Saturday, July 31, 2004


Let's just say this has been the most interesting summer of bus watching in SEPTA territory in a long time...

Now that the 10 is going back to rail service, a lot of - if not all of - the remaining non-accessible Neoplans at Callowhill will likely be retired. The remaining Neoplans at Callowhill - most like high 3400s - will be used primarily on the 15, though they could show up on the 46 as well. Callowhill already recieved 13 buses from the 5700 series (5808-5820).

The remaining 3100s at Comly will be scrapped shortly, if they haven't been already, with a few high-3200s and some low-3300s that were at Frontier already replacing them. Soon, Comly will likely become the lastest Neo-free depot, as they are expected to recieve 15 buses from the 5800-series order (5910-5924), although a few 3300s could still linger around for school trippers.

Frankford has already recieved 40 5700s (5753-5792) and will recieve only 8 5800s (5902-5909). The 3400s that have been shuffled around and split among Allegheny, Callowhill, and Southern (among others) will likely return to Frankford for use on the trackless lines (59, 66, and 75). Frankford routes that were long Neoplan strongholds - namely the 3 and 5 - have been seeing more NABIs and New Flyers as the 5700s arrived. It will be interesting to see which Neos make it through to next year, particularly among the EIs that remain.

Midvale is in the process of phasing out some 3200s as some buses in that series have reportedly failed inspection to to frame problems. 40 5700s (5713-5752) are already in service, while 26 5800s (5925-5950) will be in service by the end of the month. Already, New Flyers are showing up on the 23, which would've been considered almost laughable two years ago. The DKs at Midvale which were often seen on routes such as the 23, 56, and 57, have long since been moved to the scrap yard upon arrival of the 5700s; look for most of the EIs at Midvale to join them soon.

Southern will not get any 5800s, however they will get 20 hybrid buses (5831H-5850H) by September. At least 3 of these buses were in Boston this past week for the Democratic National Love-Fest (um, I mean Convention) and will be in New York next month for the GOP convention at Madison Square Garden. Once the hybrids arrive, expect to see the departure of the 3300s, with any remaining Neos - likely the high-3300s and low-3400s - hanging on for another year.

Red Arrow will be without Neoplans shortly, as some 3200s will be retired, and some 3300s and 3400s have already shown up in the city, mainly at Callowhill. 10 5700s (5821-5830) and 34 5800s (5851-5884) are in service and have ended the dominance of Neoplans on certain Red Arrow lines such as the 104, 113, and 114. On an interesting note, some of the Neos that were supposed to be sent elsewhere are being pressed into service, due to major problems with the ElDorados at Red Arrow. There have been some Neo sightings on the 107 for the past few weeks, even during off-peak hours.

Frontier will also see their Neoplans disappear with the arrival of 17 5800s (5885-5901), with 2 notable exceptions - 3487 and 3488 have full ad wraps for TH Properties (and I must say they are the stupidest ad wraps that I've ever seen on any bus) and will remain there until the term for the ad contract expires. The rest of the low 3300s are likely ticketed either for Comly or the scrap yard; the 3400s will probably end up at Midvale or Southern.

Of course, these are all guesses, and nobody knows for sure where some of the displaced Neos will ultimately end up.


Trolleys will return to the 10 tomorrow morning, after nearly 6 weeks of bus bridge service between 63-Malvern Loop and 33 St Station. The trolleys will operate out of Elmwood, as they had been before the bus bridge was put into effect with the June pick. The initial plan in June was to run the K-cars out of Callowhill on the 10 and a mix of K-cars and PCC-II cars on the 15. Neighbors along N 59 St objected to SEPTA's plans (though it appears that the short notice of the plans to run trolleys down 59 St also had something to do with it) and were backed by Philadelphia City Councilman Michael Nutter (D-4), who, by the way, just so happens to be considering replacing Emperor Street in the corner office at Broad and Market Sts in 2007.


One of SEPTA's oldest remaining buses - Neoplan 3110, which is based at Callowhill - was involved in a freak accident in Roxborough on Thursday night.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee), Dr. Toby Shawe, 50, of Roxborough, was pinned between her SUV and 3110 as the car rolled down Hermit St near Henry Av.

Police gave this account:

Shawe had parked at her home, but the 1998 Mazda MPV began rolling backward toward Henry. She gave chase, got the driver's door open, but at the same time it rammed the bus.

"Apparently the vehicle struck the bus at the same time [the Mazda's] wheels were rolling over the owner," a police spokesman said.
Shawe was removed by Fire Department emergency workers and taken to Temple with a broken pelvis, arm and leg injuries. A friend who answered the family's phone said she "is definitely getting better" but declined further comment.

SEPTA spokesman Felipe Suar-ez (sic) said that the bus had been out of service and that the driver had been returning it to a West Philadelphia terminal. It had no passengers and the driver was not injured, he said.

Police said they expect no charges to be filed. Daily News

3110 was confirmed to be the bus involved in the accident after several readers saw video of the accident on the news. Now, what a painfully slow bus like 3110 was doing in Roxborough with its notoriously steep hills is a very interesting question. I don't know of any route based out of Callowhill that comes anywhere near Hermit St in that part of Roxborough, though the 65 runs along Walnut Lane near Henry. The most likely scenario was that the bus was out on a training run, but that seems like an odd time and location to work a training run.

Monday, July 26, 2004


Two tresspassers were killed on the NEC near SEPTA's Tacony Station (R7 Trenton).  According to the Inquirer, two men were struck by Amtrak's eastbound Three Rivers (#40).

A 17-year-old boy and an 19-year-old man were run down about 8 p.m. on the tracks near the corner of Keystone and Robbins Streets. Police said the names of the two victims, both of Philadelphia, were not being released pending notification of their families. Both died at the scene.
Police said the victims apparently had been driving southbound on Interstate 95, which runs parallel to the tracks, when their car broke down. They had set out on foot in search of help when they wandered onto the tracks and were struck by a train bound for New York, police said. Inquirer

This now brings the death toll on the Regional Rail system (both SEPTA owned and Amtrak territory) to 6 in the past two months.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


It's hard to figure out who has me more irritated - Doug Glanville or SEPTA...

It's bad enough that Glanville misplayed Michael Barrett's fly ball in the top of the ninth to ruin Eric Milton's no-hitter (which would've been the second no-hitter that I've personally seen in as many years).  It's worse when SEPTA once again does it's usual incompetent job getting people from the Sports Complex back to Center City.

For starters, about 25 minutes after the game had ended (and it was a quick one - 2 hours, 21 minutes), the escalator at Pattison station was operating up; this is despite the fact that virtually everyone in the station was heading down towards the subway platform.  So, SEPTA can change the directions of its escalators at the 1234 Market headquarters building at the end of the day when people are leaving or after a SEPTA Board meeting, but not do the same after a Phillies game at Pattison?  Did SEPTA suddenly hire the infamous Steve Bartman to operate the Broad Street Line?

It also doesn't help when about 4,000 to 5,000 people are trying to enter the station via only one headhouse (the one on the southeast corner of Broad and Pattison).  Nor does it help when the only train in the station when I get there is packed to the gills and has no more room, thus forcing me to wait about 10 minutes for the next train out.

And yes, I missed the 5:05pm 104 back to West Chester because of this, and waiting around 69 St Terminal for an hour on a Sunday is not fun, especially when you haven't slept all day...

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


The catenary failure on the Reading trunk wasn't the only rail related problem in SEPTA-land today...
Service on the P&W was delayed anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes due to a switching problem between 69 St Terminal and the P&W Yard.  Single track service was in place between 69 St Terminal and West Overbrook throughout most of the mid-day while track crews made repairs.
Not exactly a lot of fun when you're trying to get to a meeting in Center City and end up 15 minutes late...


Shortly before the start of the PM peak, Upper Darby police shut down the eastbound lanes of West Chester Pike between State Rd and Garret Rd due to what appears to have been a pedestrian/vehicle accident.  As a result, some buses heading into and out of 69 St Terminal via West Chester Pike were diverted via State Rd/Lansdowne Av and Victory Av, causing minor delays.  Fortunately, most trips departing 69 St left on time, but experienced minor delays near the accident scene.
While it hasn't been noted yet due to procrastination on my part, SEPTA did adjust the runs on the 104 during the weekday peak hours.  It appears that trips arriving from West Chester are now making their next runs to Newtown Square, and vice versa.  Thus, a lot of the 5-6 minute turnarounds that had caused a lot of late departures have been eliminated.  The same thing is happening on Sundays, as trips on 104 runs now alternate between West Chester and Newtown Square, instead of having back-to-back West Chester or Newtown Square trips as part of a run.  That also has had a favorable impact on trips departing on-time from 69 St.


It had been a while since there had been a catenary failure on the Reading trunk, so today was long overdue...
At around 7:00am this morning, wires went down between Elkins Park and Melrose Park.  As a result, bus bridges were deployed to connect passengers with the BSS at Fern Rock.
Earlier this year, two separate incidents of catenary failure within a week of each other near Wayne Junction wreaked havoc on the Reading side of the RRD.

Monday, July 19, 2004

205/306 ON HOLD

SEPTA's plans to introduce two new routes in Chester County as part of the US 202/Section 300 Congestion Mitigation Plan will not be implemented for at least a year.  Route 205, which would have connected Paoli Rail Station with area industrial parks in East Whiteland, and Route 306, which would've connected Chadds Ford with Great Valley via West Chester, are on hold due to PennDOT's delay of the US 202/Section 300 reconstruction project.


Within the past few weeks, some Neoplan EZs that were assigned to Red Arrow have been showing up at Callowhill, mainly for use on the 10 and 15 bus bridges, but a few have snuck onto the 46.  The official word from SEPTA is that all Neos currently assigned to Frontier and Red Arrow will either be retired or transferred to city garages by the fall picks.  Additionally, the 5800-series allocations have now been confirmed.  Red Arrow will get 5851-5886, Frontier 5887-5900, Comly 5901-5920, Midvale 5921-5935, and Frankford 5936-5950.  There's no word on whether SEPTA will exercise this year's option for an additional 20 buses as part of the 5800-series order.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


A 77-year-old Bucks County man became the fourth fatality on the Regional Rail system in the past two months.
According to the Bucks County Courier-Times of Levittown, Donald Smith, 77, of the Fairless Hills district of Falls Township, Bucks County, was struck and killed by SEPTA #778 (R7 Trenton to Chestnut Hill East)  at 10:43pm, shortly after the train departed from Trenton station.
It was not clear how fast the train had been traveling because the authority's accident report was not finished as of Friday, said SEPTA spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyos.

According to Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel, the SEPTA engineer apparently noticed Smith on the tracks and sounded the horn, but to no avail. The engineer placed the train into emergency braking mode - meaning air was flushed from the braking system so the train could brake hard and quickly, Stessel said.

"You're basically slamming on the brakes of the train," Stessel said. "It's what you have to do."

Campbell said he couldn't explain why Smith was on the track. Amtrak's authorized speed through the area is 100 miles per hour, and the four sets of tracks are either fenced off or posted "no trespassing."

The coroner, however, said that Smith did have some history of dementia and had some hearing problems.

"It was a terrible accident," Campbell said.

No one aboard the SEPTA train was hurt. The few passengers were transferred to another train, and the two southbound tracks were closed so workers could comb the accident scene. Trains ran at 15 miles an hour on the remaining two tracks.

Three SEPTA trains were delayed for 3 to 18 minutes and five were delayed 10 to 17 minutes during the investigation.
The train that struck Smith was released at 1:40 a.m. Friday and all tracks were opened shortly after 3 a.m.


Andy Saul, who is a fellow member of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission's Regional Citizen's Committee, wrote an op-ed piece in today's Delaware County Sunday Times in support of restoring the R-3 from Elwyn to West Chester as opposed to Wawa, which the brain surgeons at 1234 Market are currently proposing to do.  As many of my readers may be aware, the full restoration of R-3 service to West Chester is probably one of the biggest issues for me personally, and I would anticipate that SEPTA will finally wake up and stop treating Chester County like a rotten step-child, as has been the case for who knows how long.


Thursday morning would probably have to rank as an all-time low, even for the JV operation known as Krapf's Transit...
Instead of my normal commute of taking the R5 to connect with the 133/92, I had to take the "A" bus because I had missed the 6:19am out of Downingtown.  The "A" bus was supposed to arrive at Lancaster Av and PA 113 at around 6:25am.  The bus arrived about 10 minutes late.  I had called to complain, and the driver claimed that the operator was already past Brandywine Square.  The dispatcher contacted the driver and claimed that he was two stops past mine, when he was just about to pull into my stop.  Already, I'm not too thrilled about being lied to.
To make matters worse, the operator of this particular run made no effort to even make up the time, despite being 10 minutes late.  In fact, we got into West Chester 15 minutes late.  I'm sure there were a few missed connections to the 104, but I don't have the timetable in front of me right now.
A second call to Krapf's got me nowhere.  Despite my complaints about being 15 minutes late, the dispatcher there said that the operator was considered "close to schedule."  If he were 20-25 minutes late, she said, then a complaint would've been understandable.
From SEPTA's City Transit Divison Service Standards document:

"On-time" is defined as 0-5 minutes late; running ahead of schedule is not considered acceptable schedule adherence.
When I brought that fact to the dispatcher's attention, she claimed that SEPTA used the same standards as Krapf's.  After a couple more minutes of arguing and pleading my case (not to mention a vow to call the PUC to complain about how their service sucks), the call ended.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first nominee for the Brandon "Bam" Margera Jackass/Insult to My Intellegence Award.
If/when SEPTA gets its financial house in order, it wouldn't break my heart if they took a run at buying the operating rights to the "A" bus.  They can't do any worse, and at least there would be some form of accountability.
By the way, the same dumbass driver who I had to deal with on Thursday had the 8:00am trip from West Chester to Coatesville this morning.  He was due at Pottstown Pike and Boot Rd at 8:10am; he hadn't reached Hollow Run by the time the West Chester-bound bus passed him at 8:40am.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Fresh of the heels of SEPTA's re-designed web site, NJ Transit recently launched its newly designed web site. From first glance, navigation of the site appears to be easier, as links to bus and rail timetables are posted on the main page instead of having to go through about two or three menu layers to get to them.

Meanwhile, on a less high-tech scale, I have posted bus schedules for the Pottstown Urban Transit system at my website. PUT schedules were available elsewhere on-line, but for some odd reason, the schedules page disappeared.

Monday, July 12, 2004


According to Bill Monaghan, trolley service will be restored on the 10 starting this Sunday. Until the 59 St issues are resolved, the 10 will operate from Elmwood carhouse. The 15 will continue to operate a bus-bridge for the entire length for the forseeable future.


The Daily Local News ran a story on Saturday highlighting SEPTA's purchase of 32 diesel-electric hybrid buses:

The Federal Transit Administration recently approved a $589,999 grant for SEPTA to add to its fleet of hybrid buses.

The buses are rotated throughout the system, and they will run in service areas that include Chester County, said Jim Whitaker, SEPTA spokesman.

I must have missed that part, considering all 32 hybrids are being assigned to Southern.

"We’re testing the system to see how it works in this area," he said.

Of SEPTA’s 1,300 buses, 12 of them are hybrid. The grant will provide partial funding for the purchase of 20 additional hybrid buses, said Whitaker.

SEPTA has had hybrid diesel and electric buses for two years, he said.

The hybrid buses cost $520,000 apiece, said Whitaker, while the diesel buses run $320,000 each.

SEPTA is gauging the economic efficiency of the buses to determine if savings in fuel costs and in engine wear and tear justify the more expensive purchase price, he said.

The buses have been run on long and short loops to see how well they hold up on varying route lengths, but no significant differences have been found, said Whitaker.

Other than the cost, he said SEPTA has found no disadvantage in using the hybrid buses.

The first of the new buses are expected to arrive at the end of this month.

There have been reports that at least one of the 5831H-5850H buses is already on the property.

"When we get the additional 20," said Whitaker, "we’ll have the best fleet of hybrid buses in the country for awhile."

I'm sure Seattle will have something to say about that after they get their 200+ hybrid artics, but for now, that's a fairly accurate statement. Especially when there have been comments on other message boards regarding how problem plagued New York City's Orion VII hybrid buses have been.

U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter, [R in name only-Pa. - ed.], and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., issued a joint statement to announce the funding.

"I am pleased that SEPTA will invest this funding in providing cleaner, more efficient public transportation for Southeast Pennsylvania," said Santorum. "As technology advances it is important that we use modern research to develop environmentally friendly products that also lessen our reliance on natural resources which are becoming increasingly scarce."

"Public transportation is vital to growth and quality of life in the Philadelphia area," Specter said. "I am pleased to see SEPTA employing this innovative and environmentally conscious technology on their bus operations, ensuring riders have the most advanced public transportation system available."


Last year, NJ Transit announced plans to build a new park-and-ride lot in Washington Township, Gloucester County. According to the Gloucester County Times, enviromental issues raised by the township were responsible for the plan being scrapped:

Janet Hines, spokeswoman for NJTransit, said the project proposed for Hurffville-Cross Keys Road near Fries Mill Road ran into several difficulties and it will not go forward.

"This one had to do with environmental and traffic concerns the town had and for (those reasons) we decided not to do the Park and Ride in Washington Township," said Hines.

Township solicitor Michael Albano said local officials last met with representatives from the state Department of Transportation about 6 months ago, but have not since and were never told about the project not moving forward.

"We never received anything in writing from the state," Albano said. "There were concerns about traffic coming from the site to Fries Mill Road."

Fries Mill Road is one of the town's heavily traveled roadways. Albano said town officials offered as a suggestion possibly moving the project to another area of town, but the state never responded.

Environmental concerns might have dealt with the municipality's Wellhead Protection Ordinance. The ordinance limits certain kinds of businesses and development near open water wells. A judge last year ruled the law was unconstitutional and the town is appealing.

Last year, when the Times contacted state officials about the progress of the project, they reported that it was moving forward, even going as far as to say construction could start in a few weeks. Also at that time, local officials ordered its engineers to perform studies on the site and plans.

The $1.8 million dedicated to the project never reached the town, Albano said. Hines said the funds have since been reallocated to another priority project.

How much do you want to be that this "priority project" is somewhere in North Jersey?

Friday, July 09, 2004


SEPTA's annual Bus and Maintenanace Roadeo will take place tomorrow at the Philadelphia Park racetrack (Parking Lot A) in Bensalem Twp, Bucks County. The Roadeo will take place from 8:00am to 2:00pm (give or take). This year's celebrity roadeo will feature several journalists from area newspapers, along with athletes from the city's minor league pro teams and other assorted B-list celebs who many of us have never heard of. You can also expect a couple of suits from 1234 Market in the celebrity competition as well...

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Toady's editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee) makes the case for Harrisburg bailing out SEPTA, but at the same time seems to miss some important points:

It's been easy to dislike SEPTA.

Its management in the past has been too arrogant for its own - or the city's - good.

Trains ran cold in the winter, hot in the summer. Its fares are among the highest in the nation. Promised repairs on elevators aren't made. And who can forget the legal fight a mother had to wage against the transit system after a faulty escalator chewed off her son's foot?

Or god knows how many other stupid SEPTA tricks over the past few years...

Yes, it's easy to dislike SEPTA. Except when you need it.

Like during the recent snowstorms, when SEPTA was the only mode of transportation working for most people.

Or when you need to get to Center City to shop or work and can't afford to pay the outrageous parking fees of most lots.

Or when you are entering the work force after being on welfare and need an affordable way to get to your job.

Or when your child needs to get to school.

Like any huge system that serves the public, SEPTA is far from perfect. The recent squabble between SEPTA and residents along 59th Street near Callowhill over re-introducing a trolley route is just one example.

But SEPTA's importance to Philadelphia and the region can hardly be overstated. According to a recent Center City District survey, 70 percent of downtown workers use SEPTA to get to their offices. SEPTA is the only viable way the working poor can get to suburban jobs.

Unless SEPTA doesn't serve said suburban jobs in certain areas (Upper Bucks comes to mind, particularly at the PA 309/313/663 intersection in Quakertown)...

Thanks to better management under SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore, SEPTA has made some impressive strides. Six months ago we were all braced for another ugly contract battle over health benefits between the transit system and the Transport Workers Union. Flashbacks of the 40-day strike of 1998, which ground the city into a slow halt, sent a nervous chill down everyone's back. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the union and system came to a temporary accord.

Better management? What SEPTA have these idiots been following? Because it sure as hell isn't the same SEPTA that I've been following for the past several years...

That agreement, however, ends in six months. Meanwhile, SEPTA will once again go before Harrisburg for its annual beg-a-thon for state funding, leading to the usual uncertainties regarding service reductions and fare increases.

It's time for that roller-coaster ride to stop.

Harrisburg should now seriously consider a permanent source of funding for SEPTA and the 71 other transit systems in the state.

SEPTA reports a $70 million deficit for the 2005 fiscal year, which began last week. With a dedicated source of revenue from the state - money it can count on - SEPTA could better manage itself.

The idea has won bipartisan support from regional senators. Now is the time for the rest to embrace the proposal.

SEPTA and its riders won't be the only ones to benefit. The number of transit systems in the state has grown as more of the elderly and newly employed turn to public transportation.

The problem with these bills is that there is still no accountability attached.

SEPTA needs the additional help - not just with funding, but the trolley debacle Daily News reporter Jim Nolan described yesterday. We hope the Street administration can step in and help resolve the civil war that's keeping the trolleys - and their potential riders - waiting at the curb.

Don't hold your breath for Emperor Street to get involved. He's too busy covering his ass over the entire "pay-for-play" fiasco in which one of his closest advisors got indicted...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


It appears that the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee) has finally gone into great detail over the controversy over the restoration of trolley service on the 15:

It began as a grand and ambitious project, heralded by SEPTA officials and rail enthusiasts as a glorious return to the golden age of trolley transit in Philadelphia.

But in just a few short weeks, it has become a $58 million lesson in local politics - and how easily good intentions can be derailed by bad manners.
Daily News

Well, what did you expect? This is Philadelphia...

Now, a beautifully restored fleet of lime and cream PCC trolley cars - the centerpiece of what was supposed be the return of trolley service ttoo SEPTA's Route 15 line - sits idly in the Elmwood Depot in Southwest Philadelphia, gathering dust instead of passengers.

Newly refurbished stops along Girard Avenue are still awaiting riders and the familiar clang of the trolley's bell, which hasn't been heard there since 1992.

And freshly printed Route 15 trolley schedules, promising service would begin June 13, don't match the times being kept by the buses that are still in use on the popular Haddington-to-Port Richmond route.

Transit officials won't even speculate on when the long-awaited trolley project will get on track.

"We're temporarily not resuming service," said Frances Jones, SEPTA's assistant general manager for government affairs. "I can't give you a best estimate."
Daily News

SEPTA, apparently, can't even give a "worst" estimate. Trust me, it can't be any worse of an estimate than it already is, which is to say, no body knows.

The trolley folly is an untimely embarrassment for the cash-strapped transit agency, which carries a $70 million deficit into the new fiscal year and which has lobbied incessantly in Harrisburg for increases in state funding.

It's all because of a narrow, three-block piece of North 59th Street between Vine Street and Girard Avenue - the end of the line - that SEPTA needs converted to a one-way street in order to safely operate the trolley line.

Those three blocks of 59th Street are home to about 60 working-class families who feel their concerns about SEPTA's nearby Callowhill Depot have long been neglected by the transit agency.

And so it goes that a small part of the city is holding up a very big project.

"SEPTA being here has been nothing but a hardship," said Carol Campbell, the powerful Democratic leader of the neighborhood's Fourth Ward.

"We only see them when they want something, and now they're trying to sell us a bill of goods. And you know what? It's not going to fly. We're all against it."
Daily News

That's usually the way it works...

Campbell and her constituents have more than anger to back up their words.

Traffic flow on North 59th Street can be changed only by City Council ordinance, which must be introduced by the Council member who represents the area.

Councilman Michael Nutter said he's unimpressed with SEPTA's conduct in the neighborhood.

"It does appear that there has been an incredible amount of planning and design and renovation work, a whole series of steps, that in the final analysis was going on in a vacuum that seemed to have nothing to do with the people who live directly near the Callowhill station," said Nutter.

"They appear to be the last to know," added the councilman, who said SEPTA approached him several weeks ago about the need for a traffic change.

"I will not support the changing of direction of traffic on North 59th Street unless and until SEPTA reaches agreement with the affected neighbors," Nutter continued. "Or unless some other plan is developed that keeps traffic flowing in both directions with the least amount of disruption to the residents, with their agreement."
Daily News

That's probably going to take a while.

SEPTA officials know they need to mend fences before trolleys can rumble up the 59th Street rails.

"SEPTA has to do some things to gain the confidence and respect of the community," said Jettie Newkirk, a lawyer and SEPTA board member who has been working to resolve the dispute.

"And that will take the time it takes."
Daily News


So how did SEPTA run out of time, and get off track in the first place?

Residents, community leaders and even some transit officials acknowledge that tensions over the Callowhill Depot have escalated in recent years.

Locals have complained that SEPTA employees use surrounding streets to park their vehicles, causing more congestion and parking difficulties. They say the employees also ignore street-cleaning regulations, making it harder for city crews to keep their curbs tidy.

Residents and community leaders also say SEPTA broke promises to maintain its property and improve the neighborhood.

"They never came to us with a summer program, or a way to give kids two or three hours of work," said Campbell, who lives just a block south of the depot."They've never said 'Let's have a partnership,' or a scholarship for Overbrook [High School].

"They could have invested some money in the community, but they never reached out to the community."
Daily News

On the one hand, if SEPTA did that, then every other neighborhood would want to jump on the bandwagon. On the other hand, community relations has never been SEPTA's strongest point.

Nutter agreed. "Part of the animosity is not just about the trolley," he said. "SEPTA made commitments for improvements and amenities in the neighborhood and basically never carried them through.

"If that's the nature of the relationship on small items, then when you have a big thing come up, you're going to be more or less inclined to not go along with it."

Newkirk said SEPTA's relationship with the neighborhood had deteriorated in recent years as plans to move the Callowhill Depot from 59th and Callowhill streets got delayed.

"It was anticipated that by this time the depot would be gone," she said.

If the depot moves, she added, then the residents probably would drop their opposition to the trolley.
Daily News

This would be the proposed plan to move Callowhill's operations to a new site near the Overbrook rail yards near the former Acme plant on N 52 St in the Parkside neighborhood of the city; those plans are on hold after the site was sold to another party.

SEPTA officials had known for months, however, that the Callowhill Depot move would be delayed and the Route 15 trolley would be ready to resume service.

SEPTA officials said they knew months ago that they'd need traffic changes to North 59th Street. Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson said SEPTA first approached her department in January of this year.

The Streets Department agreed that due to the narrow width of 59th Street and the location of the trolley tracks in the middle of the street, it would need to either make North 59th Street one-way or remove parking on one side of the street.

"The problem is you have tracks down the middle of the street, and now it's a two-way street," said Tolson. "You can't have parking if you want a two-way street."

If SEPTA knew it would have a problem, it certainly didn't tell the community, the riding public, or even its own drivers until the last minute.

One SEPTA driver, a former trolley man with more than 20 years' experience, said he jumped at the chance back in May to bid for work on the Route 15. It was only when he reported for work on June 10 - three days before the scheduled start of trolley service - that he was told he'd be driving something else.

"They said report to bus instruction," said the driver, who spoke under condition of anonymity. "One day of bus instruction. Now I'm driving a bus."
Daily News

That's normal for training purposes, though it doesn't seem to be enough...

Schedules had already been printed and posted on the Internet.

For the foreseeable future, it appears that the road to Girard Avenue - North 59th Street - will remain a two-way street with parking on both sides and no Route 15 trolley service.

It is, technically, a safety issue. Streets Commissioner Tolson said the process of analyzing traffic and making changes can take anywhere from "a couple of months to probably...years."
Daily News

Well, that looks promising...

SEPTA is also still waiting for the rest of its cars. The transit agency has so far received only 10 of the 18 refurbished PCC trolley cars it intends to use on the Route 15. The last of the cars won't arrive until the end of the year, said spokesman Jim Whitaker.

He said that if service should resume before that time, light rail vehicles would be used to supplement the PCC's.
Daily News

Then why set a date when you know you can't honor said date?

Some residents of 59th Street fondly remember the trolley.

"It was a comfortable ride," said Fred Sharp, 77, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. "But the traffic should be two ways."

"The trolley was always really warm, in the winter. A little slower, but an excellent ride," said 59th Street resident Carmella Johnson, 41. "I'd like to see it back on the street, but keep the traffic two-way."

"If it takes parking, that's going to be trouble," said Rena James, 40, who drives to her retail sales job. "I don't have a problem as long as they have parking."
Daily News

I don't even want to go there...

Newkirk said SEPTA officials are again scouting for somewhere to move the Callowhill Depot.

And SEPTA's Frances Jones is trying to stay positive about the trolley line's prospects.

"We don't like to see it as a debacle," said Jones, who has been attending community meetings with Newkirk and other SEPTA officials. "Unfortunately some things haven't transpired the way we wanted, but we're optimistic we can work with the community to bring it to a favorable disposition."
Daily News

Guess what, Ms. Jones. It is a "debacle" even by SEPTA standards. Then again, virtually any major construction project involving SEPTA - with the notable exceptions of the "Frankford Swing" project last summer and the track renewal projects by the subway-surface track crews from Elmwood - becomes a debacle.

Nutter said SEPTA should study shifting the trolley track to one side of 59th Street, so two-way traffic could be maintained. Cleaning up the area, finding additional parking and doing landscaping would also help, he said.

"You need to do something," said Nutter, "to give people a little better sense that you actually care.
Daily News

News flash, Councilman. They don't...

Meanwhile, the "debacle" is just the latest in a long line of "disses" by SEPTA towards elected officials in the region. To wit:

  • Last month, SEPTA got into hot water from another City Council member over the removal of trolley infrastructure along Torresdale Av in Northeast Philadelphia; the same Council member threatened to stall construction of the new parking deck at the Bridge-Pratt El Station.
  • Earlier this year, SEPTA got under the skin of officials in Nether Providence Township (aka "Darby with Trees") earlier this year over plans regarding the 118 through the Garden City district of the township; SEPTA was forced to change it's plans twice before deciding to bypass the neighborhood altogether.
  • For the past couple of years, SEPTA has been blasted repeatedly over its lack of outreach and communication during the early phases of the Market Street El reconstruction, most notably by Councilwoman Janie Blackwell (D-3).
  • In December 2003, elected officials in Bristol Twp (all Democrats) took exception to not being invited to a "dog-and-pony" show announcing federal funding for renovations to Croydon and Levittown-Tullytown stations on the R7 Trenton line while key Republican legislators, including U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R in name only-Pa.) and U.S. Rep. James Greenwood (R-8th) were invited; Township Council President Karen Lipsack said of the snub, "... [P]olitical etiquette requires that you tell someone in the township. I find [the snub] in very poor taste."
  • In June 2003, State Rep. Mario Civera (R-164) took SEPTA officials to task over poor planning of a grade crossing renewal project on the Media/Sharon Hill mainline; his reaction to SEPTA officials over the "debacle" was summed up in a veiled threat: "... Tell your people not to come to me for a dime," he said to the SEPTA representatives. "Don’t start playing games. It doesn’t work."
  • In January 2003, SEPTA ran afoul of Millbourne Borough officials over the payment (or lack thereof) of permit fees relating to the re-construction of the Millbourne El station.
  • Around that same time, SEPTA officials (along with PennDOT and CSX) were being criticized by Middletown (Bucks) officials over a faulty grade crossing at Woodbourne Rd; the township has recently reached a settlement with CSX and PennDOT for repairs to the crossing equipment (SEPTA, apparently, was not involved in the final settlement).
  • In December 2002, SEPTA successfully sneaked through a plan to single track the R8 Fox Chase line, not only failing to keep city officials in the loop, but also infuriating riders and transit activists as well.
  • Two years ago, SEPTA's plans for the 115 re-routing between Folcroft and MacDade Mall had to be changed thanks to community opposition in Norwood; apparently, SEPTA never got around to telling borough officials that the 115 would've been routed through that town.

And these are just the political snubs that I'm aware of since Fearless Leader took office in 2002...


Service on the El between Bridge-Pratt and Erie-Torresdale was suspended yesterday following a report of a bomb threat at Bridge-Pratt. The threat was reported at around 12:30pm yesterday. As a result, a bus-bridge was put in place between Erie-Torresdale and Bridge-Pratt; later, all buses en route to Bridge-Pratt were diverted to Erie-Torresdale. Service was restored nearly an hour later.


For the second time in the past month, there has been a fatality on the R2 Warminster. According to news reports, Robert Malley, 43, of the Ardsley section of Abington Twp, died after being struck by the #2167 at Roslyn Station at around 9:15pm Sunday night (the #2167 was scheduled to arrive at Roslyn at 8:53pm).

(Montgomery County Coroner) Dr. Halbert Fillinger ... said Robert Malley, 43, of Ardsley, couldn't hear the conductor's announcements, since he had recently undergone surgery for hearing loss and was to receive hearing-aid implants.

Police and transit agency officials said the accident occurred about 9:15 p.m. Sunday.

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said a railroad crossing signal wasn't functioning when the southbound train approached the Roslyn station.

Maloney says the train stopped across the intersection from the station so the conductor could stop traffic and walk the train through the crossing.

Witnesses told police that just as the train began to move again, Malley either stepped off or lost his balance and fell to the ground, becoming trapped beneath the train.

Malley was rushed to Abington Memorial Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Associated Press

Saturday, July 03, 2004


It took SEPTA long enough, but after nearly 5 years, they finally got around to updating their web site ( One of the biggest improvements is that all on-line SEPTA schedules are finally in PDF format, which has become the industry standard for the past couple of years. I'll have more comments on the site at a later time...


It appears that the 9 will finally be moving from Allegheny to Midvale starting with the fall picking. Allegheny, which had become an all-artic depot four years ago, continued to operate the 9, even though most ridership counts had shown that ridership on the line can't support articulated buses.

On a related note, there's a rumor floating around that the 35 will be consolidated with the 9 at some point in the next fiscal year. Nothing is finalized yet, nor has any formal proposal been brought forward. If SEPTA attempts to consolidate the 35 into the 9, then you can expect a lot of yelling and screaming from Manayunk, which considers the 35 it's life-line.