Wednesday, March 31, 2004


It is being reported in various newsgroups that SEPTA is planning to initiate trolley service on the 15/Girard Av line starting in June. Although there are only a handful of the 18 PCC-II cars required to run the line presently available at Elmwood, SEPTA plans to run both available PCC-II cars and the Kawasaki subway-surface cars on the 15 starting this summer. A surplus of available K-Cars due to the reduced requirements of the summer schedule will make rail service on the 15 a reality. Testing and operator training along the 15 will start as early as next week in order to work out remaining bugs along the line.


Not too long after I posted an update on the UTU/SEPTA negotiations, word came from SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information that a tentative agreement had been reached, thus averting a strike.

According to some sources, the deal between UTU 1594 and SEPTA is virtually similar to the TWU 234 agreement ratified by its members last week. The UTU membership is expected to vote on the agreement this Sunday at the Upper Darby Fire Company hall on West Chester Pike.

Delaware County Daily Times


Tuesday, March 30, 2004


Apparently, yesterday's report in the Daily Times regarding a public meeting in Nether Providence regarding the 118 proved only partially true. This morning, township officials noted that there was a meeting between SEPTA officals and two township board members, but that it was not a public meeting as originally noted or implied by the Daily Times. One would anticipate that a public meeting will take place eventually.


Today's Delaware County Daily Times features an editorial on a threatened Red Arrow strike, which could happen on Thursday if an agreement between SEPTA and UTU 1594 is not reached. The odds of avoiding a strike appear slimmer and slimmer with each passing day.

According to some sources within Red Arrow, SEPTA is offering a three-year deal to the union, along with the same health-care proposal offered to (and rejected by) TWU 234. The report is that the SEPTA representative essentially said that if UTU "thinks they're getting the same deal as the city, they're dreaming, cause it ain't happening."

In addition, SEPTA is proposing eliminating the uniform allowance, which was reportedly not offered to TWU 234 during their negotiations. A lot of the veteran drivers may not be able to afford a strike, and there's some talk that a lot of current operators will ultimately quit rather than take a contract that they consider an insult.

On a related note, SEPTA hasn't even bothered to post any contingency information in the event that the Red Arrow is out of service to to a work stoppage. When TWU was threatening a strike, SEPTA posted it's survival guide to a city work stoppage five days before the deadline. Here we are, less than 36 hours from the UTU contract expiring, and SEPTA has said nothing, at least on-line.

Sounds like second class status to me...

Monday, March 29, 2004


Today's Daily Times also reported that officials in Nether Providence Township have scheduled a meeting with SEPTA officials over the ongoing controversy regarding the 118's routing through the Garden City district of the township (the article itself is not posted on-line, however). The 118 would be diverted off of Media Pkwy, Willow Rd, and Ryanard Rd, operating from Chestnut Pkwy and Ryanard, then via Chestnut Pkwy, Waterville Rd, Brookhaven Rd, Putnam Blvd, and Moore Rd before returning to the regular route.

The controversy over the re-routing has two members of the township's board up in arms for different reasons. Board members John Kennedy (R) and Robert O'Connor (R) had meetings with SEPTA officials in which they asked SEPTA to re-route the 118. Kennedy's ward includes Willow and Ryanard roads; O'Connor's ward includes Waterville Rd and Putnam Blvd.

Residents of the Putnam Village condominium development are also up in arms over the proposed 118 re-route. A few of the Red Arrow drivers that I talked to indicate that this may very well be a classic NIMBY case by residents in Garden City. Consider where most of the passengers on the 118 are coming from:


In any case, a public meeting will take place tomorrow at 9:00am at the Nether Providence Municipal Building, located at 214 Sykes Ln in Wallingford. From the 118 bus, get off at Providence and Brookhaven Rds (two blocks south of the Wallingford Rail Station on the R3 Media/Elwyn). Head eastbound (towards the train tracks) on Brookhaven Rd for two blocks to Kershaw Rd (first right), turn right to the dead end to Sykes Lane.


The Delaware County Daily Times reported on yesterday's strike authorization vote by UTU 1594 in Upper Darby.

"They unanimously voted to give their bargaining committee the authorization to call a strike if the committee deems it necessary and appropriate," said Irwin Aronson, the union's attorney. "Certainly we don't want to have a strike, and our hope is that SEPTA will negotiate in good faith to get a collective bargaining agreement."

SEPTA officials said Sunday they are hopeful a settlement can be reached.

"We are currently in the process of negotiations and are hopeful a contract agreement will come about," said SEPTA spokesman Gary Fairfax.
Daily Times

Representatives of UTU 1594 also offered the same complaints that many of our spotters in the Frankford Terminal guestbook have made for a long time:

Aronson said the employees in the suburban division have the same skills, licenses and duties and operate the same equipment as SEPTA's city employees.

"They don't deserve to be treated as a stepchild or second-class citizen," Aronson said. "It is very clear from the vote today that they don't intend to be." Daily Times

Another indication that this is the case is the apparent arrival of 3398 from Midvale to Red Arrow, as noted in a guestbook entry.

Sunday, March 28, 2004


Remind me never to get into the prognostication business (despite my strong showing in my March Madness office pool, where yours truly is in the lead going into the Final Four action, thanks to my picking Xavier to reach the Elite Eight before falling to Duke, along with Oklahoma State - sorry Hawk fans - and UConn taking care of business on their ends)...

After Thursday's posting that rumored a close vote among the TWU 234 rank-and-file, my prediction was just a little bit off. TWU 234 members ratified the one-year agreement reached two weeks ago by a margin of 1787-479 on Friday.

For those scoring at home, that's nearly a 3-to-1 margin, as opposed to rumors of a 50-50 split within the union.

On a related note, the union representing Red Arrow operators (UTU 1594) voted to authorize a strike in the event that negotiations break down before Thursday, when their contract expires. It appears, though, that history will follow form and the UTU will get a similar one-year deal. The contract at Frontier is scheduled to expire next Tuesday.

Thursday, March 25, 2004


Starting Monday, April 5, and for the next six weeks, PennDOT will be performing construction along PA 413 in Bucks County, affecting the routing of the 130 bus. SEPTA's John Calnan told the Inquirer that the 130 would be detoured off of PA 413 via Bridgetown Pike, Langhorne-Yardley Rd, Flowers Mill Rd, and PA 213 (Maple Av), with only one stop in Langhorne borough being discontinued - Pine St at Winchester Av. The PA 413 reconstruction starts next week, however traffic is being allowed in the area during that time.


One month after the SEPTA Board awarded the Silverliner V contract - which was rescinded last week amid a lawsuit and some very angry board members - the board awarded two paving contracts on the Regional Rail division which have also fallen under controversy. JMG Construction, a Pottstown based firm, filed a protest regarding the awarding of two separate contracts for "paving services for various Railroad Division parking lots" to G. Antonini Construction - one contract covers "lots throughout the five-county service area" for a two-year period; the second deals with parking lots "within the north and south regions of SEPTA's station operations" for 1 year. I'm guessing the second contract deals with Delaware and New Jersey stations, but don't quote me on it.

The attorney for JMG claimed that despite being the lowest responsible bidder, SEPTA rejected their bids and referred to an investigation by the US Attorney's office which was not elaborated upon. JMG claimed that SEPTA staff had gone to the US Attorney's office before the company could meet with the authority's Inspector General's office. SEPTA's Shyster-in-Chief Nicholas Staffeiri responded - again without elaborating - that JMG was not a responsible bidder. After some back and forth, Don Pasquale instructed staff to defer the "authorization to proceed" until JMG's protests could be heard, however the two items were voted upon as part of the consent calender.

And that wasn't the only fireworks at today's rubber-stamp session of the SEPTA Board.

Tom Dorricott of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen reported the latest piece of bad news on the on-time performance front. After coming close to reaching a 90 percent on-time rating for January, on-time performance on Regional Rail returned to normal - 85 percent. Dorricott's address to the board was fairly strong, given how things had gone from bad to mediocre to worse.

According to SEPTA's own on-time records, the cause of 704 out of the 2,723 trains delayed was "travel" - including "Amtrak travel" - which "the BLET feels that SEPTA is using ... as a euphemism for 'we don't know why the train was delayed.'"

More comments from the BLET - including Dorricott's address to the board - will be posted within a matter of days, time permitting.

Immediately following the report of the Shyster-in-Chief, everyone at the board meeting awaited Fearless Leader's monthly report. And here it is, in its entirety:

"I have nothing to report this month."

Well, after calling out Inquirer reporter Jere Downs earlier this week (though not mentioning Downs by name), it's rather surprising that Fearless Leader would have nothing to report this month (and yes, I'm being a little scarcastic).

On a related note, I did address the board on a subject in which SEPTA's senior management needs to work on - COMMUNICATION. Based on last week's events, that appears to be a concept foreign within SEPTA, though fortunately for Fearless Leader, I didn't go that route. And she better be lucky, because I probably would've read her the riot act.

The issues that I raised was the poor internal communication between the people who recieve detour information from the municipalities and the garages (the October fiasco in which Red Arrow failed to warn its drivers about the Halloween parade detours, but Frontier did). I told the board about my conversation with West Chester's borough manager in which he insisted that West Chester Police were notifiying SEPTA (and given SEPTA's track record recently, I'd be inclined to believe him rather than Fearless Leader - or about 90 percent of the rotating resumes at 1234 Market; in hindsight, I should've said that too, but that's another story).

Also raised by your blogmaster was the way SEPTA informs the public about schedule changes. The press releases issued by the Ministry of Mis-Information and the page in the Metro paper always seem to differ. I also took SEPTA to task over the way they brushed off recent evening service reductions on the 92 and 133 as "minor schedule changes." Believe me, eliminating any trips on a line which normally has 60 minute headways is not a "minor schedule change."

But, other than that, it was a fairly boring "rubber-stamp" session.


TWU Local 234 is expected to vote tomorrow on the proposed one-year contract tentatively agreed to last weekend. Based on some earlier media reports, it would appear that ratification is a slam dunk. But...

There are rumors floating around that a vote in favor of the contract is not as much of a lock as one would expect. One rumor that's been flying is that younger drivers out of Allegheny and Callowhill are expected to provide some strong opposition to the agreement. The insider reports that many of the younger operators are less than thrilled with the prospect of no pay raise and a one-time payout in this contract. The vote comes on the heels of last Sunday's mass membership meeting in North Philadelphia.

Tomorrow's vote will have a huge impact in the other divisions as well. At Red Arrow, for example, mechanics and support staff represented by TWU 234 will also be voting on the contract tomorrow, however their "strike date" is April 1 as opposed to March 15 in the city. Another rumor that's flying around is that the TWU may be stretching this process out in order to reject the contract and force both the City Transit and Red Arrow divisions out of service.

If the TWU rank-and-file rejects the contract proposal, it is expected that the union will start playing hardball with SEPTA, which would have a negative impact on the UTU 1594 negotiations. UTU is expected to authorize a strike - should it be neccesary - in the event negotiations with TWU breaks down. The UTU contract historically mirrors the TWU contract, hence both unions are in a state of limbo.

Another wild card in all of this is the expiration of the Frontier contact on April 6. If nothing is settled either in the city or Red Arrow - of for that matter both - things are going to get very ugly.

Let's just say that tomorrow's vote will be very close and see what happens from there...

Monday, March 22, 2004


Apparently, Jere Downs' article in last Tuesday's Inquirer has made Fearless Leader just a wee bit more sensitve than usual. For the first time in nearly 2 months (actually, since the Iggles did their annual el-foldo against Carolina), Fearless Leader has updated her web page at the official SEPTA web site.

Recently you may have read or heard about a March 16th story written by an over zealous reporter, printed in a local publication, suggesting that SEPTA is seriously considering a 22% fare increase. The reporter knew the Authority was not contemplating an increase of this magnitude, yet, chose to provide misleading information to the public anyway.

Oh, and SEPTA doesn't mislead the public? Yeah, right. Why else would you settle a lawsuit before a lot of high-profile names from 1234 Market get called in to testify?

SEPTA is facing a $70 million projected deficit for Fiscal Year 2005. Over the past 18 months we have been very candid and vocal about our budget problems and our efforts to identify closure measures. In a few weeks our Operating Budget proposal for FY 2005 will be published and public hearings on the subject scheduled. However, at this time, we have not reached any final decisions on the elements of the proposed deficit reduction program.

SEPTA did not create the current state of confusion or alarm about a possible 22% fare increase, but we feel the need to apologize to our riders for the irresponsible actions of the reporter and the publication.

Sounds like somebody at 1234 Market has too much time on her hands. Yet, that's the way Fearless Leader has responded to criticism. Just recall her reaction after DVARP called SEPTA out over the poor on-time performance on the Regional Rail division:

After the meeting, SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore spared a few moments between congratulating champions of SEPTA's annual bus rodeo to address the issue in greater detail.

Moore explained that a large portion of the traffic on SEPTA's regional rail system falls under the control of dispatchers for Amtrak, which has its own schedule of trains to accomodate.

Officials said six of the seven regional rails share some common track with Amtrak throughout the 260-plus miles of the system, though at least 60 percent of that system is owned and controlled by SEPTA.

They said the system has also been subject to several long-term improvement projects on some of its busiest lines that have invariably led to delay.

"I'm not saying we're happy about it," said Moore, who accused Nigro of "Showboating."
Daily News - October 24, 2003

(Click on the October 2003 archives page and scroll down to the October 27 entry "BOARD MEETING RECAP WITH BONUS RANT" for my previous comments on the "showboating" comments.)

Someone's starting to get a little paranoid, eh? Anyway...

For the record (and to recap Tuesday's posting on this), here's what was said:

In the next two weeks, SEPTA brass will privately brief the agency's 15-member board on plans for a fare increase to raise money for the $70 million void projected in the $875 million fiscal 2005 budget, the agency's chief financial officer, Joseph Casey, said yesterday.

How much riders will get socked is not yet known.

SEPTA riders pay a $2 cash fare - among the highest in the nation. A 22 percent increase, to $2.45, would solve the $70 million problem, but that would force the agency into a downward spiral, Casey said.

"You would lose riders on that," he said.

The operative statement is highlighted in boldface. The 22 percent increase (at least based upon what I read) certainly wasn't set in stone.

Perhaps Fearless Leader should stop worrying about what the Inquirer reports and start worrying about how bad service has become since she took over as General Manager.

Case in point: Today at 52 St/Girard Av, right at the start of the PM peak, when southbound service along 52 St from Girard is supposed to operate every 4 to 5 minutes. Between 3:42pm (when I got off the 15) and 4:01pm (when I was finally able to board a southbound 52), there was a grand total of 3 buses that passed by when there are supposed to be 5.

* The first bus had pulled off just before I got to 52 St. As noted, I got to Girard Av at 3:42pm.
* The second bus (5464/9525 block) pulled up at 3:52pm to discharge passengers but not pick up passengers.
* The third southbound bus that arrived at Girard (5263/9510 block) arrived at 4:01pm. Suffice to say that 5263 was SRO between Girard and Market.
* SIDE NOTE: 3222 (9515 block) arrived at 52 St/Market St at 4:10pm, even though Neos from Callowhill are not supposed to be used on the 52.

For those keeping track at home, that's 9-10 minutes between buses, when service levels are supposed to be 4-5 minutes.

And that's just today's example. I'm sure there are a lot of Regional Rail riders who can vouch for how inconsistent performance has been over the last two years. Or some bus riders in West Philadelphia who have similar horror stories after dealing with late or missing weekend buses on the 46. Or the complaints about inconsistent service on the 23 along Germantown Avenue. And so on, and so on...

Sunday, March 21, 2004


And now, living proof that idiots come in all shapes and sizes when dealing with SEPTA. And it's not just Don Pasquale, Fearless Leader, and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market. Sometimes its the riders and operators who get under my skin too.

Today, on the 8:05am 104 from West Chester (5298/4215 block), we left New and Market on-time (8:12am). For some odd reason, this particular operator seemed to think that 40 mph on West Chester Pike was just a little too fast for his tastes, especially on that stretch between PA 352 and the SAP headquarters building in Newtown Square, where some drivers have been known to gun it. Somehow, we managed to lose about 4 minutes in running time because of this slow poke.

The day gets better, folks...

After taking a quick peek at Wyoming, where all I saw were a handful of NABIs and 5500-series New Flyers (and 3066, whose street-side appearance looked like crap), I had time to head up to Fox Chase, where I was hoping to find one of those 5700s that are starting to enter service working an 18 trip. No luck there, so I decide to go end to end on the 1:49pm R8 between Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill West (#2831). The trip from Fox Chase is going fairly smoothly until we get word that upon arriving at Market East, there are going to be people who were waiting for the R3 to Elwyn. For reasons unknown at this time (and considering I know a couple of people on Regional Rail who are based at Media Yard, I should be able to find out), the #8017 was originating at 5 track at Suburban instead of at Market East. My gut feeling is equipment problems, but nothing is confirmed yet.

So, after a brief look outside of the Germantown shops, where I can confirm that a second Champion cutaway and at least two 5700s are on the property, I worked my way back to Germantown at Chelten to catch the 65 back to 69 St. And that trip (4:20pm departed 5 minutes late, 5463/9603 block) was going fine until we got onto City Av. The operator had asked a passenger to mute her phone, because it was a distraction. The passenger refused to do so, and kept on playing whatever game it was she was playing on her cell phone. The driver then pulled over at City and Belmont to wait for a white-shirt to arrive. As irritating as that little "protest" was, I don't blame the operator for pulling over, since he felt it was a safety hazard; so much so that he missed at least 2-3 stops because of that distraction.

About 15 minutes later, the next 65 (7147/5203 block) arrived and everyone, including the idiot who caused the delay in the first place, boarded. Thankfully, she got off at 54 St, because there probably would've been a lot of pissed off people when we got to the end of the line (including yours truly - and yes, I let her have it as she left the bus at 54 St). As a result of this idiot's act of "civil disobedience", I missed the 5:05pm 104 (4218 block) back to West Chester and had to wait for the 6:05pm 104 (4219 block).

Yes, the same 4219 block which is operated by one of my least favorite operators out of Red Arrow, who I think could be described as "dumb."

For starters, he arrived into 69 St about 5 minutes late (which for him, would be early). If that wasn't bad enough, he pulled into the inner platform at West Terminal instead of the outer platform, which is where buses are supposed to board until 7:00pm. We then pull out 3 minutes late and somehow manage to lose two minutes en route. (Fortunately, we didn't take the scenic route through Edgmont Square - which isn't supposed to start until after 7:00pm - which he had been known to do when not scheduled to do so, thus costing us more time.)

And, to top it all off, I just found out that my March Madness office pool is shot to hell thanks (or, rather, no thanks) to the University of Alabama-Birmingham having the audacity to knock off Kentucky and Alabama knocking off Stamford (fortunately, UConn - my pick to win it all - is still in the mix; and yes, I did pick Xavier over BOTH Louisville and Mississippi State, Manhattan over Florida, and Nevada over Michigan State).

But other than that, it was a pretty good day. I did get to ride buses from all depots except Southern and Frontier (including 3224 on the 10 bus bridge - 8053 block - with an Elmwood operator). And I was able to (from a distance) sneak a glimpse of one the new Champions (which I think was 2071).


So much for airing SEPTA's dirty laundry...

On Friday, SEPTA reached a settlement with Kawasaki Rail Car in a lawsuit filed over the controversial awarding of the Silverliner V contract. Even the way word of this settlement was disseminated is raising eyebrows at 1234 Market.

The Inquirer reported this weekend that SEPTA reached a settlement, but the real reason depends on which story you believe.

Officially, SEPTA is claiming the ongoing fiscal crisis was responsible for the settlement and cancelling of the bid:

"It is well known that SEPTA is already in a severe budget crisis, and a
protracted legal challenge would cost precious money and time. It is my hope
and expectation that this rail car purchase can be quickly re-bid and we can
move forward with the acquisition of new rail cars for our customers," said
SEPTA Board Chairman, Pasquale T. Deon, Sr.
Press release

Right. And it's getting pretty cold in hell, too.

"In order to enhance competition, preserve the integrity of the
procurement process, and to ensure that SEPTA's interests are protected in
this important rail car purchase, I am rejecting the current proposals. The
re-bid should encourage more competition which, in the end, will benefit the
Fearless Leader, as quoted in the same press release

Another theory was that there were a long list of people at 1234 Market who weren't exactly thrilled having to appear in court to (gasp) tell the truth.

Kawasaki attorney Richard A. Sprague suggested the prospect that SEPTA officials, employees and others would be questioned prompted the agency to end the litigation.

"There are a lot of people who didn't want to be deposed," Sprague said. A SEPTA lawyer called Sprague's comment unfair.


SEPTA attorney Mark Gottlieb said the agency had "agreed on the deposition schedule long before this decision was made" and called Sprague's contention that the agency was avoiding the depositions an "unwarranted inference."

Another Kawasaki attorney, William H. Lamb, said that for SEPTA to end the litigation at such an early stage was "very unusual, highly unusual."

I have a strong suspicion that Don Pasquale, Fearless Leader, and a lot of high ranking Rotating Resumes - including AGM of Operations/Excuses Patrick Nowakowski, Treasurer Joseph Casey, and almost everyone involved in the entire procurement process - were going to be on that list. Of course, with the settlement, we may never know.

Had Kawasaki's lawsuit continued, Sprague was scheduled to depose 23 people. He would not disclose that list, but Kawasaki said it included Deon and [State GOP Boss Alan Paul] Novak, as well as key SEPTA engineers and professionals. Kawasaki has alleged that at least one key technical official knew nothing of the specification change until after it had occurred. Inquirer

Somehow, I don't think Don Pasquale was looking forward to being dragged through a deposition by one of the city's most powerful attorneys.

United Transit said in a written statement that, like Kawasaki, it would again bid for the work and said it "remains confident that it will be awarded the contract because it manufactures superior products at a better price." Inquirer

United Transit had a different take in a Daily News article on the same story:

UTS was also wearing a happy face. In a statement, the Korean company said that it was pleased that Kawasaki "failed in its attempt to manipulate the courts and intimidate public officials" and that it "remains confident" that it will still win the contract. Daily News

Okay, you call it "intimadation," Kawasaki (and, for that matter, most of the riding public) calls it "holding SEPTA accountable.

Naturally, the most vocal critics of SEPTA's (so-called) railroad operations, DVARP, had their say on these developments:

Don Nigro, president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, said: "Kawasaki had a great case. SEPTA had a losing battle ahead of them.

"Quite frankly, Kawasaki is very experienced with U.S. standards. [United Transit's] experience meeting Federal Railroad Administration requirements for these type of vehicles is zero."

DVARP's long-standing complaints regarding the entire process wasn't neccesarily related to the contract itself, but more towards how the specifications were determined and a general lack of ammenities found on other railroads (such as restrooms, which is a common feature on virtually every other railroad in the nation).

Adding to the intrigue is the way some SEPTA Board members found out about the settlement:

Board members learning of the settlement from reporters barraged Moore with angry calls, according to sources at the agency.

"It's a little embarrassing to have a reporter call me and tell me this," Michael O'Donoughue, one of 15 board members, said yesterday. "I don't know about democracy. It is a little strange."

With the way that Don Pasquale has been running SEPTA Board meetings - for that matter, the way he has been micro-managing SEPTA as Chester County Board member Karen Martynick alleged last year - it's not really that strange.

(On a related note, a planned "Letter of Understanding" between Bucks County and SEPTA relating to propsed route changes to four Frontier routes in Lower Bucks is signed on behalf of SEPTA not by Fearless Leader, but by Don Pasquale. Sounds like micro-managing to me, as one would suspect the General Manager would be the responsible signatory for such a document. And, yes, I plan to add details on the proposed route changes later this week; I just haven't had the time to do it yet.)

So, now, it's back to the drawing board for SEPTA, as new bids will be accepted. This means at least the Silverliner II and III cars which would be replaced as part of this procurement will be in service just a little bit longer.


The Delaware County Daily Times ran an editorial regarding SEPTA's contract agreement with TWU Local 234. It's probably nothing you haven't heard before (fare hikes are bad, SEPTA dodged a bullet, etc.). On a related note, UTU Local 1594, which represents operators in Red Arrow, will hold a mass membership meeting on Sunday in Upper Darby, which will include an update on negotiations and a potential strike authorization vote. Frontier's contracts are set to expire April 6. (I had initially missed this one; I guess I was too busy laughing at Gil Spencer's Friday column.)

Also on Friday, the Inquirer ran a story on TWU 234 president Jean Alexander, who was honored by the Pennsylvania chapter of the AFL-CIO at their annual convention at the Wyndham Philadelphia at Franklin Plaza, which coincidentially, was the same hotel where negotiations took place.

Thursday, March 18, 2004


KYW NewsRadio 1060 reported this morning that PATCO is planning to add weekend and holiday service at the City Hall station starting next month. This is apparently in response to the opening of the River Line and requests from students and staff at Rutgers-Camden (the item, unfortunately, is not posted online). Opening City Hall station on weekends will improve access to the Rutgers campus and to Campbell's Field for travelers coming from the Jersey end of the PATCO line. An offical release from PATCO should be expected within a matter of days.


In addition to the Silverliner V story in the Regional news section, and the Phlash story in the Business section, there's one more transit-related story in today's Inquirer ... in the Food section of all places.

Freelance writer George Ingram profiles several interesting restaurants along the River Line corridor between Trenton and Palmyra. He also notes that there are no "first-rate" dining spots in Camden proper (unless you count the Dunkin Donuts near the Walter Rand Transportation Center, in which some vagrant opens the front door for you apparently qualifies as "high quality service" among Camden City dining establishments, but that's another story).

Somehow, I doubt that Mr. Ingram will ever do a similar profile about dining spots along major regional rail lines, even though that sounds like a pretty interesting series for someone to work on (though probably not me, since I don't have that much time on my hands).


The Inquirer also reports today that the Phlash service managed by the City of Philadelphia and formerly operated by SEPTA employees out of Germantown will return starting next month. The Phlash, which fell victim to budget cuts by Emperor Street (D-Philadelphia/various wiretaps) last year will return thanks to outside funding from PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The service will now be operated by Philadelphia Trolley Works, after a competitive bid process involving the Center City District and other entities. The plans are to use replica trolley buses painted purple to operate over a similar routing to the previous Phlash service, however the new loop will neither serve the South Street nor the Philadelphia Zoo (not to be confused with Philadelphia City Council, which can, at times, turn into a zoo).


Today's Inquirer ran a profile piece on United Transit Systems, which is/was to be awarded the Silverliner V contract before Kawasaki obtained an injunction from a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge. Very little is mentioned about the ongoing suit, however, there is some references to the problem-plagued N-5 and M-4 rail car orders from 10-15 years ago. It also points out that Kawasaki hasn't exactly been as reliable with some of its orders, particularly the MARC and Long Island double-deck cars.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Most of the items to be voted on by the SEPTA Board at next week's "rubber stamp" session are routine items for parts replacement relating to the VOH project, and other routine matters. However, there are a few highlights of interest to point out:

  • Three lease agreements will be voted on relating to the new Frankford Terminal retail area. Dunkin Donuts, An Original Soft Pretzel Factory, and the Charles J. Brimmer, Inc. flower and gift shop will become the first three tenants at the new terminal building.
  • For the third time since last year, SEPTA will attempt to award a contract for bike racks on the Neoplan artic, NABI, and 5400-series New Flyer bus fleet. The most recent contract was awarded to a Bucks County firm, however it is believed that they went out of business. As such, the contract is expected to go to SportWorks Northwest, the Seattle-area based supplier which built the racks for the ElDorado and 5500/5600-series New Flyers.
  • SEPTA is expected to acquire 1.3 acres of land adjacent to the Trevose Rail Station (R3 West Trenton) in Bensalem Twp for the addition of 112 additional parking spaces, thus more than doubling the number of available spaces at that station (95). The present parking lot at Trevose is presently at full capacity during peak hours.
  • SEPTA is planning to replace carpeting on five floors of 1234 Market at a cost of $361,681. They couldn't have timed that any better, now could they?


After 33 years of service to the people of Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium will be imploded in a matter of seconds on Sunday. As a result, SEPTA is forced to divert several bus routes around the Sports Complex area in South Philadelphia starting at 5:00am and until Philadelphia Police give notifications:

  • The Broad Street Line will be cut back to Snyder, with a bus-bridge in effect between Snyder, Oregon, and Pattison stations. Buses, however, will not be able to access Pattison station, so they are forced to layover on Broad north of "Martelli" Avenue (the correct name of this street will not be used until St. Joe's is out of the NCAA's (or until further notice) in protest of that idiot from CBS calling out Hawks coach Phil Martelli last Sunday).
  • Route C will also be cut back to Broad and "Martelli", but will layover at Broad and Pollock.
  • Route G will operate its regular southbound routing to 3 St/Pattison Av (even though it's in the "restricted zone", then operate via 3 St instead of 7 St to "Martelli" Avenue, then resume normal routing via Oregon.
  • Route 17 Navy Yard service will operate as follows from 20 St/Pattison Av, then via Pattison, Penrose, and 26 St to the rear gate of the Navy Yard.
  • Route 23 service will not operate any trips to 10 St/Bigler St; all service will "pullout only via Southern Depot, then via 20 St, "Martelli", and Broad St, then layover at Broad and Oregon. Whether this affects the rest of the line remains to be seen.
  • Route 68 will reportedly not be affected, however since it loops around via Broad, "Martelli", and 10 St, it's possible that the layover loop will be adjusted accordingly; no passengers are picked up or dropped off on this segment of the line.


There's an increasing possibility that SEPTA will initiate a fare increase later this year, although SEPTA is not officially saying one way or the other. The Inquirer reported yesterday that a 22-percent fare hike in the base fare from the current $2.00 to $2.45 would allegedly close the $70 million budget gap SEPTA is currently facing. And now, SEPTA Treasurer Joe Casey offered the understatement of the year:

"You would lose riders on that," [Casey] said. Inquirer


It didn't take long for SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information to backtrack from yesterday's report:

"I can’t comment whether there will be a fare increase in the next budget -- not at this time," said Richard Maloney, SEPTA director of media relations.

"We are facing, and stated publicly for some time now, that we’re facing a $70 million deficit in our operating budget for fiscal year 2005," Maloney said, "and we will have to go public with our plans on that budget some time during April."

"What SEPTA needs at this moment is a long-term predictable funding formula for public transportation here at SEPTA and statewide," Maloney said.
Delaware County Daily Times

There are probably some who think SEPTA needs a change in management (and if I were king of the world, Maloney would be the second to go, following, of course, Fearless Leader), but that's another rant for another time.

In any case, watch out for a lot of rhetoric from advocacy groups for the disadvantaged, up to and including illegal disruptions of service as the weeks and months progress.

Although, if SEPTA proposes a slew of service cuts as they did last year, the fare increase may end up on the back-burner. Which could be what SEPTA is hoping for...

"We are still crunching the numbers... . The public at large wants the service," Casey said. "We received very little response [last year] from people that did not want a fare increase." Inquirer

Of course there was very little response about a fare hike last year. Everyone from Chestnut Hill to Aston to the Bristols was worried about losing bus and rail services to even worry about a fare hike. Perhaps the labor negotiations will bring a fare hike into the foreground this time around.


According to sources at the Germantown shops, the 5700-series New Flyers are beginning to arrive there, presumably to train mechanics on the new ZF transmission that will become part of the next three series of New Flyers arriving on SEPTA property. To follow up an earlier post, here's what will probably happen:

  • Midvale will get the first batch of 40 new buses (5713-5752), as they presently have 42* of the oldest remaining Neoplan DK buses in service. The DKs are mainly used on the 23, 56, and 57, though a few have reportedly snuck in on other wheelchair accessible lines. It appears that the Flyers will be a one-for-one replacement for the DKs at Midvale.
  • Frankford will reportedly be next on the list (5753-5792), as there are 11 DKs and 23 EBs assigned there as well, along with a few EBs; these buses are mainly used on the trackless lines, which will still reportedly be restored next month, thus potentially freeing up more Neos for reassignment.
  • Southern, which has the bulk of the EBs still in service (35), will get 15 diesel low floors (5793-5807) in addition to the 20 hybrids (5831H-5850H) due on the property this summer. Again, this is a one-for-one replacement once they hyrbids arrive, so some EBs will probably be held there until the summer.
  • The remaining DKs (5) and a few EBs (25) are presently assigned to Callowhill (which will get 5808-5820 after Southern gets their buses) for weekday use on the 15, 46, and selected school trippers. There's a possibility that some older Neos will remain at Callowhill until the arrival of the PCC-II cars for the 15/Girard line LRV conversion project, which may not take place until later this year or earlier next year. At last report, there are presently 4 PCC-II cars in storage at Elmwood.
  • Red Arrow will get the last 10 new buses (5821-5830). More than likely, they will force the moving of some Neoplans out of Red Arrow, much to the relief of riders on the 104, 113, and other lines deemed to be low-priority by management. Red Arrow has no DKs or EBs (the remaining ones were moved last year to city garages), so the most likely candidate for transfer will be the 10 city-spec EIs (3255, 3260-3265, and 3291-3293).
  • Comly will not be getting any 5700s, however, they still have DK 3073 and 26 EBs, which are mainly held for school trippers. It's probable that some surplus Neo EIs will be moved from Frankford to Comly for the same purpose (once trackless service is restored), as there appear to be enough NABIs and 5500-series New Flyers to hold down regular service.
  • Frontier will also not get any 5700s, as they are in the process of recieving 18 Champion cutaways (2070-2087) to replace the 14 remaining Fords still in service. (On a side note, I've noticed nothing but ElDorados working the 92/133 over the past few days, however, 6021 block has occasionally seen a Ford working the line - as I speak, 2034 passed by, running very late getting into West Chester.) There may be a few ElDorados (or even a couple of NABIs) being moved from Frontier; if that were to happen, they may end up back at Red Arrow.

Everything, of course, is subject to changes, as is always the case with SEPTA. However, it appears that in the end run, there won't be as many bus transfers as in years past.

* Numbers current as of March 15, and are subject to change upon confirmation of buses being pulled from service.


Two hearings are planned next month to propose routing changes to four of the Frontier routes operating out of southern Bucks County. The changes affect the 127, 128, 129, and 130. Several poor performing route segments on the 127, 128, and 129 will be eliminated, while the 130 will be re-routed to serve a new office park in Bensalem Twp while also offering improved service within the Newtowns. While details are not yet available, this is what is known so far:

  • It would appear that the 127 would no longer operate via Bristol Pike and Newbold Rd in Falls Twp, thus eliminating a very convoluted routing between the Levittown-Tullytown Rail Station (R7 Trenton) and the Morrisville/Trenton area.
  • The segments to be eliminated along the 128 appear to be within downtown Bristol, along the Newportville Rd/Newport Rd corridor in the Croydon district of Bristol Twp, and a portion of the routing in Tullytown Borough.
  • Duplicative routings in Middletown (Bucks) and Bristol Twp on the 129 would be discontinued, with new service proposed for traffic generators north and east of the Oxford Valley mall.
  • The 130 would be re-routed to serve the Horizon Corporate Center in Bensalem Twp, and offer improved coverage of the Village of Newtown and Newtown Shopping Center.

The hearings will be held on Tuesday, April 13 (Sheraton Bucks County, 400 Oxford Valley Rd, Middletown (Bucks)) and Thursday, April 15 (Radisson Hotel, US 1/Old Lincoln Hwy in the Trevose district of Bensalem Twp). Both hearings begin at 7:00pm. More details on the proposed route changes will be posted when the become available.

Monday, March 15, 2004


According to reliable sources, this will be the breakdown of the new 5700-series New Flyers, which should begin arriving at Wyoming by the end of the month, with number of buses and their likely numbers:

Midvale - 40 buses (5713-5752)
Frankford - 40 buses (5753-5792)
Southern - 15 buses (5793-5807)
Callowhill - 13 buses (5808-5820)
Red Arrow - 10 buses (5821-5830)

Later this summer, hybrids 5831H-5850H will be delivered to Southern. The arrival of the 5700s will mark the end of the non-wheelchair accessible Neoplans presently operating out of several city garages.


The first of 28 new Freightliner/Champion cutaway buses are now on the road. 2070 was reported to be in service out of Frontier Depot this morning (and how much do you want to bet it was working in Lower Bucks?). The first 18 Champions (2070-2087) appear to be heading to Frontier, with the remaining 10 going to contractors, most likely Keystone (314) and Germantown (310/311). This means that the 1997-98 Fords are about to be pulled out of service, and not a minute too soon. There's no word on whether or not a second order will be placed to replace the 1999 Fords (2056-2069) currently in use at Germantown and by Krapf's (204 and 207/WHIRL).


The Inquirer reported some of the items that came out of the one-year contract in today's editions.

For starters, in lieu of a pay increase (which usually averages 3 to 4 percent), TWU workers would recieve a one-time, $1,000 bonus. Additionally, the status quo remains on health-care issues.

Some union members, though, seemed uncomfortable over the fact that this was a one-year deal instead of the traditional 3-year pact:

"It's like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound," said Darryl Nutter, 43, a shop steward and engineer on the Market-Frankford Line. "Personally, I wouldn't accept [the deal]. I would like to have a three-year contract in our pocket." Inquirer

Meanwhile, the health-care issue remains at the forefront of the contract negotiations:

SEPTA now has a health-care contract with Independence Blue Cross that caps annual price increases at 15 percent. But once that deal expires in August 2005, SEPTA can expect a 30 percent increase in health-care premiums, sources at both SEPTA and Local 234 said.

In its talks with union workers, SEPTA had sought a 16-month labor deal that would last until the end of the Independence Blue Cross agreement.

But Local 234 was wary of any contract that would end in the summer, when ridership is lower and the threat of a strike less potent. So the labor deal was capped at one year.

SEPTA once again warned of fare hikes and service cuts when it's FY 2005 budget is announced later this month.

So much for changes, huh?


Philadelphia Daily News

Delaware County Daily Times


Apparently, there is more pull in the People's Republic of Lower Merion than one suspected. A few weeks ago, the Main Line Times noted that township officials were compaining over the condition of the Wynnewood R-5 bridge over the Paoli Line. Well, according to this week's edition, the Main Line Times reports the following:

Not much more impressive is the achievement of an accord between SEPTA and Amtrak for repairs to the Wynnewood R-5 bridge. Obviously dangerous, the bridge has sat for years while the transit authorities took turns dodging responsibility for the infrastructure they both rely upon. The ongoing manueverings between the two parties weren't quite the Mideast "Peace Process," but they did seem to drag along almost as long and as futilely. SEPTA and Amtrak are two of a kind, though, agencies whose high-handedness is matched only by their inefficiency, two junior Mussolinis who can't make the trains run on time.

Sounds like they've described SEPTA perfectly...

Sunday, March 14, 2004


Those words from TWU Local 234 President Jean Alexander marked the opening remarks at a press conference moments ago announcing an agreement between TWU and SEPTA. KYW NewsRadio 1060's David Madden reports that the tentative agreement, reached shortly before 10:00pm Sunday night after a lengthy negotiation period. The headline (Alexander's quote) makes it appear as though SEPTA workers may not be forced to pay a portion of their insurance premium, though nothing will be confirmed until the contract is ratified. This means that all SEPTA buses and trains will continue to run as scheduled tomorrow morning. Which means the strike plans are pretty much a moot point ... until next year.


After years of political hand-wringing and other political embarassments, NJ Transit's controversial River Line connecting Trenton and Camden began accepting passengers this morning. Despite harsh criticism from this web site over many of the decision regarding the planning and construction of the nearly $1 billion system - originally named the "Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System" - I took a ride on the River Line this morning. Let's just say that all the delays were worth the wait, as the ride was smooth along the entire corridor. That's not to say that the first official day of revenue service following yesterday's dog-and-pony show by New Jersey politicians, NJ Transit officials, and assorted hacks and hangers-on wasn't without a few snags.

A lot of passengers - mostly the curious and a lot of railfans - boarded at Trenton. The lines for the TVMs at Trenton station were so long just 2 minutes before the train departed that passengers were simply told to board without a ticket so they didn't have to wait 30 minutes for the next train.

The stop announcement system repeats the same announcements (ie. No eating, drinking, or smoking; you must have a validated ticket to ride; please check your personal belongings, etc.) constantly throughout the entire trip, which can be very annoying on any bus or rail line. Additionally, the visual stop display actually read, "Thank you for riding the New Jersey Transit." (We presume this is a lot different from various Ohio State alums referring to their alma mater as "THE Ohio State University," but annoying nonetheless.)

Arriving at Camden, it was observed that several of the TVM's were not accepting dollar bills; among the locations with this problem was the E-Centre stop at the end of the line and the northbound Aquarium stop (the southbound did accept bills). Also, from an initial look, none of the TVMs inside the Trenton Railroad Station appeared to be programmed to sell River Line tickets (in fairness, I didn't really get that good of a look).

There is also no signal prioritization along some of the street-running portions of the line, particularly between Walter Rand Transportation Center and the E-Centre in downtown Camden City, or at least none that I was aware of. That may be several years down the road, but we'll see.

And, last but by no means least, the train arrived at the E-Centre 6 minutes late.

Yet, in spite of these relatively minor complaints, there were quite a few positives from this trip.

For starters, the train really flew along the sections between Cass St/Trenton and Burlington Towne Center, and between Palmyra and 36 St/Camden. Even the street-running portion was fairly manageable, at least speed-wise. The tracks are adjacent to the curbs along S 4 St, Cooper St, and Delaware Av, and it appears the construction of the tracks will make for easier operations when compared to downtown Baltimore City.

Every station is built flush with the interior floor of the rail car, which would presumably make it a lot easier for wheelchair passengers to board the trains. The platforms themselves are a few inches above the rails.

The cars themselves are powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine in a format similar to SEPTA's diesel-electric hybrid buses. The engine - housed in the center portion of the car - provides the electricity which powers the rail cars. This makes for a much quieter ride than many people anticipated.

The interior of the articulated diesel multiple-unit LRVs featured high-back seats save for near the doors of the cars, which were fold-up seats in areas where passengers in wheelchairs would sit. There is a luggage rack, but only in the high-floor portion near the operator's cab.

For the most part, it's highly doubtful that NJT can count on two full rail-cars of passengers on most trips after the initial "novelty" period wears off over the next few weeks. However, NJT is making the best of what had turned into a political hot potato (remember that this system was initiated during the Whitman Administration, and even then there was controversy about the routing and a future Camden-Glassboro line).

To its credit, Burlington County has been touting the line for quite some time, even initiating the expansion of the county-owned BurLink system to connect with the River Line prior to the official launch of the system. Whether it actually helps the Riverfront towns remains to be seen. But, I guess that's why the run the system, now isn't it?


As of 7:00pm, negotiations between TWU 234 and SEPTA are ongoing at the Wyndham Philadelphia (nee Wyndham Franklin Plaza) Hotel in Center City. According to reports from KYW NewsRadio 1060's David Madden, TWU President Jean Alexander indicated that progress is being made on the health care issue. However, Alexander cautioned that if insufficent progress is being made by the time 12:01am rolls around, the union will go out on strike. The message was made very clear by the union: "Settle or strike." This is a contrast to past negotiations when the union was willing to extend the negotiations past the deadline regardless of the status of negotiations.

One sign that could be taken either as a forthcoming settlement or a forthcoming strike was the arrival of Harry Lombardo, former TWU 234 President and current TWU International Vice President for the union's Transit, Utility, University and Service Division. Lombardo arrived at the Wyndham shortly after 2:00pm. That was right about the time KYW began airing soundbites from Alexander.

Shortly after Lombardo's arrival, the press got the same spiel from SEPTA's Minster of Mis-Information Richard Maloney, who didn't directly address whether or not significant progress was being made in negotiations.

Given how ambivalent the union has been on the health care benefits issue, it wouldn't be at all surprising if either SEPTA is backpedalling on its demands that the union contribute towards their health care costs or if the union is lying. Meanwhile, with less than 5 hours to go until the contract expires, an entire city waits on pins and needles.

Friday, March 12, 2004


SEPTA is soliciting requests for 50 new trackless trolleys with off-wire capabilities. This rumor had been circulating among some transit activists in Northeast Philadelphia for a while, but had not been confirmed until SEPTA posted it's solicitation request on-line today. This, coupled with the impending return of the AM General trackless trolleys to the Northeast routes (59, 66, and 75) seems to indicate a rare shift in attitude at 1234 Market. That said, it's very possible that either the FTA or the City of Philadelphia may have nudged SEPTA into it's new position.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


I have complied a list of service changes and tips in the event of a CTD work stoppage, including information SEPTA has, for whatever reason, chosen to to distribute.

Also, the Delaware County Daily Times ran a strike contigency article as it relates to Delaware County.

My time has been fairly limited this week, otherwise, I'd offer a lot more than what I have been offering. Let's just say I'm pretty ticked off at both sides right about now...


SEPTA isn't the only one making contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage on Monday.

The Daily News reports that the School District of Philadelphia plans to keep its schools open, despite the fact that nearly 20,000 students - including most high school students - use CTD routes. It's going to be interesting to see how poor attendance will be during the first few days of a work stoppage (and, yes, to those contributors to the guestbook, message boards, and other parts of this site, I'm aware you're going to be impacted, and I feel your pain).

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


The Burlington County Times has been promoting the hell out of the Trenton-Camden River Line (aka Christie's Boondoggle). These are articles that were posted within the psat few days, leading up to Sunday's official start of revenue service:

Sunday's Inquirer also had a detailed write-up on the start of River Line service.


SEPTA is preparing for the worst on Monday, as it has posted it's "official" strike survival guide. By tomorrow, I will have additional information posted regarding tips that SEPTA doesn't (or won't) mention.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


In between labor talks and procurement controversies, SEPTA added a new weekday AM peak short-turn on the 111. The new trip, which took effect on Monday, will operate between Drexeline Shopping Center and 69 St Terminal, departing from Drexeline at 7:30am.


Today's Delaware County Daily Times and Philadelphia Daily News basically re-hashed much of the same information from Sunday's strike authorization vote that was reported in Monday's Inquirer. The only real difference from the Daily Times' account and the Inky's account were comments made by SEPTA's Deputy Minister of Mis-Information Jim Whitaker. Other than that, it's virtually the same.


A tractor-trailer attempting to back up into the parking lot of a motorcycle dealership caused some headaches on West Chester Pike bus routes earlier today.

The truck was attempting to back into the Honda parking lot on West Chester Pike near Montrose at around 1:40pm. A 104 bus from West Chester (3371/4254 block) was one of several vehicles that was stuck behind it. After about 15-20 minutes of waiting (and inaction by the Upper Darby Township police, which allowed a 124 deadheading back to the depot to back up, then waited about 15 minutes before allowing the 104 to back up), the 4254 block - and every West Chester Pike bus after it - reached the terminal via Township Line and Lynn Blvd. As a result, the 2:05pm to West Chester left 20 minutes late. Several other buses (including a 112 and a 123) were also late as a result.

Monday, March 08, 2004


Today's Inquirer confirms reports posted here yesterday that TWU Local 234 authorized a strike should negotiations break down this week. And for all that talk about civil negotiations last month? Forget it.

The debt-ridden transit agency's proposal is "the worst in the history" of Transport Workers Union Local 234, union president Jean Alexander told 1,800 union members yesterday. The standing-room-only crowd granted Alexander the authority to strike with a roar and a standing ovation in the ballroom of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 hall in South Philadelphia.

"The trend is that employees pay for health care," Alexander told the crowd. "But Local 234 does not follow the trend. We set trends."

SEPTA is proposing a wage freeze for CFY 2005 and CFY 2006, with a 2 percent raise in CFY 2007 and CFY 2008. There was no mention of any lump-sum payouts as had been rumored yesterday. In addition, SEPTA is proposing that union members contribute 20 percent of health-care costs. Under SEPTA's plan, retirees would have three years of post-retirement prescription coverage as opposed to the present lifetime coverage presently offered. The union is obviously not thrilled with the proposal.

"If they stick to these demands, we will definitely be out," said SEPTA bus mechanic Tommy Gee, 58. "I do not want to go out, but I will."

Rare and prized benefits such as those are worth fighting for, said Anita Booker, 36.

"Most of us are here for the benefits," said Booker, a bus driver and mother of two elementary school-age boys. "In these jobs, you work 12 or 15 hours a day. I stay in it for the health care for me and my children."

Despite the rhetoric from the union, SEPTA sent Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney out to assure riders that all is well.

"I am optimistic we can come to an agreement," Maloney said. "Both sides are aware of the challenge in front of us." Inquirer

Amazingly enough, at least one other person on the SEPTA payroll is optimistic about a possible settlement.

"Women raise kids. They are the backbone of the family. The don't let their egos get in the way," said (Midvale bus operator Bill) James, 51. "I am hoping that [SEPTA general manager] Faye Moore and Jean [Alexander] can work this out. Between these two women, maybe we can get a contract without all the bitter hostility of the past." Inquirer

I can't say much about Jean Alexander, but as for Fearless Leader? This is a general manager who is absolutely hated among the rank-and-file because of her background as an accountant with limited day-to-day operations experience. This is a GM who has this concept about being "off the clock" when the clock strikes 5:00pm and a major emergency develops. This is a GM who is slowly turning into a diva following her refusal to even address the Silverliner V controversy (remember the remarks in the Daily News?).

Yet, in spite of any new contract, SEPTA is still talking about fare hikes and service cuts. This looks to be a long year for SEPTA's riders.

Sunday, March 07, 2004


The Inquirer did an in-depth report on the boondoggle-in-waiting known as Schuylkill Valley. The article highlights many of the political obstacles which caused the project to not only skyrocket in cost, but to be rejected by the FTA for New Starts funding. The article notes that Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market are now punting questions on Schuylkill Valley over to PennDOT, Congressman James Gerlach (R-6), and Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet). That's the way to stick up for your project, now isn't it?


I can now officially confirm that the trackless trolleys are returning to service within a matter of weeks. ETB #874 was seen today in the outside yard at Frankford Depot being cleaned up by a maintenance worker. The earliest reports indicate that trackless service will be restored on the 59, 66, and 75 sometime next month. Whether they stay in service is another story, however...


Starting tomorrow, Market St west of 63 St will be reduced to one lane due to construction relating the Market St Elevated project. The 21 and Market-Frankford Owl will be impacted significantly. Whether or not construction will continue during a work stoppage remains to be seen.


It appears that the Transport Workers Union has decided to play hardball...

According to gossip around the depots, TWU 234 reportedly has voted to authorize a strike, should it be neccesary. This can be taken as one of two things: (1) It's just a formality, as the union may prepare to extend the negotations further, but probably not for a year as had been previously discussed; or (2) The breakdown of negotiations on Friday afternoon had more of an impact than anyone could've anticipated.

Another rumor - this one from a driver out of the Northeast - is that the new CBA - if and when it's ratified by both sides - could be a four-year pact. SEPTA had initially proposed a five-year contract, but the union initially objected before both sides compromised on four years.

Whatever the outcome, it looks as though everyone - including yours truly - will be dusting off all of the strike contingency plans from 1998 and 2001 (even though they weren't needed in '01) as a strike seems to be looming on the horizon.

Saturday, March 06, 2004


You know it's getting down to crunch time when there are less than 10 days left in the current collective bargaining agreement between TWU Local 234 and SEPTA. This is usually the time of the negotiating period when rumors start to fly and confusion rules the day.

According to an early posting in the guestbook, there was a report that the TWU rank-and-file would meet for a mass membership meeting tomorrow night at the Sheetworkers Union Hall at Delaware Av and Washington Av in South Philadelphia. [Note that I'm not 100 percent certain of the actual location, but I did recall seeing a couple of flyers floating around the system (I think one was at Pattison Station) noting a "mass membership meeting" at that particular union hall. Hopefully, one of my South Philly correspondents can confirm (1) the correct name of the hall and (2) the actual location since my memory can be hit-and-miss at times.]

The initial report indicated that a strike authorization vote could take place at that time. It had appeared that the union was willing to extend the contract for a full year in order to allow both Harrisburg and Washington to get their acts together, thus making strike rumors moot. But...

Another posting in the guestbook reported that union leadership walked out of the negotiations shortly after 2:00pm Friday following an offer by SEPTA of a 2 percent raise in CFY 2005 and CFY 2007, with a $500.00 payout in lieu of a raise in CFY 2006.

(For clarification purposes, FY 2005 = 16 March 2004-15 March 2005, FY 2006 = 16 March 2005-15 March 2006; and FY 2007 = 16 March 2006-15 March 2007; these periods will be referred to as "Contract Fiscal Years" or "CFY" to avoid confusion with "Fiscal Year" proper - July 1-June 30 - throughout negotiations.)

So much for that goodwill between Fearless Leader and TWU 234 President Jean Alexander. I have a gut feeling that once the union gets wind of this proposal, talk of any extension in negotiations may head downhill.

Friday, March 05, 2004


The 10 will operate "over-the-top" via the diversion route to the 40 St El Station this weekend due to track work in the 36 St Tunnel. The 11, 13, 34, and 36 will continue to operate via the tunnel. (Corrected information)

On an unrelated note, has anyone been out on Woodland Av lately? There are several noticable potholes in the track-beds along Woodland near 59 and 60 Sts heading towards Darby. While SEPTA has in recent years work on the tracks along Chester, Baltimore, Elmwood, and Lancaster avenues, Woodland hasn't been rehabbed as of yet. One would anticipate that if the track crews from Elmwood are doing a major rehab project this year, it would focus on Woodland.

Well, if the Capital Budget is to be believed, then this summer's project will focus on the Woodland Av corridor between 42 and 47 Sts and between 52 and 58 Sts. That should make for some interesting travel patterns on the 11 and 36 if and when the projects begin.

Fortunately for Woodland Av riders, this is a capital project, so the funding should be in place. Given SEPTA's past practices, diversions and/or bus bridges will be in place starting with the June sign-ups.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Officials in Parkesburg are considering relocating the Amtrak station from its present location in hopes of bringing R5 service back to the western fringes of Chester County. A new station is only part of a comprehensive revitalization plan repoted by the Daily Local News in Wednesday's editions. R5 service last operated to Parkesburg in 1997, when it was eliminated as part of a round of service cuts.

The one problem for SEPTA restoration of service to Parkesburg is the lack of a nearby cross-over; when service was discontinued, trains were forced to dead-head from Parkesburg to Lancaster to turn around before returning back to Frazer Yard in East Whiteland, which undoubtedly was a main reason for cutting service back to Downingtown. Service was restored to Thorndale just a few years ago. Chester County officials have been lobbying SEPTA and PennDOT (which manages Amtrak's Harrisburg to Philadelphia rail service) to install a cross-over east of Parkesburg station, which would allow SEPTA to turn trains at Parkesburg instead of Lancaster.

Last year, officials in Coatesville were also contemplating renovations to the train station in the city's east end, also as a possible precursor to improved Amtrak or restored SEPTA service.


Today's Inquirer reports that State GOP Chairman Alan Paul Novak was paid $10,000/month by United Transit Systems, LLC, according to documents released by the company.

Novak's firm was hired at the $10,000 monthly fee in 2002 to "actively" contact SEPTA board members to "introduce" the South Korean firm, the form states.

"This introduction has been educational in nature covering the company's history... . Initial contact with SEPTA board members began in December 2002 and will continue through 2003," the form states.

Along with Novak, the lobbyists actively working on United Transit's behalf for that fee were Craig L. Tucker, an employee of Novak's firm, and Albert Mezzaroba, a Philadelphia Democrat and president of the Convention Center, who is a fishing buddy of Pasquale "Pat" Deon, chairman of the SEPTA board of directors.

The report also notes that Kawasaki, who successfully obtained an injunction against SEPTA regarding the Silverliner V contract last month, also had hired former SEPTA executive Robert G. Bickhart, but failed to file the proper disclosure forms with the FTA.

Kawasaki said it interpreted the requirements differently. It concluded it only had to file a brief statement certifying that it was neither using federal funds for lobbying nor lobbying federal officials. Kawasaki did file that statement with SEPTA.

A Kawasaki official yesterday contended that Bickhart, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), was a "representative" rather than a "lobbyist."

"Lobbying is if you're trying to influence," Kawasaki marketing manager Jitendra Tomar said.

"We never did that kind of thing... . You could say he [Bickhart] is our representative... to keep a watch on what these Koreans are doing... to see and give us information on that. I am very clear he is not a lobbyist."

Reached yesterday, Bickhart said he was not a lobbyist for Kawasaki.

"I was helping them discern their way around SEPTA and the region, and who might be important people to be in contact with," Bickhart said. He described his role as a "government affairs" consultant.

It certainly sounds like splitting hairs to me. Whether or not this has an impact on the March 15 court hearing remains to be seen.

In addition, Sumitomo Corporation, another unsuccessful bidder, had hired former SEPTA Board member Robert Wooten to lobby the board. Wooten was reportedly paid $20,000 for his services.

Bombardier reportedly did not hire an outside lobbyist as part of the Silverliner V procurement.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


The Albany, N.Y.-based Capital Business Review reports that that Capital District Transportation Authority recently hired away the person who was head of maintenance at Wyoming Shops to a similar position in Albany. Raymond Melleady was named Deputy Executive Director of Operations for CDTA - which serves Albany and its surrounding suburbs - effective Monday.

Melleady was the target of a grievance filed by TWU 234 two years ago in a dispute over disicpline action. This was raised in the February 28, 2002 SEPTA Board Meeting (this links to the TWU's "spin" on the proceedings). Apparently, it wasn't that big of an issue to SEPTA management, who allowed Melleady to remain in his position, and rightfully so.

Melleady will be missed by many of the bus fans in the area, as he was willing to provide information regarding the NABI overhaul process to other contributors to this site, and was considered by this writer to be accessible regarding the SEPTA fleet. Albany's gain is SEPTA's loss...

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


Last week, Delaware County Daily Times transportation writer John Roman noted in his "Road Watch" column his complaints regarding the ticket machines at the 69 St park-and-ride lot. In this past Sunday's edition, Roman gets a response from SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information.

Regarding my complaint that the $2-fee machine should accept bills not just coins and tokens, a SEPTA spokesperson said it doesn’t have any plans to upgrade the machines in the near future.

"They’re expensive to change over -- and you know that we’re in a deficit right now -- so I don’t see that happening anytime soon," says press officer Sylvana Hoyos.

Fine. The thing is that upgrading these machines falls under the capital budget, not the operating budget. It would be nice if SEPTA could've clarified that fact, but why else would I be referring them as the Ministry of "Mis-Information?"

As far as the screwed-up dates and times on my parking lot receipt which was wrongly dated Feb. 18 when it should have been Feb. 20 -- which I faxed to SEPTA -- Sylvana replied: "It’s definitely a malfunction; they are electronic. It’s being corrected."

When a motorist parks his or her car in the morning before commuting, the paid-for spot is good until 1 a.m., she said.

I’m sure SEPTA has bigger problems like that disputed contract for new subway trains [he's referring to the Silverliner V contract - ed.]. But if customers don’t complain about service -- except at budget hearings -- then they deserve what they put up with. So let them know how you feel.

Therein lies the problem. People are always complaining about SEPTA, but never do so at public hearings on the operating budget. Of course, this site has pointed out enough problems regarding SEPTA - especially on the Red Arrow bus lines - to keep Mr. Roman busy for a couple of months.


Apparently, the feud between SEPTA and residents of the Garden City district of Nether Providence Township has escalated...

According to some reports from the field, residents have been parking their cars along the 118 routing through Garden City in such a way that it's been impossible for drivers to operate in that area. As a result, SEPTA may be putting in a new routing on the 118 as early as next week.

It certainly hasn't helped that the Nether Providence Police haven't exactly been encouraging residents to move their cars to allow buses to operate. For all we know, though, it's possible that the township may be silently encouraging residents to obstruct buses by not enforcing the laws.

I'd expect more details to become available shortly; remember this is only a rumor right now, and if I have a chance to ride the 118 this week, I'll be able to see for myself.