Saturday, May 29, 2004


What a wonderful way to start the holiday weekend...

Two R5 trains were involved in an accident at 30 St Station during the height of the evening rush. The #567 (5:48pm Malvern Express) had pulled out of the station, however, according to WPVI-TV, stopped suddenly. The #4569 (5:54pm Bryn Mawr Local) was unable to brake in time, rear-ending the #567. Five people were reportedly injured, with 2 taken to Hahnemann Hosptial.

With all the problems on the Regional Rail system in recent months (on-time performance, wire problems along the Reading trunk, etc), this is the latest headache that SEPTA can do without.

Based upon the report, it appears that there's some problems with dispatching heading into 30 St. It wouldn't be that shocking, however. A few Sundays ago, I was on an R2 Marcus Hook train (the #4219; 2:38pm from 30 St to Marcus Hook), which departed a couple of minutes early. The #2139 (R1 Airport) scheduled to depart 30 St at 2:34pm, had pulled up right behind it. The #2139 was literally a few feet behind the the #4219. To make things worse, the #4219, for whatever reason, started to inch its way up the R1 Airport line instead of staying on the NEC. Someone at SEPTA apparently forgot to tell Amtrak that the #4219 had actually pulled ahead of the #2139.

I wonder if someone's going to end up doing an in-depth story on it...

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Based on recent observations, it appears that Frankford will be getting more of the 5700s than originally thought. So far, at least two of the 5700s that were supposed to go to Southern are now reportedly at Frankford. At least three of Frankford's 3400s (3428, 3429, and 3433) are now at Southern. It looks as though someone at Frankford pulled a few strings to get more 5700s instead of turning Southern into an all-New Flyer yard. More details will follow as time permits and confirmations can be made...


Although work committments prevented me from attending, SEPTA officially dedicated the new terminal building at the Bridge-Pratt El terminal (sorry, I still can't bring myself to say "Frankford Transportation Center"). From the Northeast News Gleaner:

The fifth annual Frankford Arts Festival carried special meaning last weekend as residents, workers, and government officials celebrated Frankford's 150th anniversary as a part of the city.

It also provided a backdrop for the dedication of SEPTA's new Frankford Transportation Center at Bridge Street and Frankford Avenue.

"Finally the lights are on in Frankford," said SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore. "We are no longer standing in the shadows of Philadelphia."

Once described as "the crown jewel of the SEPTA system" by Dr. Irving Smiler, the late president of the Bridge and Pratt Business and Professional Association, the terminal currently serves over 50,000 commuters daily. That is more than the equivalent to sold-out Phillies game.

"It took a while, but it was worth it," said former U.S. Rep. Robert A. Borski Jr. "This terminal used to be like the city's ugly stepchild, and dangerous. Now it has been made beautiful and pretty, bringing nothing but sunshine down on Frankford."

Frankford Group Ministry executive director and Frankford resident Rev. Robin Hynicka, said: "Between 1912 and 1922 when the rapid transit system here was established, it helped connect the Frankford community with the rest of its neighbors."

Holding up a copy of the site plans for the terminal, a document that included over 20 pages of input from Frankford residents, Mr. Hynicka continued: "Everything on this site plan is what was constructed here. But it's not the papers that matter, it's the voice of the people. It's their pride. Residents of Frankford have shown that they care by continuing to force improvements in their community and demand excellence from this terminal's construction.

"The elevated train before us here is an outward sign of our elevated spirits. It shows the city what it means to be 'Frankford Friendly,'" he said.

"This is your project," said Federal Transportation Authority (sic) official Howard Shipman of the $150 million project. "The people of Frankford faced all of the issues successfully, making it truly a job well done. Uncle Sam and the feds are proud to have been a part of this project."

The Project Management Institute used the dedication to honor the project's managers with the Delaware Valley award for their efficiency during the nine-day window in early 2004 when critical El tracks were removed and new ones were prepared for service.

"Considering a Phillies stadium (sized-crowd) comes here every day, officials on this Frankford Transportation Center project are to be commended," said PMI's Gary Sonin, "The project's local information team were able to almost seamlessly shuttle all the commuters to other terminals during the entire nine-day outage. It is amazing."

For once, that's praise that SEPTA actually deserves.


Yesterday, Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) announced that SEPTA would be recieving $1 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to a press release, details on as to how the money would be spent are, in typical SEPTA fashion, vague. The Governor's office was gracious enough to interrupt their daily cheesesteak brake to provide some details:

The Governor also provided details for the disbursement of the Commonwealth's portion of the SHSGP [State Homeland Security Grant Program - ed.], LETPP [Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program - ed.] and UASI [Urban Area Security Initiative - ed.]funds. Highlights include:

- $1 million to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) for acquisition of bomb detection dogs, facility security equipment and surveillance systems. These funds are in addition to the $3.1 million previously awarded to SEPTA under the UASI for both heavy and light rail.

Okay, fair enough. Now, if only SEPTA could get around to fixing some of those call boxes on the El, then we'd all be happy. The boxes at Girard still appear to be broken, but if I have time to confirm the status of these boxes, I will.


At today's "Rubber-stamp" meeting of the SEPTA Board, there was very little controversy. Come to think of it, there was very little of anything at today's 16 minute meeting. Among the highlights of action items voted on today:

  • The Montgomery County para-transit contract which was slated to have been awarded to First Transit was tabled for reasons unknown. The contract is currently held by Krapf's.
  • SEPTA will pay Norfolk Southern $285,000 to conduct a four-month passenger rail service assesment as part of the PennDOT Task Force on $chuylkill Valley.
  • The board approved a change order to Brookville to extend the completion date of the PCC-II contract to November 21. As a result, and as has been previously reported elsewhere, the return of LRT service on the 15/Girard line will see a mix of PCC-II and Kawasaki cars.

While Fearless Leader didn't provide a monthly report, she did respond to DVARP's Don Nigro over comments made by a SEPTA staffer at a conference a couple of months ago. Nigro had raised the possibility of dual-mode locomotives operating through the tunnel as part of $chuylkill Valley and possibly even a restored Lansdale-Quakertown corridor that is being studied by Bucks County. Chris Patton, one of the biggest supporters of the now-rejected "MetroRail" scheme within SEPTA, shot down that idea, citing "terrorism concerns."

When Nigro raised the issue at the meeting today, Fearless Leader responded by stating, "Individuals do not represent SEPTA; the General Manager (and the senior management team) speaks for SEPTA." Take that however you want, but to this observer, it appears that Fearless Leader isn't exactly sold on "MetroRail" as her immediate predecessor, Jack Leary.

With regards to the current status of PennDOT's Task Force on $chuylkill Valley, Fearless Leader indicated that the group has not yet gotten to a point where public comment can be taken at this point, since "there's nothing to comment on." To that extent, that's not unreasonable, considering that the task force doesn't seem to have a firm plan in place yet, and probably won't until after Norfolk Southern completes its review.

For the most part, that was about it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Due to a bridge replacement at Ridge Pike west of Sanatoga Road, both the 93 and Pottstown Urban Transit buses are being detoured for the next two months. Buses are being detoured off of Ridge Pike via Sanatoga Rd and Pleasant View Rd. Sanatoga Rd, incidentially, is narrow and has numerous sharp curves and moderate-graded hills which are difficult for most cars to negotiate, let alone 40-ft buses. Unfortunately for SEPTA and PUT, that's the only way buses can be routed while construction continues. Expect at least 10-15 minute delays as a result of this detour (although some early evening buses were arriving up to 25 minutes late into Norristown). SEPTA, however, has failed to post any notice on its website, unlike the notices for the 130.


Now that it's been made clear that the device found at Powelton Yard wasn't terror-related, there are still several unanswered questions over the entire incident.

The Inquirer and the Daily News offered full accounts of the incident. Comments will be posted later, but I'm sure you have an idea where they might be going...

Monday, May 24, 2004


There are reports of problems on both the El and R6 Norristown earlier today. The R6 was reportedly shut down apparently due to a rescue operation in the Schuylkill River near Miquon. The El was shut down between 5 St and 15 St due to "police activity" which could mean either a suspicious package or a medical emergency. More details to follow if they become available. (Originally posted May 24; 9:22pm)

FOLLOW-UP: The tristate-rr boards at YahooGroups confirmed that it was in fact a recovery operation that took place in the Schuylkill on Monday. According to reports, several kids were jumping off adjacent railroad bridges into the river. According to the Inquirer, a 16 year old Upper Merion boy drowned after jumping off of the Norfolk Southern bridge, which is west of the Norristown Transportation Center. The incident occured at around 2:20pm; a bus bridge was deployed on part of the R6 while rescue crews recovered the victim's body from the river.

Also, Tuesday's Inquirer reported two separate shutdowns and evacuations in Center City. Yesterday's El shut down was due to a suspicious package report at 11 St, which later turned out to be an abandoned duffel bag. In addition, Suburban Station was evacuated shortly after the AM peak due to a suspicious package which turned out to be somebody's lunch.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


In a follow-up piece yesterday, Channel 6 aired reaction over the botched handling of the suspicious device found at Powelton Yard earlier this month.

"It's just scary that they waited like that, they put lives in jeopardy I feel." - Naomi Jones of South Philadelphia

"With the situation going on in the country now it would seem that something should be checked out as soon as it is heard." - Harry Graves of North Philadelphia

Please. Remember that we're dealing with a police department that makes the Keystone Kops look like the New York City Police. Anyway...

SEPTA says it did check out the device, an infrared motion sensor and transmitter similar to one spray painted black placed along the tracks in the train storage yard on the approach to 30th Street. But how they checked it out is under serious scrutiny. Action News has learned a conductor found the device on May 5th. SEPTA employees took it to the maintenance shed and tried to disassemble it themselves. They later turned it over to SEPTA police who placed it in a locker for a week.

On May 13th, someone heard it beeping and decided to call the Philadelphia Police Bomb Squad. The bomb squad found it was not explosive and called the FBI. At that point, federal agents began a one thousand meter perimeter search of the area where the device was found. They were looking for other possible components and other evidence. Nothing else was found.

"We sent the device down to our labs." - FBI spokeswoman Jerri Williams

The FBI says there's no evidence the device is terror related and SEPTA says it was no threat to commuter trains ... [T]here is great consternation among some involved in the investigation. [The FBI says] between the time the device was found and the FBI conducted its search, whoever put it there had enough time to remove any other components or evidence that may have been placed there. SEPTA acknowledges it has a problem in the way the matter was handled.

"In my view, yes it represents a problem. It's one we're not pleased with, that's why we're investigating." - SEPTA AGM for Safety/Risk Management/A** Covering James Jordan

Remember that Jordan's previous job was a Public Integrity Officer responsible for overseeing the Philadelphia Police as a result of the infamous 39th District scandal in the late 1990s. Nothing like becoming a Rotating Resume at 1234 Market to toss one's integrity out the window, eh, Jimmy?

If Jordan still has a job after all of this settles, it will be surprising, but par for the course at SEPTA.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


Those those who wonder why I have little to no confidence in SEPTA's "rent-a-cops", here's a pretty damn good reason...

According to broadcast reports on ABC News, SEPTA employees reportedly found a suspicious device near one of the tracks at Powelton Yard. The FBI had been notified by SEPTA and was investigating at last report. However, there had been reports that the device was stored in a SEPTA Police locker for a week before it was turned over to the FBI.

SEPTA and the FBI issued a press release on the issue:

SEPTA Transit Police, Philadelphia police and the FBI are continuing to investigate a device discovered along a track in a rail car storage yard near 30th Street Station.

The device, described as a commercial motion detector, was discovered by a SEPTA employee on May 5, and later turned over to the FBI for analysis.

The investigation, to date, shows no indication of any threat to the security of the SEPTA rail system. At this time, there is no evidence to indicate that this device has any nexus to terrorism. However, due to current security awareness, the incident is being thoroughly investigated and all law enforcement agencies have been advised.

The device was located along storage Track #11 in Powelton Yard, a considerable distance from operating passenger trains and the 30th Street Station.

With heightened security awareness, SEPTA Transit Police have been responding to reports of suspicious items on almost a daily basis.

Most items are found to be personal articles lost or left behind by SEPTA passengers. For instance, an average of five cellular telephones are discovered every day on SEPTA vehicles or facilities.

SEPTA has been reminding its passengers to be alert for suspicious people or objects and immediately report anything out of the ordinary to uniformed SEPTA employees or the police.
Press Release

Later turned over to the FBI? If this was a device that didn't look like a normal item that a typical passenger would carry, why not turn it over to the FBI right away? Besides, why in the hell would a typical passenger be loitering around a major rail yard in the first place?

Well, it turns out the worst suspicions about a delay in response are true, according to the Daily News:

Officials yesterday said that so far, the investigation shows "no evidence" linking the transmitting device to a potential terrorist act.

At the same time, however, there was concern over the handling of the device following its discovery May 5 - and the fact that a full week elapsed before SEPTA officials notified federal authorities and handed it over.

Jim Jordan, SEPTA's assistant general manager for public and operational safety, said officials were most concerned because there was "no logical reason for this device to be where it was.

"We assumed it was deliberately placed there."
Daily News

DUH! As if the "suspicious device fairy" snuck in overnight and accidentially left it there...

He said the device had been painted a dark color and was discovered by a conductor buried in gravel along the rail bed of Track 11 in Powelton Yard, an open but restricted area extending west of 30th Street station.

That track is located away from the rails normally used by passenger trains and is used most often to store and shuttle rail cars.

Jordan described the motion detector as commercially made and approximately the size of a fist. Operating on a 9-volt battery, it is similar to the kinds of above-ground detectors used to signal house lights to go on or to signal a garage door to open. He said SEPTA does not use such motion detectors in its rail yards.

Asked if the transmitting device could be used as part of a detonation system, he said:

"It sends a radio signal... there is certainly that potential."
Daily News

Seven days between the discovery of the device and actually notifying the FBI? Is anybody at 1234 Market awake? I'm sure the rocket scientists within the Transit Police Department never bothered to take the time to report this to the FBI right away. But, let's remember this is a department that appears incapable of doing the most basic of law enforcement, such as patroling high-risk areas during peak hours ... not for terrorist activity, but general public safety.

If it's any consolation, though, SEPTA did offer a warning for absent-minded passengers who forget leave personal belongings behind:

"If somebody leaves a briefcase, we call the bomb squad," said Jim Whitaker, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. AP


If anybody has any information regarding the whereabouts of Philadelphia's franchise in the National Hockey League, please let me know. Because the team that played its guts out in Game 6 on Thursday failed to appear tonight in Game 7. Well, here's hoping that the Fly-Girls enjoy their soon to be extended vacation (which could last a couple of years if the NHL is locked out). And once again, a Philadelphia sports team has a chance to win a major sports title for the first time in 21 years, and the result is the same. A major league choke job! Way to go, losers!

Friday, May 21, 2004


The relationship between SEPTA (particularly Fearless Leader) and City Council may have become more strained. It's hardly an open secret that SEPTA is not exactly a favorite agency of Councilwoman Janie Blackwell (D-3), particularly over the Market Street El reconstruction. Now, another Council member is angry at SEPTA.

According to the Northeast News Gleaner, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski (D-6) is angry at SEPTA for changing its stance on remove trolley infrastructure on the now "temporary diesel bus" 56 line along Torresdale Av.

"They made a commitment to us sometime back to remove the poles and the wires," Krajewski said, "and then all of a sudden they said they are not going to do it."

In a letter to Faye Moore, general manager of SEPTA, Krajewski argued the poles and wires give the neighborhood a "blighted appearance" and have a "detrimental effect on the surrounding area and businesses."

SEPTA, which has struggled with budget shortfalls, cited the plan's costs for its decision to delay the project.

"SEPTA is very tough to deal with," Krajewski said, "and if they want to play tough, then we have to."

Also in the letter, Krajewski promised to do everything in her power to capture "SEPTA's full attention."

She vowed to recall a bill which bans the placement of newsstands at the Frankford Transportation Center. She also put the "wheels in motion" to freeze a "significant" portion of the city's subsidy to SEPTA. Also, SEPTA can no longer count on her support for "any issue" requiring legislation, including the construction of a parking garage at the FTC.

A week before McGeehan and Stack's press conference, Krajewski's office called SEPTA for an update on the project. None of their phone calls were return until an hour before the press conference. Then SEPTA notified them that they would not be moving forward with the infrastructure removal.

In her letter to Moore, Krajewski said SEPTA should have had the "decency to sit down with us" and explain their position rather than "inform us of your 'new intentions' over a phone call." She believes some sort of compromise could have been reached.

"It's unfair," she said. "We are not going to give up."
News Gleaner

Of course, there is a valid excuse for why Fearless Leader and the rest of the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market couldn't be bothered to deal with a City Councilmember. They're too busy whining for more state funding. Needless to say, SEPTA's dis of Krajewski isn't going to sit well with some of her allies on City Council, who tend to be the strongest supporters of Emperor Street.

Way to go, Fearless Leader.

We wonder if Krajewski will be among those attending the formal dedication of the Frankford Transportation Center tomorrow at 10:00am.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


Following up yesterday's posting regarding a fatality on the R7 Trenton line...

The Inquirer reported in today's editions that a 40-year-old woman from Elverson, Chester County, was struck and killed by an Amtrak train as it pulled into the Trenton Rail Station yesterday morning at around 7:00am. Clocker #624 was the affected train that struck the victim, who witnesses claim jumped off the platform, according to an Amtrak spokesman. The #170 Acela Regional train was reportedly annulled as a result. This corrects earlier information that the incident occured between Levittown and Bristol. While NJT and Amtrak service were reportedly impacted by the incident, there's no word on how SEPTA service was impacted, other than northbound trains being switched over to southbound tracks at Grundy.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


It appears that another SEPTA Board member is about to be getting an increase in government business, thank's to one of the region's most notorious patronage mills.

According to the Inquirer, a law firm headed by SEPTA Board member Denise Joy Smyler, who was appointed by Governor Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) to the SEPTA board last year, is reportedly about to recieve a contract from the Delaware River Port Authority (whose chairman is none other than Fast Eddie himself) to go after scofflaws who evade tolls on the four DRPA-owned bridges.

[DVRPC] plans to refer about 150 more cases to the firm of Zeller & Bryant, which prosecutes New Jersey scofflaws. Sixty more cases are likely to go to Center City lawyer Denise Joy Smyler, who has taken over the Pennsylvania load from Wolf Block Schorr. She is the founder of the law firm of Smyler, Taylor & Gentile.

Smyler, who has ties to the Democratic Party, was appointed to the SEPTA board by Gov. Rendell, also the DRPA's chairman. She was chosen by the DRPA after Rendell dumped Wolf Block Schorr, which has ties to both political parties, as Pennsylvania counsel. Smyler has not been given any cases yet.

This is despite the fact that DRPA is losing money by hiring law firms to go after scofflaws instead of keeping the work in house, as most other agencies do (which is par for the course over in Camden).

One of the firms pursuing them, Center City-based Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, has been paid $32,594 to date to go after deadbeats. In two years, the firm has collected nothing. The firm was replaced during the summer, but will continue to pursue cases assigned to it before that time.

Another firm is Zeller & Bryant, run by New Jersey State Sen. Wayne R. Bryant (D., Camden). His wife is the assistant general manager of the port authority's PATCO High-Speed Line.

Since 2002, Zeller & Bryant has been paid $19,632. In turn, the firm has produced about $19,000 for DRPA.

All told, the practice of collecting from major E-ZPass deadbeats has cost paying customers $52,226 but has produced only the $19,000 in revenue.

The DRPA uses a different tactic in going after repeat deadbeats than other transportation agencies. Those agencies either use in-house staff or collection agencies to go after offenders. Any collection agencies are paid a percentage of what they collect.

But the DRPA decided lawyers would be more intimidating than collection agencies. It pays those lawyers a standard $225 an hour whether they collect or not.

The legal fees represent a small sum for an agency that last year paid a total of $3.1 million to outside law firms for a variety of work. Still, after increasing E-ZPass fees and laying off workers to fill a deficit this year, some commissioners are calling for a better policy.

"It's not a good practice, and it has to be changed," said DRPA vice chairman Jeffrey L. Nash, who contended that the firms should be paid a percentage of what they collect. "It's not only the collections, it's across the board," Nash said. "DRPA is paying too much in legal fees."

This, by the way, is from an agency that still wants to build an aerial tram between Camden and Philadelphia, which is an even dumber idea than SEPTA's "MetroRail" scheme for $chuylkill Valley.


A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 15 in North Philadelphia regarding the re-routing of the 53 bus from it's former terminal at the now de-commissioned Luzerne Carhouse to Broad and Hunting Park. The hearing will take place at the El-Shaddai Baptist Church, located at 4244 Old York Road, starting at 1:30pm.


It's been fairly active on the railroad side, but for all the wrong reasons...

Earlier this morning, there are reports that a tresspasser was struck and killed on the R7 Trenton/NEC line between Levittown and Bristol stations. Based on reports posted at the "tristate-rr" YahooGroup, the train involved was believed to be Amtrak's #170 (the 6:55am departure from 30 St, non-stop to Newark and New York). Based on that information, that would put the approximate time of the incident at around 7:00am this morning. Trenton and New York bound trains were directed to one of the Philadelphia-bound tracks, effectively causing delays in both directions throughout the morning peak.

Within the past few hours, SEPTA also reported that a tresspasser was spotted within the Center City tunnel, though few details were given. The homeless population who set up shop at Suburban and Market East stations over the course of the day apparently have been known to sneak into the tunnel. There was no reports of delays as a result of that incident.

Also, the past couple of days have been, to say the least, very adventurous for riders along the Reading trunk, especially the R3 West Trenton and R8 Fox Chase lines.

At around 1:00pm yesterday, the SEPTA wire train was dispatched to the Reading trunk between Newtown Jct and Wayne Jct due to catenary problems. This is the second time in as many weeks that there have been catenary problems in that area. Also adding to the fun for R3 and R8 riders is that CSX (which owns portions of the West Trenton and Fox Chase lines) imposed speed restrictions due to the recent increase in temparatures; on the R3, restrictions are in effect between Wood (south of Langhorne) and Trent (West Trenton), while speed restrictions are in effect on the R8 between Newtown Jct (where the R8 splits off from the Reading main line) and Cheltenham.

There's no word as to whether or not SEPTA made any mention of this on its web site; but it's highly doubtful.

Monday, May 10, 2004


In between allegedly attempting to reform the city's tax structure, one Philadelphia City Councilman is attempting to rally support for a project that was considered many years ago. The Inquirer reported on Saturday that at-large Councilman Jim Kenney (D) is floating around an idea to extend the Broad Street Subway to the Navy Yard and possibly into South Jersey.

Asked about the measure, Kenney said he believes it would help create thousands of jobs, ease traffic congestion, and increase the value of the land around the Naval Business Center, which he believes has tremendous development potential.

"I believe that people do not leave the city as a result of having public transportation, they leave the city for taxes and schools and other reasons," the councilman said. "Having that kind of Big Dig, so to speak, has the potential to bring this area together as a region."

Not everyone is on board though, but for different reasons.

First, SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney:

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said the transit agency has had informal talks in the past about extending the line beyond the Pattison station, "but they've been just that - informal."

Any such move, he said, would require an extensive feasibility study that, among other things, would look at whether there would be sufficient daily ridership to support its operation.

Kenney's office said that if the hearings were successful, conducting a feasibility study would be the next step.

As for the project itself, now estimated to cost $1 billion, Kenney said he would seek federal funding.

Now, from within an already contentious City Council:

But first, Kenney will have to convince some of his Council colleagues that the idea is a good one.

At yesterday's Council session, Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell said she was concerned about the proposal, primarily because SEPTA's current reconstruction project of the Market-Frankford El has been a "nightmare." The price tag and the time line for that project's completion keep changing, she said.

"So when I hear the word SEPTA, I get worried about their commitment to any projects in our city and when they'll be completed," said Blackwell, adding she was also concerned that extending the line into New Jersey could lead to Philadelphia losing more residents and jobs.


Sunday's Inquirer offered a reminder that the public hearings for the FY 2005 Operating Budget begin today (the hearing at Media Courthouse is taking place as I post this). It also re-hashed many of the talking points offered by Don Pasquale and Fearless Leader this past Monday at an organizational meeting of the Save Transit coalition of various corporate execs and other assorted big shots.

SEPTA and other transit agencies statewide face very uncertain prospects in Harrisburg. Only the Republican-dominated state legislature can enact a tax increase of some kind for transit. Gov. Rendell and state legislators say that is unlikely before the fall elections.

In November, half of the seats in the state Senate and the entire House are on the ballot.

"Nobody is going to touch that now until after the election cycle," said State Rep. Rick Geist (R., Blair), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "It is a very, very high-stakes poker game."

To gather everyone who cares about transit at that poker table, SEPTA last Monday launched its Save Transit coalition.

Speaking to 50 community and business leaders at a breakfast at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon asked for them to speak out at coming hearings.

"We need all your help. We needed it yesterday," Deon said.

Deon has been SEPTA's board chairman for six years. During that time, the agency has reduced its payroll from 12,000 to about 9,000 employees, raised its share of business done with female and minority-owned businesses, and expanded bus service, he said. But after years of shaving expenses at SEPTA amid flat state funding, major new state grants are required to ensure the survival of transit for students, seniors and workers, he added.

"We have nothing without public transit, I truly believe that," Deon said.

Philadelphia doesn't exactly have a heck of a lot going for it to begin with, but that's for another rant...


Okay, time for a little chest beating...

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (disclosure notice: I serve on DVRPC's Regional Citizens Committee) recently issued a study called "Finding Your Place: Communities of Southeastern Pennsylvania", West Chester (where I live) ranked among the best areas to live in the region, which puts in the same level as Manayunk, Northern Liberties, Villanova, and East Falls. The Daily Local News ran an article boasting the great news.

West Chester scored 12 (out of a possible 14 points), joining the company of Manayunk, Northern Liberties, University City and Villanova in that rank.

"I read the report, and all I can say is, ‘Of course,’" said West Chester Borough Council President Bill Scott. "We already knew this.

"It’s very gratifying to find that what we have been saying is not just puffery," Scott continued, "but that somebody who actually studies these things has reported that we’re the best place to be."

West Chester’s missing two points represented its lack of rail access and a substantial population of 28- to 34-year-old residents, shortcomings which Scott acknowledged.

"One thing we need is this train coming in," Scott said, describing the borough’s lobbying for SEPTA to extend its Philadelphia-bound R3 from Media to West Chester.
Daily Local News

Think SEPTA's paying attention to that little snippet? I doubt it...


In this weekend's Delaware County Sunday Times, columnist Gil Spencer reported on the plight of residents in one Middletown (Delco) community. It involved an abandoned car near the former Lenni Rail Station on the "inactive" (read: abandoned) R3 branch between Elwyn and West Chester. State Police were recently called to tow an abandoned vehicle on the lot, which is maintained for by neighbors. Only one problem...

But for some reason, the trooper seemed to be giving (resident Paul)Pujol a hard time about towing the vehicle. Pujol seemed to be giving the trooper a hard time back. If the trooper didn’t have the car removed, he told him he’d just go over his head. Call the township. Call Harrisburg.

Finally, after seeing the ignition on the car had been punched, the trooper agreed to take the car.

"Hooray," shouted Verna, so the trooper could hear her. "Way to go Paul. It’s gone!"

But it was the trooper who yelled back, not Paul.

"They all might be gone soon," Trooper Bruce Williams called out, according to Verna.

It was only later Verna understood what Trooper Williams meant. According to the state police the owner of this little sliver of land is SEPTA.

As Sgt. Tony Sivo explained it to me, after being jawboned by Pujol, Trooper Williams "took the initiative," and called SEPTA, which was not even aware it owned the property. Thanks to Williams, it does now.

"What they plan to do with their own property is up to them," Sivo said.

But Pujol believes Williams mischaracterized the problem to SEPTA, making it seem as if the neighbors were threatening to bring legal action.

According to Sivo, state police aren’t supposed to tow abandoned cars that are sitting on private property.

"He (Williams) was acting in good faith, trying to resolve the situation," Sivo said.

The only reason Williams contacted SEPTA was because "we feel this is going to be an ongoing issue," said Sivo

As for other cars that might have been towed over the years, Sivo said, "if they were towed then we did it wrong."

I said it sounded a little like they were punishing the neighborhood because of Pujol’s complaining.

"This has nothing to do with what they were complaining about," Sivo said. "It has to do with what we are not allowed to do by statute."

I called SEPTA Friday afternoon to find out what its intentions are.

"Because we were contacted by the state police we are considering posting no parking signs," said SEPTA flak Sylvana Hoyos, marking it a tow-away zone.

The neighbors have been in touch with SEPTA trying to work something out so that they’ll be able to continue parking there.
Delaware County Sunday Times

Okay, a few comments...

How can the Pennsylvania State Police consider SEPTA lots "private property" when both are in effect state agencies?

How on earth can SEPTA not know what land it owns? I know it's been 20 years since trains stopped at Lenni, but you'd think someone at 1234 Market could do a better job keeping track of its own land.

Besides the fact that it's cheaper, why would Middletown (Delco) not have its own police department? I'm sure the State Police have better things to do, such as transport Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) at high rates of speed along the Turnpike.

Saturday, May 08, 2004


Various newsgroups report that service on the Reading Trunk was disrupted due to an equipment problem. At around 11:15am, a southbound train, believed to be the #4127 R1 Airport train suffered a damaged pantograph between Newtown Jct (where the R8 Fox Chase splits off from the RDG Trunk) and Wayne Jct. As a result, all northbound trains were held at Wayne Jct, while southbound trains were held at Newtown Jct until the wire train deployed along the R3 West Trenton line could be dispatched to Wayne Jct. The pantograph reportedly failed due to catenary problems at poles 5.17 and 5.18. I don't imagine too many people traveling along the RDG Trunk were too thrilled with this latest wire problem...

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


The Norristown Times-Herald offered its take on the delayed and often controverisal $chuylkill Valley rail project.

More time is needed to study options aimed at producing a "leaner, meaner" Schuylkill Valley Metro project, according to Congressman James Gerlach, R-Pa./6th.

"The number-crunchers need more time to crunch their numbers and the techies need more time to gather technical information," Gerlach said this week.

Thanks, Congressman. They've only had about 4-5 years to do so...

"To the contrary, everyone involved is making a good-faith effort to make this project realistic, particularly when it comes to the cost issues," said Gerlach. "Everyone is working to find a way to make this cost-effective and get this project moving forward. I for one am pleased with the progress they are making."

Also optimistic about the project's future is Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas J. Ellis, one of the county's representatives on the SEPTA Board.

Noting that the concept of the project is supported by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, Gov. Ed Rendell and officials in both Berks and Montgomery counties, Ellis said, "It will get built in some fashion."

"It sort of has to be built," said Ellis, explaining that highways in the area will not be sufficient to accommodate a projected growth in population.

Sort of has to be built? Sort of? Someone's been taking public relations lessons from SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information...

In addition, said Ellis, the project is important to revitalization efforts in Norristown and Pottstown and will bring needed workers from Philadelphia to jobs that are now going unfilled at the two shopping malls in King of Prussia. Times-Herald

The only way they could revitalize Norristown is, well, evacuate the town and start over. There has been a lot of political controversies within Norristown in recent months, centering around Mayor Ted LeBlanc, who was recently ensnared in a similar federal investigation to what Emperor Street is enduring in Philadelphia. Overall, Norristown is basically a dump, but that's another story for another time...

Most of the rest of the article has been discussed at length in previous posts...


From a press release issued by SEPTA...

A region-wide coalition of major business, civic, labor and community organizations has been convened to inform
the public and state government of the financial plight of SEPTA, which is facing a $70-million budget crisis.

Approximately 50 leaders of region-wide businesses and organizations gathered for the first time today at the offices of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

"Public transportation services provided by SEPTA affect everyone in the five-county region, whether they are regular commuters or not," said Pasquale T. Deon, Sr., SEPTA Board Chairman. "Without long-term, predictable funding,
SEPTA service will be in jeopardy. This, in turn, would jeopardize the economy of the region," he said.

"We are asking all stakeholders in SEPTA to step up and speak out in favor of the financial stability for public transit," said SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore.

SEPTA will be conducting public hearings during May in Philadelphia and each of the four suburban counties. The Save Transit Coalition will be encouraging their constituents to attend the hearings and testify in favor of stable public transit funding.

SEPTA is one of 70 transit agencies throughout Pennsylvania suffering from the crisis in public transportation funding.
Press release

No matter what Fearless Leader and Don Pasquale say, there have to be ways SEPTA can trim the fat before resorting to draconian service cuts and fare hikes. That said, some in Harrisburg want accountability before SEPTA gets more money:

The 69th Street Terminal is in the legislative district of state Rep. Mario Civera, R-164, of Upper Darby -- but so is the Upper Darby School District, which is so desperate for money officials are proposing drastic cuts in school personnel or programs. It is either that or raise taxes 9.8 percent.

"We’re not a money mill in Harrisburg," noted Civera, who wants a full accounting of how SEPTA officials spend the money they make from passenger fares.
Delaware County Daily Times editorial, April 26

Good luck, Mario. Just getting SEPTA to tell the truth about most things is an exercise in futility...


... maybe I was a little quick to praise SEPTA's "rent-a-cops" for an increased presense on the El yesterday. At least after last night's report on "The Propaganda Machine Known as 6-ABC".

Action News reported on it's 11:00pm edition last night of a major incident last month on the Broad Street Line at Spring Garden. The incident was reported as part of a "sweeps week" story entitiled "Mean Girls". The girls involved are students at a highly controversial alternative school under the jurisdiction of the School District of Philadelphia.

On April 23rd ... girls from the Community Education Partners school in Hunting Park, or CEP, traveled to a SEPTA subway stop at Broad and Spring Garden apparently looking for a fight. Students from the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School ... say there were targeted. WPVI-TV

In an accompanying video that also aired last night, a CEP student is seen wrapping a belt around her hand and preparing to use the buckle as a weapon. The incident occured as a train was pulling out of Spring Garden station.

"People's lives were in danger. Not only ours but the other passengers in the subway." (Victim whose identity was withheld)

[In the video] you can see a train pull out of the station.

"Yo, yo, yo! Watchout, watchout!" (From the video)

Anyone could have fallen onto the tracks and come in contact with the 3rd rail.

"That can be fatal." (Victim)

And now, as you can expect, SEPTA's Minister of Mis-information Richard Maloney attempted to pass the buck, as he's obscenely paid to do in embarassing situations like this...

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney believes this was a dangerous situation, but he doesn't agree with the criticism aimed at his agency from the charter school.

"SEPTA police should have been down there. They were not down there to help us." (Victim)

"We don't have the manpower or the facilities to devote sufficient officers at one station at one time every day. Just can't do it." (Maloney)

Excuse me while I vent...


We're not talking about staffing officers at every single station 24/7, which even I know is impossible. We're talking about assigning "rent-a-cops" to Broad and Spring Garden during peak student travel times. And don't offer that bullshit about not being able to devote "sufficient officers at one station at one time every day" as you so idiotically put it. SEPTA can certainly blanket the Frankford side of the El with a small batallion of "rent-a-cops", and you sure as hell have enough "rent-a-cops" hanging around 69 St Terminal and the 15 St El Station during rush hours. And, let's not forget the 3-4 "rent-a-cops" always deployed after major sporting events at Pattison Station. So don't give us that bullshit about staffing issues...


A SEPTA officer was called away from the station before the altercation. It was broken up by security staff from the Mathematics, Civics and Science Charter School. WPVI-TV

One officer? Wow, that budget crisis must really be affecting public safety.

"I will send the message to SEPTA, that if they don't do something we will shutdown the Broad Street Line to get our point across." (Veronica Joyner, Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School)

The Philadelphia School District says it's responsible for student safety throughout the city, but was not aware of the tension.

"With these two particular schools and the incident you saw, no one has brought it to our attention that it has been an ongoing thing." (Dexter Green, Chief Safety Executive, School District of Philadelphia)

And it isn't the first time students from this school have been involved in major incidents on SEPTA...

But charter school Chief Administrator Veronica Joyner says she has been complaining to school district officials
about CEP girls attacking her students for a few months. Joyners' allegations about CEP girls were detailed in a news report in February.

Those incidents, reported by CBS 3's Walt Hunter and by Gloria Campisi and Jim Nolan of the Daily News, were reported at "Frankford Terminal" on February 19.

While some may be surprised by the behavior caught on tape because it involved girls, CEP Principal Ronald Cage says girls are just more aggressive today.

"(Is this why these girls are doing things that girls when we were young would never do?) I think it has a lot to do with it. They're doing the same thing the boys do. Boys go out and fight. Girls go out and fight." (Ronald Cage, Principal, CEP)

Cage admits his students should not have been at the subway stop and those CEP girls in the video have been disciplined.

Among some of the strange ironies...

In February, Hunter on CBS 3 reported that SEPTA "formed a special detail to keep watch during the after school hours." How's that for a lie, eh?

The Spring Garden station is not only located near the affected charter school (Buttonwood is one block south of Spring Garden), but also to Ben Franklin High School, the main campus of the Community College of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania State Office Center (where most state agencies have their Philadelphia regional offices). And SEPTA can not - or will not - provide adequate security during the periods immediately after school has let out to prevent similar incidents?

If SEPTA can't - or won't - dispatch it's "rent-a-cops" to Spring Garden during this period, why not let the Phiadelphia Police handle security there? Or even better, bring in the state troopers assigned to the state office center. I guarantee you that those punks won't be starting any more trouble if they see the State Police get involved...


Within the span of minutes, two major lines on the SEPTA system were disrupted due to various incidents.

Shortly before noon, service on the Broad Street Line was suspended between Snyder and Pattison due to a report of a suspicious odor at Oregon. Minutes later at 36-Market, a 45-year old woman was struck by an inbound 10 trolley. Information on both incidents are sketchy, even at this late hour.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


As noticed by the recent roster updates, there are only a handful of Neoplan DKs remaining on the roster, with only 7 left at Midvale. With Frankford's batch of 5700s arriving as we speak (5754 is reportedly at Germantown, as are a couple others, but there's no confirmation), the handful of DKs there are about to be phased out (at least two scrapped Neos were spotted in Frankford's 6-bay) while the EBs will either be scrapped or moved to Comly or Southern, depending on SEPTA's whims.

Meanwhile, the Neoplan artic VOH process continues on, as there are now 16 artics now overhauled. There may be others, but these 16 listed are the only artics confirmed to have been through VOH. The artic VOH is expected to be completed by the early to middle part of 2005; after that, the ElDorados are expected to start going through VOH according to SEPTA's Capital Budget proposal.


Somebody must be pressuring SEPTA's "rent-a-cops" into actually showing some presence on the system recently. For some time now, there have been two cops stationed on the westbound platform at the 15 St El station. Today, SEPTA "rent-a-cops" made another arrest at the Bridge-Pratt terminal, which seems to be a magnet for arrests in recent weeks. The incident apparently occured at around 3:00pm, however I was unable to get any information from people around the terminal area. My guess is that it was probably a drug related arrest, though it's only a guess. It does seem as though there is finally a more consistent police presence along the Frankford side of the El, particularly at Bridge-Pratt in recent weeks.

Additionally, at the same time of the arrest, I counted at least 12 "rent-a-cops" along the El - 5 at Bridge-Pratt (counting the two arresting officers), 2 at Maragret-Orthodox, and 3 at Allegheny, plus 2 officers who actually rode a westbound El train from Bridge-Pratt to Allegheny. Could it be that SEPTA is actually paying attention to public safety of its passengers?