NOT SO FAST, SEPTA...
Remember in one of my postings on Sunday how I wished I could be a fly on the wall on Tuesday as Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) addressed the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association's Government Affairs Conference? Well, the Inquirer was kind enough to send Jere Downs to cover Rendell's appearance (though I had nothing to do with it...).
In today's Inquirer, the governor/sports commentator delivered some bad news to the commonwealth's nearly 70 public transit agencies.
"I will give you a guarantee that I will not let that (gas tax) funding occur without having corollary funding for mass transit," Rendell said at the Harrisburg Hilton meeting [insert your own Paris Hilton joke here - ed.].
But a gas tax/transit tax increase should wait until late fall, when Congress is expected to define future federal transportation funding, Rendell said.
"I am taking my lead from the legislature, but I think we should wait to see," Rendell told the group representing the state's 70 transit agencies. "What happens in Washington will affect us dramatically."
Rendell's shifting the blame from Harrisburg to Washington is not going to sit too well with Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market St. The threat of DRACONIAN SERVICE CUTS and a fare increase will rear its ugly head yet again, and it's highly doubtful that anything will be resolved until after the election.
If you read between the lines, Rendell is essentially saying that gas and/or transit taxes will have to wait until after the legislative election, but is trying not to say it explicitly by blaming Congress.
The prospect of waiting for relief until late fall did not please transit officials. Decisions on whether to raise fares or cut service must be made when the fiscal year ends this spring.
For many legislators, (SEPTA's legislative counsel Jeanne E.) Neese said, "it is too difficult to do a tax vote before an election."
SEPTA faces a $61.5 million deficit that must be resolved by July 1. SEPTA officials privately said yesterday that they were still scraping together a short-term financial strategy. In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is coping with a projected $27 million shortfall.
If you recall, SEPTA did not pass a finalized budget for the current fiscal year until this past rubber-stamp session of the SEPTA Board. Either fare hikes and service cuts are on the horizon or it will be deja vu all over again...
MARKET ST MESS
Bus service in Center City was severely disrupted during the mid-day hours yesterday due to two separate incidents along Market St.
The first incident took place at 2 St shortly before 1:00pm when Philadelphia fire fighters responded to what was either a medical emergency or a false alarm depending on who you talk to. Fire apparatus took out the eastbound lanes at 2 St, forcing all eastbound 17, 33, and 48 buses to carefully weave their way into Penns Landing.
The second incident occured at 10 St a few minutes after 1:00pm, when 5637, covering a 17 trip to South Philadelphia (7326 block) - and carrying a full load at that - attempted to pass a disabled taxi that was blocking the "bus lane" in front of the Gallery. While the bus was attempting to navigate around the taxi, some idiot in a Chrysler Concorde attempted to pass the bus (ending up in the eastbound lanes), and in doing so, got struck. No injuries were reported, but the driver of the Concorde probably recieved a few "bad driving certificates" courtesy of the Philadelphia Police. What that bozo probably deserves is the "Bam Margera Jackass Driver of the Week award".
Fortunately, there was minimal damage to either vehicle, but both SEPTA and NJT buses were stuck in a traffic tie-up for nearly 20 minutes. Several buses ended up with standing loads as the approached 15 St/JFK Blvd, including a pair of 33s and a pair of 17s.