Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The long-term detour of the 94 bus off of Bethlehem Pike near Fort Washington will be lifted on Tuesday, September 7. The 94 had been detoured off of Bethlehem Pike between Pennsylvania Av/PA 309 and Church Rd due to bridge reconstruction for over a year.


It would've appeared that SEPTA would quit making stupid mistakes as it pertained to schedules and other items on the web now that the new web site is open...

Um, nope.

Consider this web timetable for the late, lamented WHIRL (aka Route 207), a route that was discontinued earlier this year. The more things change, the more they stay the same...


A brand new New Flyer assigned to Comly was involved in a vandalism incident along Roosevelt Blvd early Sunday morning. 5918, covering 1078 block on the 14/20, was deadheading north on the Blvd at Tyson when two youths allegedly threw a tire iron at the bus, damaging the front destination sign screen. Despite the damage, the operator was instructed to continue his trip to Neshaminy Mall and swap buses when he returned to Comly, which is on Bustleton en route to the Bridge-Pratt terminal. It seems it doesn't matter whether the bus is new or not, punks will be punks...

Monday, August 30, 2004


In the railroad.net SEPTA message boards, there's a rumor that P&W service could be restructured by either the November sign-ups or for the Spring 2005 schedules:

FYI, SEPTA Service Planning has developed a proposed "New Look" schedule for Route 100 weekday peak hour operations. Since March 2004, ridership has increased by over 30% to Gulph Mills and Norristown stations and this schedule would reflect these increases. Three levels of service have been developed: Norristown Limiteds, Hughes Park Expresses and Bryn Mawr locals. This schedule would actually require fewer operational resources than the August 30 schedule and the Spring 2004 schedule when express service previously operated. However, this proposal is contingent upon relocating V-Tag switching hardware from Villanova to Hughes Park. If the SEPTA Facilities group can relocate the V-Tag in a timely manner, they are hoping to implement this schedule effective November 22, 2004, otherwise it would be implemented with the Spring 2005 schedule change.

If that rumor is in fact true, then maybe we jumped the gun on calling out SEPTA for its broken promise to restore express service in time for the September schedule changes.

At the same time, though, I'm still a little sceptical...


DART First State will hold public hearing workshops to review proposed schedule changes on New Castle and Kent County bus routes. Most of the changes are minor time changes to improve connections on Wilmington routes, with the only major change being an extension of the 15 bus to serve Creekwood Dr businesses. In the Dover area, minor routing adjustments are proposed for the 101 and 106 buses, and minor time changes for the 105. The 301 Intercounty bus route would also see minor time changes. The hearings will be held on Monday, September 13 from 11:30am-1:30pm at the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N French St, Wilmington and on Tuesday, September 14 from 2:30-4:30pm at the DelDOT Administration Building, US 113, Dover.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Remember when SEPTA promised to restore peak-hour Norristown Express/Bryn Mawr Local service on the P&W after an outcry over the "temporary" all local peak-hour service patterns was implemented this summer?

Add that promise to the latest list of lies eminating from 1234 Market...

According to the new P&W timetables which take effect Monday, not only is there no express service, there are also very few Bryn Mawr short-turns. There's only one AM peak short-turn, departing 69 St at 6:57am, and two PM peak short-turns, departing 69 St at 5:38pm and 5:52pm. The lone express train operates in the PM peak, departing 69 St for Norristown at 5;50pm. The AM Peak Limited Stop train is still in effect, departing 69 St at 6:00am, and returning at 4:55pm.

And that's it.

All trains will allegedly operate as two-car consists, but given SEPTA's repeated lies about restoring two-car express service on the P&W, don't count on it. In any case, watch Fearless Leader and her Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market try to spin this as a cost cutting measure. It makes no difference, as a lie is a lie is a lie...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Several suburban routes will operate with special schedules on Labor Day. The 93, 94, 96, 98, 99, 110, 113, 117, 123, 124/125, and 130 will operate on either a modified Saturday or Sunday schedule, depending on the services provided. For the Norristown routes with special schedules, this will involve full service to Pottstown, Telford, Willow Grove, and Royersford. For most of the other routes, the changes add additional trips to scheduled Sunday service. Details will be posted within the next day or so.


New timetables for some Red Arrow routes will take effect on Monday, with the remaining routes to be changed in November, pending SEPTA Board approval of the route restructuring plan for the Chester City area. The only routes which will have new timetables are the 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 110, 111, 112, 115, 120, 122, and 123. There are no timetable changes for the 103, 106, 107, 122, and 123. All other changes are as follows:

  • ROUTE 105: Thanksgiving and Christmas schedules established for this route; no other timetable changes.
  • ROUTE 108: School trippers restored; buses depart from Church Ln/Chester Av, Yeadon at 7:20am, 7:25am, and 7:57am, terminating at 84-Crane; 3:22pm from 84-Crane to 69 St Terminal added (school tripper).
  • ROUTE 110: Saturday 7:42pm to Penn State/Delaware County departs 69 St Terminal 2 minutes later; Saturday 8:40pm to Penn State/Delaware County departs 69 St Terminal 10 minutes later; Saturday 7:10pm departs Penn State/Delaware County 10 minutes later; 9:35pm departs Penn State/Delaware County 5 minutes later; 10:35pm and 11:35pm depart Penn State/Delaware County 10 minutes earlier; Thanksgiving and Christmas schedules established for this route.
  • ROUTE 111: Weekday 10:37pm to Chadds Ford cut back to State Rd/Township Line Rd; weekday 11:20pm from Chadds Ford eliminated; all Saturday service to terminate at Penn State/Delaware County; Saturday 5:00am departure from 69 St Terminal to Chadds Ford eliminated; Saturday 6:00am departs 15 minutes earlier; Saturday 7:10pm and 8:10pm depart 2 minutes later, 10:15pm departure eliminated, last departure to Penn State/Delaware County departs 69 St Terminal at 9:12pm; all departure times from Penn State/Delaware County to 69 St Terminal adjusted.
  • ROUTE 112: 8:15am and 9:15am express trips to Delaware County Community College depart 5 minutes earlier; 4:05pm DCCC to 69 St Terminal express eliminated.
  • ROUTE 120: Fall schedule resumes, with 3 AM through trips to Cheyney departing 69 St at 7:25am (Express), 8:30am, and 9:30am, and 3 mid-day through trips departing 69 St at 12:30pm, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm; all other westbound trips require transfer from 104 at Newtown Square. Eastbound through service to 69 St Terminal departs from Cheyney8:25am, 9:25am, 11:35am, 1:35pm, 3:30pm, 6:35pm, and 10:40pm; all other eastbound trips require transfer to 104 at Newtown Square; now designated bicycle accessible route.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


Two months ago, 4539 caught fire while in service. Thanks to Joe Butler finding a couple of web sites, we can piece together what happened.

On June 9, 4539 was in revenue service on the 116 heading from Granite Run to Chester. At around 2:40pm, the bus caught fire while on the Neumann College campus. Green Ridge and Aston-Beechwood fire companies from Aston Twp responded to the scene. Pictures of substantial fire damage to the rear of the bus can be seen at both site.

Suffice to say that 4539 appears to be a total loss, and may very well become the first of the ElDorados to be scrapped.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


In a promotion that is simply more sensible than the "15 Minute Pick-Up" contest promoting the increased peak hour service on the River Line, NJ Transit announced yesterday that college students at seven colleges across the state will be able to ride NJT buses, trolleys, and trains for free between September 8 and 15. In addition, students attending Rutgers-New Brunswick, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, Drew University in Union County, Seton Hall University in South Orange, Montclair State University in Essex County, and William Patterson University in Passaic County will soon be able to purchase monthly bus or rail passes on-line at njtransit.com for a 25 percent discount. The program will be extended to other colleges statewide next year.


Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse on Krapf's Coatesville to West Chester line service, it gets worse...

This morning's commute was plauged by bus problems. The 5:55am from Coatesville to West Chester (locals simply call it the "6 o'clock") ran nearly 15 minutes late getting into Downingtown. There were "mechanical problems" reported by the driver, who was forced to change buses at Oaklands Corporate Center, adding nearly 20 minutes to the delays. The bus finally arrived in West Chester at 7:30am, but not before the SEPTA 92 bus came by and took most of the passenger load to Exton Mall.

So why was an MCI over-the-road coach used on this particular trip over the past few days? The fleet (such as it is) of 2 Thomas TL-960 buses and 2 third-hand GMC RTS buses were all out of service for repairs. Amazing...

To make matters worse, the 5:55am West Chester-Coatesville trip was also running about 15-20 minutes late. At least we think it was running late, since the only bus heading in that direction was a school bus with a few people on board. Reportedly, the operators of those particular trips were forced to swap runs because one of the operators was not trained on an MCI cruiser bus.

And, remember, this is the same family who owns a large mansion off of Boot Rd in East Bradford Township providing junk buses in worse shape than SEPTA's aging Neoplan fleet that owns and operates the Coatesville-West Chester service, with strong backing from political power brokers both in Coatesville and at the West Chester Courthouse. Also bear in mind that there's no public accountability to PennDOT or any other government entity that we're aware of.

But, riders are expected to suffer on vehicles with damaged windows and no a/c. Yeah, right...


Last week, we reported on SEPTA's latest attempts to lobby for dedicated funding from Harrisburg, hoping it was a one time deal.

Umm, no.

From yesterday's Metro page:
Every building owner knows the importance of regular maintenance and planned upgrades to ensure the useful life and value of their property. SEPTA is a $3 billion organization with an annual Capital budget of $400 million. As a regional business, SEPTA follows the same responsible management principles. [Yeah, right. -ed.]

The only difference - instead of a home or store - the Authority has hundreds of stations, depots, and other facilities - some constructed in the early 1900s - and operates close to 2,800 vehicles that serve the fifth largest transit operation in the nation.

Investing in capital improvement projects enables the Authority to enhance the delivery of service for customers, refresh vital system infrastructure, and keep pace with technology. These resources enable SEPTA to reconstruct the Frankford Transportation Center complex, create a 100% ADA accessible bus fleet, install new track and signal systems between Wayne Junction and Glenside and renovate Suburban Station and the Market Street Elevated Line.

But what would happen to SEPTA and its five county service region without sufficient funding to complete these and other projects? Track and signal replacement on the R5 Paoli Line wouldn't happen; renovations to busy Broad Street Line stations wouldn't be completed; new buses and rail cars would not be purchased; and electrical power substation and overhead wire improvement projects would have to be deferred.

Just think about the impact on the quality of service if SEPTA was forced to delay or cancel capital improvement projects in order to close a $62 million budget gap.

Can you imagine it? Neither can SEPTA.
Never mind the fact that the capital budget comes from a separate pool of funding than the operating budget, which somehow managed to decrease its defecit by $8 million thanks to a 6.59 percent increase in Act 3/Act 26 funding in the current budget. SEPTA is now trying to mislead the public into thinking that key capital projects won't go forward unless the legislature coughs up more money for the operating budget.

You may also notice that SEPTA didn't bother to mention a few minor projects among those that they're threatening to defer without the extra funding: The $chuylkill Valley and "Cross-County" rail corridors. I guess those two boondoggles will go forward, financial crisis be damned...


The 311 bus - aka the "Commonwealth Breeze" - will be eliminated on September 3 due to low ridership and cancellation of funding from Montgomery County. The 311 - along with the 310/Horsham Breeze - originates at the Willow Grove Park mall in Upper Moreland, then operates to the Commonwealth Corporate Center in Horsham Twp via Horsham Rd. Peak hour only service on the 311 had been reduced from half-hourly to hourly service during the February picking. There was an article written by Inquirer transportation reporter Jere Downs which had been posted at philly.com and offered more details, but the article is not available.


The 30 bus is being detoured off of Haverford Av between Lansdowne Av and 67 St. There's no mention of this on the SEPTA web site, but there is mention of flood-related detours on the 35 in Manayunk. Figure that one out...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Today's Bucks County Courier Times has a report on angry commuters who use the Yardley station on the R3 West Trenton Line in Lower Makefield Twp. Apparently, some commuters feel as though they've been disrespected, despite living in one of the wealthest areas not located in the People's Republic of Lower Merion:
Is a fence at Yardley's train station a safety feature or an annoyance?

Some regular train commuters say the fence, which blocks people from crossing the tracks, isn't necessary. Many stations allow people to cross the tracks instead of walking over a bridge or under a tunnel, they point out, so why can't Yardley?

But SEPTA officials say the fence, which was installed four years ago, protects people from getting hit by a train and has to stay.

"SEPTA is sticking it to the people of Yardley," said borough resident Bob White.
Bucks County Courier Times

Yeah, if saving lives is "sticking it" to passengers, then deal with it...
He complained that the walk from one side of the tracks to the other is too long and can be dangerous. Riders who need to get from the main parking lot to the northbound platform have to walk down some stairs, through a tunnel under
the tracks, and up a grassy pathway.

If you're running late or the weather is bad, that makes it even worse, he added. He said he's seen senior citizens and overweight people struggle.

"This is just not the way it's supposed to be," White said. "There is no reason a section or two of that fence can't be removed so people can cross the tracks as they did for 100 years."

According to SEPTA spokesman Felipe Suarez, the agency installs fences
"wherever [it] is feasibly possible." If some stations allow people to cross the
tracks, that's because it wasn't possible to build an alternate route - like a
tunnel or bridge, he said.

The fence isn't a sign that SEPTA has anything against Yardley, Suarez said.

The fence met with much opposition after it was installed in March 2000. Commuters began hopping it instead of using the tunnel, and SEPTA cracked
down by issuing $300 fines for illegally crossing the tracks.

"We're more interested in saving lives, and we'll do everything we can to ensure that we do," Suarez said.
Courier Times

That would actually be a first for this administration...
White said he's been concerned about the station for a while, but he recently voiced his concerns at a Yardley Council meeting. Council President Chris Harding said the borough's public safety committee would look into the issue.

Mayor Ed Johnson said he absolutely doesn't want the fence removed. After working as a train engineer on that railroad [CSX - ed.] for 40 years, Johnson said he knows that it would be extremely dangerous without the fence.

"There are freight trains running that line at 60 mph, and the visibility is poor [because of a bend in the tracks and the dense trees]," he said. "It's very scary as an engineer to sit up there and see people walking across."
Courier Times

Open and shut, right? Oh, the angry commuters of Yardley aren't done bitching yet...
It's not just the long walk that has some residents concerned.

Frequent train commuter Leslie Shanks said she'd like to see the grassy pathway paved. "It's not fun walking down it in these shoes," she said, pointing to the platform heels she was wearing.
Courier Times

Memo to Ms. Shanks. May we suggest wearing appropriate footware if you're so concerned about dirtying your shoes? That said, it certainly doesn't seem unreasonable to improve the pathway...
Ken Bowers agreed.

"SEPTA doesn't maintain it. [The grass path] gets muddy when it rains, and it's annoying," he said. "I could see how someone could easily fall."

White's complaints about the train station don't end with the walkway, either. He said a shelter is needed on the northbound side of the tracks. There's one on the southbound side for people waiting to take the train into Philadelphia.
Courier Times

Why don't they just ask for people to wipe the dirt off their shoes at no extra cost or personalized attention? Most people who live in the Yardley area (at least Upper and Lower Makefield) tend to be wealthy and snobbishly obnoxious, so it's not like they can't afford it...
Suarez said that's simply because more people take the train into Philadelphia. Courier Times

"We don't see enough passengers on the other side to justify putting up a shelter," he said. "There is only one stop, West Trenton, after Yardley on that side."

White said he hopes SEPTA will change its mind about the fence and the shelter.

"Yardley is being discriminated against," he said. "If I were on council, I would talk to Lower Makefield officials and approach SEPTA together."
Courier Times

We're certain that some cheese would be served along with some cheap whine if such a meeting were to take place...

Monday, August 16, 2004


In case you missed it last week, SEPTA's "Save Transit" coalition/propaganda machine ran this piece in Wednesday's Metro paper:

Baseball, football, hockey, or indoor soccer, whatever sport you enjoy, the Sports Complex at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, is the place to see it. Getting there is easy and stress free thanks to SEPTA's Broad Street Line. Taking our seat to your seat means traffic jams and parking headaches are game day stresses for others to endure. Risk a $200 ticket for illegal parking in the neighborhood or paying $10 to park in a lot, if you can even find a space? Why go to all the trouble, when for the cost of two tokens - $2.60 -­ SEPTA has Sports Express service ready to take you to Pattison Avenue.

In the last four years, the number of sports fans riding SEPTA has grown significantly. During the 2003 regular season, approximately 10,000 football fans took the Broad Street Line to every Eagles game. This was an 18% increase in ridership over the 2002 season. And last year's playoff game against the Panthers broke all SEPTA records with 13,511 ticket holders riding the Broad Street Line. Those 13,511 fans made up almost 1/5 of all the people attending the game.

How would all these people get to the game without the Broad Street Line? Just think about the traffic and congestion around the sports complex if SEPTA was forced to cut service on the Broad Street Subway in order to close a $62 million budget gap.

Can you imagine it? Neither can SEPTA.

Unfortunately this is the future the region may face without adequate funding for public transit. Dedicated funding provides the resources SEPTA and all transit organizations in Pennsylvania need to keep moving, growing, and serving the community. Please contact your legislators in Harrisburg and tell them why public transit is important to you.

Could someone please remind Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market of the backlash that followed the last attempt by management tried to severely reduce and/or eliminate service on several key lines? I believe the term to describe the reaction is "backlash."

While it's doubtful that service on the Broad Street Line would be cut significantly in the event that SEPTA had to close it's $62-70 million (depending on whom you believe) budget gap, the same tactics used last year in threatening to eliminate all or portions of key bus routes such as the C, 27, 31, and 123 along with the complete elimination of the R1 Airport, R2 Warminster, R6 Cynwyd, and R8 Chestnut Hill West lines was met with fierce opposition; so fierce in fact, that at last year's Operating Budget hearings held at the Convention Center, the "morning session" which began at 11:00am didn't officially conclude until well after 5:00pm, the start time of the "evening session."

Could this, in fact, be a hint of SEPTA's tactics should Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) and the legislature fails to act timely on legislation to provide dedicated funding to SEPTA and other transit systems in the Commonwealth?

Let's hope not, or else last year's hearing processes will seem like a love-fest...


The Inquirer reports yet another tresspasser-related fatality on the Regional Rail system...

On Saturday night, according to SEPTA's Gary Fairfax, an elderly male entered the right-of-way two miles south of Holmesburg Jct in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. At around 9:35pm, the victim, who was not identified as of this morning, was struck by the #1734 train (R7 Trenton to Chestnut Hill East), and pronounced dead at the scene. The #1734 had 157 passengers on board en route to Center City. Normal service was restored within 45 minutes; however, R7 and Amtrak trains were able to operate past the scene, though with delays.

This marks the seventh fatality on SEPTA's Regional Rail system (including incidents on Amtrak rights-of-way - Northeast and Keystone corridors - over which SEPTA operates) in the past three months. The others:

  • Sunday, 25 July: Two teens were struck and killed on the Amtrak NEC by Amtrak's Three Rivers (#40) near SEPTA's Tacony station (R7 Trenton) after their car broke down on I-95. The vicitms were reportedly in search of help after their car broke down on I-95 South.
  • Thursday, 15 July: Donald Smith, 77, of Falls Twp, Bucks County, was struck and killed on the NEC by SEPTA's #778 (R7 Trenton to Chestnut Hill East) near Morrisville. The Bucks County coronor reported that Mr. Smith had a history of dementia and hearing problems, according to the Bucks County Courier Times of Levittown.
  • Sunday, 4 July: Robert Malley, 43, of the Ardsley section of Abington Twp, was struck and killed at Roslyn station. According to AP reports, Malley de-boarded the #2167 (R2 Warminster to R1 Airport via Center City) and either lost his balance or stepped off the train as it departed Roslyn. SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney reported that the railroad crossing signals at Easton and Susquehanna Rds were not functioning.
  • Tuesday, 8 June: Daniel Sands, 18, of Hatboro, and an unidentified friend, were walking along the R2 tracks between Hatboro and Willow Grove stations in Upper Moreland. At around 10:50am, Sands was struck by the #4127 (R2 Warminster to R1 Airport via Center City) after his friend stepped off the tracks and thought Sands was on the opposite side of the train.
  • Monday, 7 June: An unidenfied male in his late 20s-early 30s committed suicide by jumping in front of the #6512 (R5 Center City to Lansdale) near North Hills, according to Abington Township police.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


It appears that most, if not all, of Comly's NABIs have been retrofit with bike racks. Early indications had been that the racks would be installed slowly at all depots simultaneously. That does not appear to be the case, as at least 32 of Comly's buses are confirmed to have been retrofit with the racks, a high number compared to the other garages.


At around 1:45pm today, service on the El between Bridge-Pratt and Allegheny was suspended for unknown reasons. As is procedure, nobody from SEPTA said what the cause of the shutdown was. There had been rumors of someone jumping into the track area at Church, however there were no signs of medic units at that station. Service was restored at around 2:15pm, and it usually takes a lot longer to reopen service after a jumper incident, so that doesn't seem likely. There was, however, a SEPTA rent-a-cop K9 unit at the station. That would lead me to believe that it was a possible bomb threat reported at Church, though that hasn't been confirmed. There was also someone who was trespassing in a fenced in area near the Church St entrance to the El, at the same time the rent-a-cop was in his SUV, though whether that's related to the incident remains unclear.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


For many years, SEPTA has had numerous legal run-ins with activist groups representing disabled persons. The lastest controversty is one that doesn't seem to be going away, according to this week's Philadelphia City Paper (a fully paid subsidiary of Michael Moore-on, Inc.):

On a recent trip to SEPTA's Allegheny Avenue station, Pat Grebloski noticed a problem she regularly faces.

Though the Center City woman was getting off the Market-Frankford El at her destination, the voice coming over the loudspeaker announced that the train was three or four stations south. If she hadn't been paying attention, she might have thought she was actually at Berks, York-Dauphin or Huntingdon.

It's amazing taht Ms. Grebloski was able to hear the announcements at all. At times, some passengers struggle to hear the automated stop announcements - which reportedly the operators have no control over - especially when underground.

Luckily, Grebloski had been monitoring the turns in the train tracks. After all, she can't just look out the window to figure out where she is.
When it comes to navigating the public-transportation system, blind passengers have to develop strategies to get where they're going. In many cases, they're left to depend on their own ingenuity or the kindness of strangers, including fellow passengers or drivers who make a point to find out where they're going as they board the bus. Short of assistance, if their concentration lapses for a second, they could get lost. It's not that they mind being cognizant of their surroundings, rather they just want to know why the system designed to announce the proper stops on buses and trains often fails them.

"I pretty [much] know where the stops are," says Grebloski, who uses a cane and sports sunglasses after having lost her vision to glaucoma and cataracts in 1980.

She says she didn't have much of a choice but to intricately learn the line, because SEPTA's station-announcing "enunciation system" is far from spot on.

It's hard to pin down exactly how often that enunciation system gets a glitch, but when it does, the problem trickles down to inaccurate announcements up and down the line. SEPTA spokeswoman Sylvana Hoyos says the recording starts at the beginning of each route when a driver or train conductor enters an identification code. From there, any problems can be a result of a software problem, weather or an inaccurate code, adds Hoyos.

We'll comment on the software problem later in this posting...

If a problem arises on a bus or train, the vehicle must be stopped in order to reset the recording. (For trains, that means it persists until the end of the line. For buses, drivers are encouraged to call out the stops themselves, Hoyos says, noting that those who don't are subject to discipline.)

No comment...

Though Hoyos notes that the transportation agency hasn't fielded many complaints, Jim Antonacci, president of National Federation of the Blind's state chapter, interprets each instance of a blind passenger on a route where the enunciation fails as a slight. He says it results from drivers who don't care, or a transit system that's unwilling to fix its technology.

"A competent blind person knows where they're going," says Antonacci, who also counts the stops each trip. "What I hate is the thought that the driver can control this."

He wants both El and SEPTA bus drivers to take that extra step of helping every blind passenger that boards their vehicles. This wouldn't cost anything and drivers decades ago used to do it anyway, he says.

For the most part, most operators are generally good about that.

In 1991, the federation sued SEPTA because some bus drivers weren't announcing stops, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Within three months, SEPTA agreed that bus drivers would announce stops in Center City and at other major intersections, a rule that's still in effect, says Tom Earle, who was involved with the suit as a lawyer with the Disabilities Law Project, a nonprofit Pennsylvania law firm that provides legal help to disabled persons.

Within three years of the settlement, though, the federation had to again sue because compliance was "horrible," says Earle.

All that legal action occurred before SEPTA purchased a new bus fleet that came with the enunciation system. (The system on the El came with new trains around 1996, with employees announcing stops on the Regional Rail and Broad Street lines.) It relies on the Global Positioning System, which uses satellite navigation.

Still, Antonacci says the satellites must have been out of whack when he rode a bus up Chestnut Street not too long ago. Even though there was a detour, the system kept announcing the wrong bus stops, he says.

No surprises here...

SEPTA driver Tom Smith, who drives the Route 5 bus from Front and Market streets to the Frankford Transportation Center, estimates that the system breaks down about once a week.

"Sometimes it'll stop working and then come on by itself," says Smith. He notes that he doesn't have many visually impaired riders, but he says that when he does, he asks them where they are going and tells them when they arrive. Drivers, however, aren't trained to fix it, so they have to wait for someone else to come do the job.

Even so, Antonacci would be happy with an entire crew of drivers that followed Smith's philosophy. He doesn't think they're asking for much more than a little courtesy from a transit agency that doesn't even have firm numbers on its number of blind passengers.

"We do not believe that the environment needs to be changed for a blind person," says Antonacci. "Does the city need to install some talking traffic light and cost the city millions of dollars? Absolutely not."

Fortunately, Mr. Anonacci isn't following the tactics of other activist groups in the city by running directly to court and finding an activist judge who'd sock it to SEPTA or whomever the target of such a suit would be.

That said, though, the problems with the stop announcement systems on buses and the El cars aren't just frustrating to the disabled; it's also frustrating for those able bodied (for lack of a better term) passengers who are riding a route that they're unfamiliar with.

While it's apparent that some software glitches occur on the M-4 cars used on the El, I'd say that they're properly working 8 times out of 10 (which is probably a conservative estimate, but it's not an every-day occurance at least from my observations over the past few years).

The Orbital system used on the bus side, though, is a different story...

For starters, several routes, particularly in the suburbs, still lack correct stop announcements. In some cases, these are newer routes that were initiated prior to any software updates. However:
  • The 123 still does not have any stop announcements at all, despite being in service since the fall of 1998. This is despite the fact that other newer routes, such as the 122 between 69 St Terminal, MacDade Mall, and Springfield Mall, has stop announcements.
  • The same goes for some newer routings on certain lines. The 104 signs for "WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY" have the proper announcements, including stops at High and Market Streets (with no mention of the "West Chester Courthouse" but mentions for connecting routes) and Church St and University Av (the last stop on the line at West Chester University). The 104 signs reading "WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY/EXPRESS TO EAGLE RD" and "NEWTOWN SQUARE CORPORATE CAMPUS" have no such announcements.
  • In Frontier, the Lower Bucks routes didn't have corrected stops after the route changes in 2000 and 2001 as of earlier this spring. However, stop announcements were added within the past year for the 133 between King of Prussia and Exton Square Mall, despite being introduced at same time as the initial routing changes in Lower Bucks.
  • Some Frontier lines still lack any announcements at all; these include the 92 "WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY" signs, the 131, and the 304.
  • In the city, most of the routes do have proper announcements (though there may be a few routes that I may have missed), though there are some exceptions. The 12 lacks any announcements (as of this spring), however, the 23 - which only recently began seeing more NABIs and New Flyers, have announcements. Most of the routes which only saw more newer buses within the past 2-3 years - such as the 3, 31, 40, and G - did have stop announcements added within the last year or so.
There are still a few errors in the announcements themselves. For example:
  • The 104 calls out the Newtown Square Corporate Campus as "West Chester Pike and Campus Blvd., Newtown Square Business Campus."
  • The exterior announcement for the "92 WEST CHESTER" signs still say "Welcome to Route 92, to West Chester, via Chesterbrook and Paoli" despite the Chesterbrook and Paoli service ending with the introduction of the 133.
  • The end of line announcement for 69 St Terminal on the 65 calls out these bus routes "... Routes 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 120 and 121" despite the fact that the 121 doesn't come anywhere near the terminal. The programmers probably meant to refer to Routes 1 and 21, despite the fact that the 1 doesn't go to 69 St anymore.
  • On the Red Arrow routes, the end of line announcement for 69 St Terminal says "Last Stop, 69th Street Terminal to Philadelphia and suburban routes." It would be nice if riders knew that the could connect to the Market-Frankford Line, now wouldn't it?
  • There are even errors in some of the newer signs: The 133 announces the intersection of Phoenixville Pike and King Road as "Phoenixville and King Roads" despite an updated annoucnement for Immaculata University, which was formerly announced as "Immaculata College" before the school changed it's name two years ago. Some routes in the city still call out connections that don't even exist anymore, such as the 21 announcing connections to both the 7 and 12 along Chestnut and Walnut Sts.
And, to top it all off, there are big problems with the Orbital systems on the 5700 and 5800-series New Flyers and on the Champions operated out of Frontier. On most of the newer New Flyers, the stop announcements go off one stop before the actual location. For example, the system will call out "West Chester Pike and State Rd for Routes 110 and 111" even though the bus is at West Chester Pike and Lynn Blvd (or, as the system calls it on eastbound trips, "West Chester Pike and Windsor Avenue"). Plus, the electronic clocks on the 5700s and some 5800s are 3 minutes fast.

The problem on some of the Champion buses is occasionally, the system will crash while en route. While the sign readings are unaffected, once the system reboots itself, the interior signs will often read "TAKE NEXT BUS." This was also a problem on some ElDorados, particularly on the 305, when its stop announcements were added last year.

As for other systems in the area?
  • NJ Transit doesn't have an automatic stop announcement system on its buses, but most operators that I've riden with are good about calling out stops, particularly within Center City Philadelphia.
  • DART First State supposedly has an interior and exterior announcement system; the exterior system calls out the proper route, but I can't ever recall the interior stop announcement system ever working. DART's drivers generally didn't call out stops at all from my past experiences.
  • When they recieved their RTS buses in 1994, BARTA in Reading and Red Rose Transit in Lancaster had simplified announcement systems, however Red Rose removed their devices from their buses recently (I haven't been to Reading in several years, so I can't speak out BARTA).
  • LANTA recently introduced an automatic stop announcement system within the past few years. Unlike BARTA and Red Rose, the system was introduced recently, most likely with the 2001 New Flyers (0121-0140), and was also retrofit onto the 1998 New Flyers (9801-9820). The device is similar to DART's "Talking Bus" console, but the difference it that it actually works. Prior to the addition of that system, LANTA drivers were generally very good about calling out stops, at least for the few times I'd riden the LANTA system.
  • MTA Maryland in Baltimore, WMATA, PATransit in Pittsburgh, and MTA Long Island Bus use the Clever Device systems, which either work exceptionally well (as is the case in Long Island), works most of the time (WMATA), or has several bugs in it (MTA Maryland).
How well as stop announcement system works (or doesn't) often depends on the company that uses it. SEPTA has generally done a decent job, but that doesn't mean they can't do better (ie. making sure the 123 actually has stop announcements). Improvements to the system don't just benefit the disabled, they benefit all riders.


Yesterday featured a fairly eventful morning on the R7 Trenton line, according to John Almeida's reports in the Philly Traction web group at Yahoo...

For starters, police (it was reported to be Philadelphia Police, but most likely, it was Bensalem Township) were dispatched to the Cornwells Heights station shortly after 8:00am. Two allegedly intoxicated passengers boarded the #9728 (8:01am from Trenton express to Center City) at Croydon with no money to pay their fares; the #9728's crew reportedly requested police assistance at either Torresdale or Holmesburg Junction, but were told by Amtrak dispatchers that "waiting for the police would really tie up the railroad." and suggested that the passengers would be met by police at 30 St Station. We don't know how Bensalem Police were notified, but by the time the #9728 arrived at Cornwells Heights, the passengers in question were removed from the train without delaying the rest of the system.

Shortly after 9:00am, Amtrak Regional #172 (Washington to Boston) suffered mechanical failure at Morris Interlocking in Morrisville (which is just before the bridge leading into the Trenton station). SEPTA's #721 was delayed about 10-15 minutes as it switched from it's normal track position at Grundy Interlocking (north of Bristol station), using the inner track to board passengers at Levittown. The disabled Amtrak train arrived in Trenton at 10:18am, with passengers being discharged at Trenton (which is not a stop on the #172) and transferred onto the #132 (Washington to New York), which completed the #172's run to Boston.

Just another fun day on the Northeast Corridor...

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


The Regional Rail system may be in danger of a shutdown if a labor dispute between SEPTA and one of its railroad unions is not resolved by December. According to the Associated Press, the Bush Administration authorized a second review board to attempt to negotiate a settlement between UTU Local 61 - which represents conductors and assistant conductors on the Regional Rail lines - and SEPTA. In April, the Administration authorized a similar board, however, no agreement was reached, when neither SEPTA nor UTU 61 accepted that board's recommendations. SEPTA warns that if the second board can't help reach an agreement between the two sides, then the union would be free to authorize a strike as early as December 12. The last strike on the Regional Rail system was in 1982, when RRD employees - then working for ConRail - struck for 108 days, virtually causing gridlock in the region. There's no word on what the issues involved are, but one could guess that wages and insurance are at the top of the list, similar to the labor fights between SEPTA and TWU 234 earlier this year.

Stay tuned...

Monday, August 02, 2004


Mother Nature's wrath was worse than I had originally reported in yesterday's posting...

According to various media outlets, not only was Broad Street Subway, P&W and Regional Rail service impacted, but parts of Upper Darby Township and Darby Borough, in addition to the Overbrook section of the city, were hit hard. Actually, to say that these areas were hit hard would be a major understatement.

In Overbrook, downed trees on Haverford Av east of Lansdowne forced the 30 to operate on diversion via 67 St.

Major flooding in two parts of Upper Darby had severe impacts on SEPTA. The area around State Rd and Lansdowne Av in Drexel Hill was hit very hard, with reports of massive flooding at the Bond Shopping Center. As such, the 110 was forced to divert via West Chester Pike and Township Line Rd, bypassing that part of Drexel Hill.

As reported yesterday, the area around 69 St and Marshall Rd was hit very hard, with reports of flood waters reaching 3-4 feet at the Pathmark on 69 St. This caused the 42 to cut back most trips to 61-Pine, while the 108, 109, and 113 were forced to make major detours around the area. The 108 most likely had to take Garrett Rd, Lansdowne Av, and Baltimore Pike just to get remotely close to being on schedule, much less on route.

In Darby, service on the 11 was cut back due to flooding along Main St; this presumably caused headaches for operators on the 13 who were pulling in or out of service from Elmwood Depot. In addition to Main St, MacDade Blvd near Springfield Rd was closed for most of yesterday, adding to further problems for 113 operators, as well as operators on the 114 and 305. Even though none of the bus routes serving Darby Borough operate on that portion of MacDade Blvd, having that part of MacDade shut down at Springfield Rd, coupled with the flooding along Main St, made navigating around Darby very difficult. (And, yes, as tempting as it is, I'm not going to suggest that the flooding was a sign from God that the powers that be in Darby Borough get their acts together.)

With the exception of the detour on the 30, most routes had returned to their normal routings as of this afternoon.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Mother nature didn't do SEPTA any favors today. Among the various problems plaguing the system:
  • Service on the Broad Street Line was suspended due to flooding, however it was slowly restored, first to Girard, then all the way to Fern Rock.
  • All Regional Rail service was suspended for the morning due to the heavy rains. Part of the reason may have been reports of debris on the Reading trunk between Melrose Park and Elkins Park (aka SEPTA's "Bermuda Triangle").
  • The 42, 108, 109, and 113 are being diverted due to flooding near Marshall Rd. The 108 and 113 were being forced to detour via Garrett Rd as of this posting.
  • The R6 Norristown line is not operating at all due to heavy flooding in the Whitemarsh Twp area. From what we're told, most of the stations are inaccessible, making a bus-bridge for R6 passengers impossible.
  • Meanwhile, P&W service between 69 St and Bryn Mawr is running shuttle buses, also due to flooding.
  • There's no word on whether the 102 was busing between Collingdale and Sharon Hill due to the heavy rains, but it wouldn't have surprised me if that were the case.