Sunday, February 08, 2004


And now, another page in the incredible book of SEPTA's Stupidest Criminals.

Today, we take you to the Audubon district of Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, where two bank robbers were captured after allegedly robbing the National Penn Bank in Royersford and using a 99 bus (for the record, the bus involved was 5147/from the very grainy video feed from NBC 10, it appears this was 6149 block) to escape.

Today's lesson for criminals? Don't escape on SEPTA...

According to the Pottstown Mercury and other news sources, James Thomas Roberts, 38, and Alyson L. Stephen, 44, both of Royersford, entered the National Penn Bank branch on Main St in Royersford shortly after 1:00pm. The couple then escaped on the 12:25pm departure from Limerick Square to Norristown.

Bank employees activated a GPS tracker located in one of the money bags. At around 1:10pm, Royersford Police, with the assistance of several neighboring police departments, converged on 5147 at Egypt and Trooper Rds in Lower Providence.

All passengers were removed from the bus. While male suspects were interrogated at gunpoint, the women and children on board the bus were allowed to wait inside the Arby's at Audubon Square Shopping Center. After a lengthy investigation, a witness identified Roberts as one of the alleged robbers.

Meanwhile, police were still searching for Roberts' accomplice. Police were unaware that Stephen was allegedly in posession of the stolen money. An alert employee noted Stephen acting suspiciously while entering the women's restroom. Police recovered most of the money from Stephen's pockets.

Both Roberts and Stephen are being held at Montgomery County Prison on $250,000 and 10 percent of $30,000 bail respectively.


Thanks in part to SEPTA's foot-dragging, it appears that hell may freeze over before the West Chester Transportation Center/Chester County Parking Garage will ever be built.

According to Friday's editions of the Daily Local News, Chester County commissioners announced the hiring of Unruh Turner Burke and Frees to help in negotiations with SEPTA for the new bus station to be located at Market and New Sts. The delays are wreaking havoc with the county's ability to begin construction on the new Criminal Justice Center, which would be located across the street on the site of the current Dague Building. The garage was to have been completed last year, but, as one could expect from SEPTA when it comes to Chester County issues, that didn't happen.

Of course, by the time this gets built, there may not be as many routes serving West Chester, because...


Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) proposed a 3.4 percent increase in transit funding state-wide. The Inquirer reports that it will amount to $8.5 million in additional funding for SEPTA, simply a drop in the bucket when compared to the nearly $70 million budget gap that is staring Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market in the face.

SEPTA money managers cannot relax, however. Even with Rendell's help, a $61.5 million hole would remain in the tentative $917 million budget for fiscal 2005 - equivalent to the cost of virtually all transit services in Delaware and Chester Counties.

Already, some board members are going into their "The Sky is Falling" phase...

"If we don't get the money [to cover] our shortfall, we don't have many places we can go," said James C. Schwartzman, vice chairman of SEPTA's board. "There are either service cuts or fare increases, or a combination."

The Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association, a lobbying group that represents the interests of virtually all transit operators in the commonwealth, was less than enthused about Rendell's "generosity".

"We are far behind," said Michael Imbrogno, chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association, which represents more than 70 systems. "We need new taxes or other innovative ways of funding transit." ...

One idea, Imbrogno said, would be to reprise the 1997 package of tax increases, which raised levies on gasoline to pay for road repairs and sales taxes to help transit systems. (PPTA) officials also plan to press their case next Tuesday at a conference in Harrisburg devoted to transit funding. Rendell will speak, followed by a panel discussion featuring such key legislators as Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.) and Rep. Richard Geist (R., Blair), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that little pow-wow...


It seems that the folks at NJ Transit have taken a page out of SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information handbook when it comes to the controversial River Line.

On Wednesday, the Cherry Hill Courier Post reported on NJ Transit's claims that dirt dumped in Camden that was reportedly contaminated is in fact clean fill.

"This is dirt that can be placed anywhere," Penny Bassett-Hackett, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit said Tuesday.

The Salem County Landfill is reported to be one of the recipients of the "clean fill", and reportedly planned to honor it's deal with NJT. Elk Township, Gloucester County, was to have been another recipient, however officials apparently had cold feet and backed out...

Perhaps Elk Township officials knew something that NJT didn't know or failed to disclose. Friday's Courier Post reported that at least one enviormental expert disagrees with NJT's "clean fill" claims.

"Heavy metals don't break down," said Rodger Ferguson, referring to one of the principal categories of contaminants in the dirt NJ Transit left while building the 34-mile Camden-to-Trenton light rail line, which is scheduled to start running March 14.

Also quite stable are polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, he said. PAHs are another category of contaminants found in the 124,000 cubic yards of dirt that NJ Transit excavated from the light rail's right-of-way and dumped in East Camden.

"They do not break down readily. It takes decades," said Ferguson, operating manager of New Brandywine Environmental in Pemberton Township.

Not surprisingly, the NJT spokeswoman didn't comment.


All is not well for business owners along the Market St corridor in West Philadelphia.

The Inquirer recently reported on the complaints of business owners in the El re-construction area. Some merchants have either been forced to cut back on basic expenses or close completely.

"Basically, there's no money, no salary at the end of the week," said Chuck O'Connor, owner of Bargain House at 52d and Market Streets. He has offered his store for sale after more than three decades of working there.

"I don't think my wife and I have gone out to dinner for a couple of years," said O'Connor, who has spoken for businesses along Market and 52d Streets at meetings and hearings about the reconstruction project.

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