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...

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