SVM MIS/DEIS and annual FTA New Start updates will be used.
  • Conduct a second screening that considers costs and also laws, regulatory issues, SEPTA labor agreements, and Norfolk Southern issues. Based on the overall screening, develop a rank order of phasing plans.
  • Develop forecasts of ridership and revenue for the highly ranked phasing plans, based on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) travel demand model and the latest 2000 Census data and demographic, socio/economic, housing, and other forcasts developed by the DVRPC. From Staff Summary

It appears that the combination of pressure from DVARP and/or the FTA has played a major role in getting SEPTA to review the Schuylkill Valley project to make it more reasonable from a financial and operational standpoint. Whether or not it forces SEPTA into major changes in the project remains to be seen...


The initial public meeting to review the FY 2004 Annual Service Plan is slated be held sometime next month. While details have been scarse so far, it appears that the major changes will affect bus routes in the Chester City area. Of course, the ongoing "financial crisis" - not to mention the potential labor mess - could throw a monkey wrench into those plans. Details should be filtering out within the next two weeks.

Today's editions of The Phoenix offers more details on the 14 January meeting in Philadelphia regarding the Schuylkill Valley rail project. The meeting involved officials from SEPTA, PennDOT, Urban Engineers (SEPTA's parrot/consultant), and Congressman James Gerlach (R-6th).

Chester County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman (D) offered his perspective on what now appears to be a staged project which is proposed to end in Phoenixville as opposed to King of Prussia or Valley Forge.

"While half a loaf is better than no loaf and vehicle traffic in Phoenixville would be greatly assisted, we still would not have solved a regional gridlock problem along the 422 Corridor," said Dinniman.

Partly in response to (the FTA's "not recommended" rating), meeting participants considered a plan of action. "The purpose of the meeting was to get folks together and decide, 'Do we need to agree to change the path we are on?'" said (Roy Kienitz (chief of staff to Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet).

"Everybody involved likes the project but it has a huge $2 billion problem."

All together now...


DVARP President Don Nigro continued to push the association's position that the project operate as conventional commuter rail utilizing shared track. Some of Schuylkill Valley's more vocal proponents, including Greater Valley Forge TMA executive director Peter Quinn - who did a wonderful job rounding up "parrots" to read virtually the same exact statement verbatim at a hearing in King of Prussia two years ago - still don't get it.

Quinn argued that running both freight and passenger service on the same track is a "disaster waiting to happen." He called for building additional tracks side by side in the rail bed alongside existing tracks.

Apparently Quinn doesn't spend a lot of time travelling beyond the Banana Republic of Upper Merion. At least not by rail...

With a handful of exceptions, every single commuter railroad and virtually all Amtrak routes outside of the Northeast and Keystone corridords have operate over freight railroad rights-of-way. SEPTA shares portions of the R3 West Trenton and R8 Fox Chase lines with CSX freight trains. There have been far too few major problems with the commuter railroads operating over freight tracks (though Amtrak is a different story). Did it ever occur to Quinn that adding yet another track to the corridor for the entire length may be part of the reason that this project is now priced out at $2 billion (and climbing), running the risk of being the "Big Dig" of commuter rail projects?

On the flip side...

Gerlach said those involved are seeking a "lean and mean" project and that $45 million of federal funding has been secured for design and engineering.

Maybe the freshman congressman can explain to Quinn and some of his most fervent followers that the gold-plated "MetroRail" alternative has little to no chance of ever being built.

On a related note, the SEPTA Board is expected to approve a contract realted to Schuylkill Valley at today's rubber stamp meeting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


As many people who follow SEPTA very closely know, the 121 bus between Gladwynne and Center City is one of the worst performing routes in the entire system. Yet, thanks to constant whining from people (or, more accurately, elected officials) in the People's Republic of Lower Merion, the line continues to connect Gladwynne and Center City via I-76 and US 1. Or will it...

Somebody at SEPTA must have some sort of crystal ball, because if one looks carefully enough, you may find that the 121 as we know it could disappear. This link - uncovered by one of my regular contributors - shows was could be a restructured service between Gladwynne and Center City. Oddly enough, it's listed as Route 303, which was the former designator for a shuttle bus from PNC/Eastwick to Suburban Station via I-76 from 1998-99 and a proposed designator for a service that was to have run between Doylestown and Neshaminy Mall via PA 611 and PA 132.

The proposed "303" would reportedly operate the same routing from Gladwynne to the Cynwyd Rail Station as the present 121, then operate via Montgomery Av, Conshohocken Av, Belmont Av, Wynnefield Av, Parkside Av, 40 St, Market St, 38 St, Chestnut St, 13 St, Filbert St, and 12 St, where it would presumably layover. Return service would operate via Market, Juniper St, JFK Blvd, 20 St, Market St, 38 St, Lancaster Av, 40 St, Parkside, Wynnefield, Belmont, Conshohocken, and Montgomery en route to Belmont Hills and Gladwynne.

There's also this interesting proposed schedule listed under "Route 85", which appears to be either a proposed schedule change for the present Route 35, or a very bizarre practical joke. A quick glance of the two lines indicate that weekday peak service the "85" between 5:10am and 9:30am and between 3:30pm and 7:30pm would operate every 20 minutes between Andorra and Wissahickon Loop, with timepoints at Ridge Av/Fountain St and Ridge Av/Summit Av. The present 35 schedule has 30 minute headways all day between 5:30am and 8:00pm on weekdays and Saturdays. The "85" apparently would also operate every 30 minutes during off-peak times on weekdays with the last departure from Wissahickon Loop at 11:30pm. "85" Saturday service would depart every half hour from Wissahickon Loop between 5:28am and 12:28am. Sunday "85" service would operate hourly from 5:38am to 11:38pm; present 35 Sunday service operates from Wissahickon from 7:00am to 7:00pm.

But wait, there's more! There are several inactive routes and services that are also posted on the SEPTA web site if you look carefully enough. Fortunately, I've done it for you:

"Route 50" - "Holiday Trolley" Loop in University City between 49 St/Woodland Av and 40 St El station operated in 2001
"Route 51" - "Welcome Line" Center City Trolley loop from years ago that also was the Holiday Trolley when it operated in Center City from the late 1990s until 2000
Route 63 - Grays Ferry to Pier 70 via Christian and Catharine Sts - eliminated last September
Route 76 - Center City to Philadelphia Zoo (pre-SPREE)
Route 202 - West Chester to Brandywine Town Center
Route 208 - Strafford Rail Station to Chesterbrook
Route 301 - Bethayres to Newtown (Bucks)
Route 302 - Fox Chase to Southampton

Does anyone at SEPTA know how to maintain a web site properly with out these "web gems" sneaking out into the public domain?

Looks like another arguement in favor of PDF files for timetables so SEPTA doesn't accidentally leak certain plans underneath the public radar.


There have been reports in the guestbook and elsewhere on the web that the new Champion cutaway buses - which are supposed to replace the aging 5-year-old Ford cutaway buses - are on SEPTA property. The sources for this information is usually very reliable.

Yet, over the past week, during recent looks outside the Wyoming Av shops and Germantown Brake Shop, not a single one of these new buses were to be found. (Note that I haven't had the time - nor the energy nor patience - to try and head up to Frontier to see if any of these buses were stored there.) Either SEPTA is doing a good job of hiding these buses, I'm not looking hard enough, or the buses were on SEPTA property and have since been returned.

Hopefully, we'll get to the bottom of this mystery. In the meantime, riders on the 92 (such as myself) will be stuck on those so-called "buses" that should never have been bought in the first place...

Amid all the hoopla over the Iggles' latest choke job - which has once again made Philadelphia the laughing stock of SportsCenter - PennDOT is now getting involved in the planning of Schuylkill Valley rail service.

The Inquirer reported last week that Gov. Rendell - fresh off his final day as an "analyst" for Comcast SportsNet - identified the long-stalled 62-mile rail boondoggle-in-waiting as one of his highest priorities. Leading the way for the administration is PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler, much to the delight of Fearless Leader:

Biehler is "calling the meetings," (SEPTA GM Faye L.M.) Moore said, referring to Wednesday's gathering, which was lobbied for by Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, whose district includes ailing Chester and Berks County river towns. "We are serving as a space provider."

"Are we happy that Schuylkill Valley Metro is finally being looked at as a state and regional project? Yeah," added Moore, who this month will close a $41 million budget gap and whose agency faces a $70 million shortfall, which could mean further service cuts or a fare increase in the 2005 fiscal year.

Well of course Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market are happy. This is what should've happened from the outset, as SEPTA staff have clearly proven themselves incapable of drafting a reasonable operating and financial plan.

The bad news - at least for those in Upper Montgomery and Berks? The first segment may only go as far as either King of Prussia or Phoenixville, with no guarantee of further extension beyond Phoenixville. And there's no guarnatee to Chester County that the first segment will even make it to Phoenixville.

The plan - referred to as "MetroRail" but in reality was nothing more than a gold-plated trolley - stalled after the Feds told SEPTA that their funding plan (80% Federal/20% State/Local match) would not work for the $2 billion (and rising) scheme. Now, SEPTA is going back to the drawing board and it is hoped that they will come up with a more rational plan.

Of course, if the project doesn't reach Phoenixville in the first phase, I wouldn't be shocked if Chester County's support suddenly disappears.


Another after-effect from the Iggles choke job at that $512 million partially taxpayer funded playpen at 11 St and Pattison Av occured on a 66 bus along Frankford Av.

The Daily News reported that a passenger - an angered Iggles fan - reportedly threw an iceball at a SEPTA driver who was, according to one passenger, allegedly wearing a Carolina Panther jersey.

Passenger Lawrence Coleman said that the two exchanged words, and when the bus driver said, "Stop hating," the Eagles fan said, "Hate this!" and tossed an iceball at her face, causing her to start bleeding.

This raises some interesting questions, to wit: What the hell is a SEPTA employee doing wearing a Panthers jersey in the first place? Never mind that something like this was bound to happen, but isn't there something in the dress code that prohibits bus operators from wearing articles of clothing that are not part of the "official" SEPTA uniform? It's one thing to wear an Iggles hat, but an "enemy" jersey?

The only bright side of this is that the operator wasn't stupid enough to wear a Dallas Cowgirls jersey. Otherwise, this might have escalated into a real ugly scene...

Sunday, January 18, 2004


For the third consecutive year, the Philadelphia Eagles went to the NFC Championship game...

For the third consecutive year, the Philadelphia Eagles LOST the NFC Championship game...

For the second consecutive year, the Philadelphia Eagles LOST THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AT HOME...

Anybody see a pattern here?

Anybody see a correlation to the fact that Andy Reid suddenly becomes a lowsy coach when the really big game comes around the corner?

Anybody see a correlation to the fact that since 1983 no Philadelphia-based major league sports franchise has been able to allow a parade down Broad Street that doesn't involve a bunch of drunken morons from South Philly and South Jersey dressing like idiots on New Year's Day?

And is there any coincidence that this ongoing ineptitude among the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, and Sixers may be a contributing factor to why Philadelphia and it's surrounding region is mired in an ongoing cycle of mediocrity?

Look back at the last 21 years - the last time any of the four "major league" sports franchises won a championship (the 76ers) - and you can understand the frustration, anger, and all out hosility that Philadelphia sports fans have to endure year after miserable year. Hell, just look at the past 10 years, and you'll get the picture:

  • Joe Carter in Game 6 going yard on Mitch Williams

  • Terry Murray declaring that the Flyers were in a "choking situation" during the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals

  • The John Lucas/Johnny Davis "error" before a punk from Virginia named Allen Iverson became one of this city's most beloved sports figures (not as much for his off-the-court behavior, but because even if he's shooting 8-for-24 from the field, you know he's at least giving some effort)

  • The Terry Francona "error", one of the darkest moments in the past 20 years of the Phillies franchise

  • Rich Kotite's 1994 embarassment, when the Eagles started off like gangbusters and suddenly - during the course of the season - forgot how to win and quickly missed the playoffs

  • Ray Rhodes complete inability to sustain any kind of success after a dramatic 1995 playoff run, which ended in Dallas on the day one of the worst blizzards hit Philadelphia

  • Destiny's Child performing during Game 3 of the 2001 NBA Finals while wearing Laker colors AT THE FIRST F***ING UNION CENTER no less (and rightfully getting booed out of South Philly after their performance)

  • The inability of the Phillies to beat the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in September of last season

  • And last, but by no means the least, the inability of the Philadelphia F***ING Eagles to win the NFC Championship game for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR

Meanwhile, lesser "four-sport" cities such as Boston, Phoenix, Miami, and Arizona have been able to hold championship parades. But, nope, not Philadelphia. That would be asking to much from Jeffrey Lurie (at least when he's not extorting the taxpayers to the tune of $300+ million).

And let's not just focus on the fact that our sports teams constantly choke when an entire city and region is counting on them...

Let's remember that the mayor of the city of Philadelphia - "Emperor John F-U Street" - was re-elected despite the fact that his administration is currently being investigated by the federal government over allegations of corruption - and the fact that the people of Philadelphia were stupid enough to re-elect him.

Let's also remember that while the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was without a budget for Fiscal Year 2004 until December, the dis-honorable Governor of this state, Edward G. Rendell, was more concerned about expressing his opinions about the Eagles latest choke job on Comcast SportsNet than he was about getting anything accomplished in Harrisburg.

What does this have to do with SEPTA, you ask?


  • SEPTA operates a commuter rail system that is not only one of the most unreliable systems in the nation, it is also the laughing stock of the entire industry
  • SEPTA management seems to think that it's okay not to install restrooms on Regional Rail cars for it's longer distance lines (such as the Paoli, West Trenton, Doylestown, and Trenton lines) - despite the fact that it's common practice on EVERY OTHER COMMUTER RAILROAD SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES
  • SEPTA management seems to think that it's a brilliant idea to dead-head buses from South Philadelphia to Overbrook, Mill Creek, Parkside, Tioga, and Strawberry Mansion instead of trying to assign bus routes to depots closer to origin and terminal points
  • SEPTA management seems to think that it's a great idea to reduce the presence of "cleaners" at Bridge-Pratt and 69 St Terminals so that people can become unconsious and not be noticed for nearly 6 hours (as was reportedly the case last month)
  • SEPTA management seems to think that the best way to restore rail service from Philadelphia to Phoenixville, Pottstown, and Reading is to operate glorified trolleys on separated tracks instead of conventional commuter rail trains along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way
  • SEPTA management seems to think that Route 104 express bus service to West Chester can operate at the same running times as - or even faster than - locals to Newtown Square
  • SEPTA management seems to think that the opinions of the public are irrelevant, and that they are going to damn sure do whatever the hell they want, despite the consequences

    And last but by no means least...

  • SEPTA seems to think that the only solution to it's ongoing budget crisis is to act like a low-life panhandler at Suburban Station (and there were quite a few out in full force today, no thanks to the lack of police presence) and beg Harrisburg for more money.

And you wonder why I am slowly starting to get sick and tired of this city?

And you wonder why I am getting sick of the nation's 5th largest transit system not having their s**t together? Would it be too much for the SEPTA Board of Directors to stop acting like a rubber stamp to Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market and issue an ultimatum?

If I were in Pasquale T. Deon, Sr.'s shoes (not that I would want to be, since he is probably the biggest a**hole of any elected or appointed offical in this area), I would issue this simple ultimatum to Faye L.M. Moore and the rest of her underlings at 1234 Market:


It has become glaringly obvious not only to myself but to others who keep close tabs on SEPTA that it was a big mistake to hire an accountant with no transit management experience to run this system. Perhaps the political hacks who mis-manage this system will wake up to the reality that hiring Moore to run this system was a huge mistake.

Of course, by the time that happens, the Eagles might actually win a Super Bowl. Yeah, right, like that'll ever happen...

Tomorrow, we'll get back to the business of posting transit-related news ... assuming that I'm in a good enough mood to do so...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


A few items relating to the opening of the South Jersey LRT system known as the River Line (all from the Burlington County Times):

  • Burlington County Freeholders are sponsoring a program that would feature "animal" sculptures to be located at the 9 stations within the county. Freeholders anticipate that the sculptures would be funded by outside sources (corporate sponsorships) to build these works of art and ultimately be auctioned off to raise funds for the Burlington County arts community. Excuse me if I think this is just a wee bit silly...

  • The Burlington County sponsored Bur-Link shuttle service saw three new routes introduced last week. The three new routes are:

    • B6: Burlington Towne Center station to shopping centers along CR 541 in Burlington Township
    • B7: Burlington Center Mall to Willingboro Town Center via CR 541, with a connection to Edgewater Park/Beverly station via the B4 shuttle bus
    • B8: Riverside station to shopping centers in Delran via US 130

  • The BurLink system will expand further later in the year with three proposed new services:

    • B5: Florence Park/Ride to Haines Industrial Park, scheduled to start when the River Line begins service next month
    • Proposed service between Palmyra station to Eastgate and Moorestown Mall, to be started later this year
    • Proposed service between Cinnaminson station to US 130 and Taylor Lane Industrial Park, also to start later this year

    The new services are in addition to existing services between Pemberton and Mount Holly (B1), Willingboro and Mount Holly (B2), and the BC Xpress serving Burlington County College (B3).

  • NJ Transit is planning a promotional blitz to introduce passengers to the new River Line when is starts service on February 15.


The Wilmington News Journal reports that the City of Newark and WILMAPCO are in the discussion stages with plans to move the Newark Rail Station from its current location near the Chrysler plant to a more convenient downtown location. The site would also serve as a potential turn point for future rail service between Wilmington and Dover. WILMAPCO also took comments on a plan by DART First State to move its operations center to a newer location within Wilmington.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


A Upper Darby Township woman had her day in court yesterday to face charges that she allegedly abandoned her two children at 69 St Terminal last month. According to the Delaware County Daily Times, Kelly Severino, 42, had been held at Delaware County Prison after failing to post $5,000 bail since her arrest on a felony count of reckless endangerment.

On December 7, Severino allegedly abandoned her two children, a 13 year old girl and 11 year old boy, at 69 St Terminal while she allegedly took a bus, claiming to her children that she "would be right back."

(Upper Darby Twp Police) Officer Thomas Hald wrote in the affidavit: "The weather outside was below freezing with some wind and the ground was snow covered."

This was a couple days after the first significant snowfall of the winter took place.

Severino agreed to a deal in which she would enter a drug/alcohol rehab program in exchange for a reduced sentence. If completed, Severino would have her charges reduced from a felony to a summary offense of disorderly conduct.

"You are being given a break today," (District Court Justice Harry) Karapalides said. "Do what you’re supposed to do."

A break? Considering that she stranded her two children at 69 St Terminal during a time which isn't exactly safe for adults, much less pre-teenage children, saying that it's a "break" is an understatement.

Well, that's Upper Darby for you...

Friday, January 09, 2004


The headline offers four simple words for Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and the rest of the Iggles for Sunday's game against Green Bay (Wis.). Kinda says it all, don't ya think...

That's also some pretty good advice for SEPTA, as they plan to operate extra Broad Street and El service on Sunday, with express trains leaving Fern Rock every 10 minutes en route to Pattison, in addition to "frequent" local service.

Apparently, SEPTA was able to take some time out of it's busy schedule of begging Harrisburg for more money and screwing up the Regional Rail system to get Iggles President Joe Banner to encourage fans to take SEPTA:

"This feedback we're getting from fans is that the energy, the excitement building up to the game on Sunday is tremendous ... Now we want to make sure that we can harness that enthusiasm by having everybody who is coming to the game in their seats prior to kickoff. We're advising fans to leave plenty of time to get here and to take public transportation. If fans insist on driving they should carpool. But the real message is that we strongly advise fans to use SEPTA. Everything we have heard this year with regard to fans who have taken the expanded SEPTA service on the Broad Street Line to Eagles games has been that the experience was a very positive one."

Well, maybe service has improved, but if my personal experiences from last season are any indication, expect headaches, crowded lines at the turnstiles after the game (assuming they don't fail as they did for a Phillies game in April), and bizarro dispatching of trains after the game in which locals were often sent out 1-2 minutes before expresses.

Oh, and here's more proof that the folks at SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information have too much time on their hands. In the press release, SEPTA noted that the Iggles are 15-5 over the past four seasons when more than 7,000 fans take the Broad Street Subway.

Gee, I wonder if that'll make SportsCenter...

Monday, January 05, 2004


One thing that hasn't changed in the People's Republic of Lower Merion - or at least in the weekly papers that serve it - is the complaining about how they've been treated with no respect by SEPTA (which is a laughably ridiculous through, but that's another story).

An editorial in the current edition of Main Line Times offers a little word of advice for Pennsylvania's senior senator:

We'd love it if some heavy-hitting national poltical figure, say U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, would make SEPTA and Amtrak resolve their years-long bureaucratic dispute regarding repairs to the Wynnewood R-5 bridge before the walkway collapses and somebody gets hurt. Our incumbent politicians, Specter not the least of them, like to advertise their clout when it's re-election time. Meanwhile, we can't get a crummy railway bridge repaired. Maybe if we named the bridge after Sen. Robert Byrd ... but somehow the Robert "Sheets" Byrd Bridge in Wynnewood doesn't seem to fit our community.

Considering that SEPTA has often blamed Amtrak for the on-going poor reliability on the Paoli Line, you'd have an easier chance of seeing Brittney Spears walk down the aisle before any progress is made on the Wynnewood Bridge. (Oh, wait, you mean she already did get married? Never mind...)

And maybe as soon as Specter is done kissing up to prospective voters in Wynnewood, maybe he can do something about improving service on the outer end of the line...


This time, the problems are not SEPTA's fault. At least not directly...

The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reports that NJ Transit's recent schedule change is having a ripple effect on SEPTA's already dreadful on-time performance. On the Northeast Corridor line between Trenton and Penn Station/New York, connection times at Trenton have been decreased, thanks in large part to the introduction of weekday service to Secaucus Junction. SEPTA has agreed to hold R7 trains for up to 5 minutes to accomodate delayed NJ Transit trains arriving from New York. Unfortunately, that's bound to cause a ripple effect along not only the Trenton side of the R7 but also the Chestnut Hill East side as well.

And there's one group of commuters in Philadelphia who SEPTA can ill afford to infuriate ... those who use either Chestnut Hill branch on the railroad.

To it's credit, though, SEPTA has reportedly posted the updated times at the website (I'll have to verify this). It'll be interesting to see how much of an impact this will have on SEPTA.


A 76-year-old man was struck by a SEPTA bus on Broad St near Oregon early this morning. Details are minimal, but the 68 bus had just arrived from Eastwick shortly after 6:00am when the accident occured.

Thursday, January 01, 2004


The Inquirer reports some good news and bad news on the budget front...

First, the good news: SEPTA's budget for the current fiscal year can now be considered "balanced" thanks to the restoration of state aid cuts, totalling $15 million, plus a plan by SEPTA to approve the sale of $11 million in leases.

Now, the bad news: Citing inflation and possible labor cost increases resulting from negotiations with SEPTA's main union, SEPTA is staring at a nearly $70 million defecit next year.

SEPTA is planning to seek monthly co-payments from union employees for their health-care package, an idea that was immediately panned by interim TWU 234 President Dave Szczepanski:

"We have been giving concessions to SEPTA since 1998 ... Once again, SEPTA wants the people who sweat for them to pay for their shortfall."

SEPTA is still seeking a long-term funding solution from Harrisburg in order to avoid annual defecits. In recent years, SEPTA has been forced to divert $37 million in capital funding to the operating budget, resulting in delays in replacing the AM General trackless trolley fleet and rehabs of the Spring Garden and Girard subway stations.

Given how long it took those geniuses in Harrisburg to adopt this year's budget, I have a feeling that the next 12 months are going to get pretty ugly in Philadelphia and in Pittsburgh, where the Port Authority of Allegheny County is projecting a $30 million budget gap, resulting in a reduced number of overhauled LRVs and delays in replacing aging buses.


After chronicling the numerous problems with the 104 all year - and seemingly for the past couple of years - it's odd that the last bus I took this year was the 104 (5302/4241 block), and it arrived at 69 St Terminal 10 minutes early...

For the record, the first bus I rode in 2004 was 7203 (65/5214 block) from 69 St to Overbrook. And yes, the sign was not properly working - it was frozen on "R3 SWARTHMORE" when it pulled into 69 St. And, the CARD console wasn't properly working.

Happy new year, SEPTA...