Wednesday, September 29, 2004

BAD NEWS FOR 5319...

According to one of our Red Arrow sources, 5319 appears to have made its last trip.

As posted in the guestbook earlier tonight, 5319 suffered major flood damage, which was apparently worse than initially suspected. The flood waters apparently went above the wheelwell, cresting at the top of the wheelchair lift/front steps. In addition, the electronic systems are damaged beyond repair. 5319 joins 5313 as the latest Red Arrow NABI to be scrapped within the past year. 5313, you may recall, was taken out of service following major fire damage and has not been seen since. The last time it was even spotted at Wyoming Shops was several months ago. A few months ago, ElDorado 4539 suffered major fire damage while in service on the 116 in Aston, leading to its reported scrapping.

Sounds like the mechanics at Red Arrow ought to take better care of the remaining buses, as I highly doubt Red Arrow can afford to lose any more buses to the scrap yard (not counting 3380, which is reportedly scrapped but still in the yard area).


DART First State reported earlier this morning that several of its routes in the Christiana area of New Castle County were on detour due to Tropical Rainstorm Jeanne. On the 5 and 30, shuttle buses were operating between Newport and Stanton; several bus routes operating along Del. 7 between Old Baltimore Pike and Del. 273 Park-and-ride are not operating, impacting the 23, 34, 40, 54, and 55. In addition, there's no service along Churchman's Rd near New Castle, where a tornado struck the area, damaging an office complex and buildings at NCCo Airport.

NJ Transit is reporting delays of up to 10 minutes on the RiverLINE due to signal problems; there's no word on whether those signal problems are flood related or not. As expected, bus routes in South Jersey operating along the usual flooding spots were severely impacted.


Mother nature wreaked a lot of havoc on the SEPTA system last night. To recap some of the highlights (or lowlights):

  • Nearly 400 passengers were stranded on the R5 after the #575 (6:45pm Paoli Local) was forced to hold after flooding near Overbrook station. According to Fox 29, the train was held just east of Overbrook on #4 track before backing up and safely unloading passengers on the inbound platform. Several passengers were rescued by Philadelphia Fire Department, who had their hands full last night, as did other fire companies across the area. Service had been suspended the remainder of last night. Complicating matters for Paoli/Thorndale riders was a downed tree reported this morning west of St Davids station. R5 service is reportedly operating again, but with delays.
  • R6 Norristown service was also suspended due to flooding conditions along the Schuylkill; the Norristown Times Herald reported that nearly 20 passengers were stranded at Miquon station.
  • R8 Chestnut Hill West service was suspended due to reports of downed trees and other weather related problems.
  • The R2 Warminster and R3 West Trenton ran with significant delays into the morning peak.
  • R6 Cynwyd service remains suspended due to the storm.
  • Market-Frankford and Broad-Ridge Spur service was suspended during the height of the storm.
  • A Red Arrow NABI was among nearly 60 vehicles stuck in a major flood/mud slide on 76 Eastbound; 5319 was working a 124/125 into Center City at the time the flood struck the road.
  • The 104 was severely impacted as West Chester Borough was, effectively, cut off due to flooding of Chester Creek; all traffic was forced to divert via the Super Wawa parking lot between Westtown Rd and Bolmar St. Passengers trying to get into West Chester along Gay St were dropped off at the Wawa and forced to walk into town.
  • There have been some conflicting reports over the drowning incident on Midvale Av in the East Falls district of Philadelphia. Several outlets reported that the victim was swept underneath a SEPTA bus; the victim was in fact swept underneath a passenger vehicle after a SEPTA operator working the K, according to the Inquirer:

    "The water was coming down like a roaring river," said Dave Adams, an East Falls resident who tried to save the woman.

    Adams said that a SEPTA bus driver stopped his bus, got out and told Adams that he thought he had seen a woman washed down the street in the 3600 block of Midvale.

    The water was more than two-feet deep, and Adams, the driver and six others began walking almost blindly in the rain and wind feeling in the rushing water for woman's body.

    Adams said he found her trapped under a pick-up, and "grabbed her." Everyone picked up the truck, Adams said, and pulled her out. Inquirer
There were also reports of localized flooding causing detours of numerous bus routes, including in Upper Darby, where Marshall Rd - still recovering from a major rainstorm in August - once again flooded, causing problems on the 42, 107, 108, 109, and 113. Elsewhere in the township, the area around Lynn Blvd was flooded, impacting the 103.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Apparently there's this new project called Highway Watch, according to the Bucks County Courier Times:

Truckers, toll takers, road crews and bus drivers are being recruited for homeland security.

They'll be trained as part of Highway Watch to keep their eyes open for anything from missing trailer loads to suspicious activity to people taking photos of strategic points of infrastructure.

The goal in Pennsylvania is to have 14,000 highway professionals watching for suspicious activity starting in the spring, according to the Transportation Security Administration, American Trucking Association and Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.

Word of the program, though, hasn't reached many area folks who work the roads. But area Teamsters union leaders love the idea.

Teamsters used to be the "knights of the road,'' so it makes sense they would be involved in the program, Local 830 Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Grace said from his Northeast Philadelphia office.

Although the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission - which runs the Tacony-Palmyra, Burlington-Bristol, and US 1 Freeway toll bridges in this area - is involved with the project, the Courier Times almost went out of its way to note one glaring omission from those agencies involved:

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said he's heard about the program, but the public transit company hasn't been invited to join in. SEPTA, he said, already has safety programs in place.

Of course it does. The most notable safety program at apparently is "Cover Your Ass When Getting Sued" (see Silverliner V bid fiasco).

"Never before have our employees been as aware as they are [since Sept. 11, 2001]," Maloney said. "It's not even something we have to remind them of; it's a cultural change.

Apparently, the Minister of Mis-Information forgot the embarassing Powelton Yard fiasco, in which a suspicious object - later discovered to be harmless - was not turned over to federal agents a full week after being discovered.

"We are continually on the alert, continually training, continually learning new tactics and continually in communication with our employees and our customers,'' he added.

Um, right. This is a transit agency with a poor track record of notifiying customers about service delays - before and after 9/11.

THE 4-1-1 ON THE 311

And now, for the latest on the beginning of the end of the 311/Commonwealth Breeze shuttle bus from the Lansdale/Doylestown Intelligencer:

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit (sic) Authority has scheduled a hearing for Oct. 28 to get public comment on terminating bus route 311.

The county's last meeting with businesses was Aug. 28, [Montgomery County Planning Commission's Leo] Bagley said. Officials considered tinkering with the Horsham Breeze, which covers some of the same ground as the Commonwealth route, to pick up some of the slack but decided it wasn't feasible.

"In the end, the costs were just too high," he said. "We're going to have to stop the (Commonwealth) line."

What will it mean for riders?

For employees of businesses closer to the mall and somewhat near to the Horsham Breeze, "It's longer walks," Bagley said. "It's not as convenient. It may mean an extra quarter-mile walk."

As for those at the northwest end of the route, he said, "There may be no option for transit services."

The SEPTA hearing will be held at 8:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 308, 2305 Computer Ave., Upper Moreland.

[SEPTA spokesman Jim] Whitaker said a hearing examiner will present findings to SEPTA's board of directors as soon as December, and the route could stop operating in January. Intelligencer
Of course, the 311 would probably be in danger regardless of whether or not these hearings take place, depending on how Harrisburg reacts to SEPTA's latest funding crisis. (Originally posted September 27, 2004; 6:04pm)

UPDATE: Earlier today, I heard from a contact at Service Planning that the date and time of the hearing were both incorrect. The actual hearing date will be in early November at the American Legion Hall in Upper Moreland. SEPTA is required to give 30 days notice for all public hearings regarding routing adjustments or route eliminations. Apparently, the October 28 date was reported in error. Additionally, the hearing will start at 6:30pm, not 8:30pm.


The remnants of Tropical Storn Jeanne is causing major problems on SEPTA tonight.

Neither the R5 Paoli/Thorndale nor R6 Norristown lines are operating; all other Regional Rail lines are operating with significant delays; the Ridge Av Spur of the Broad St Line is also suspended. In addition, there are now reports that the El is now shut down.

Some of the highlights in the suburbs include West Chester Pike service in complete turmoil due to flooding around the Lynn Blvd area, affecting the 103. In West Chester, 104, 119, and 314 service was completely re-routed due to heavy flooding blocking off Gay and Market Sts in the borough's east side. 104 buses were being forced to drop passengers off at the Super Wawa between Westtown Rd and Bolmar as the entire area was shut down. The 92, while not detoured, was badly delayed as traffic on S High St stretched from West Chester Courthouse all the way to Parkway Shopping Center. The 124/125 is on detour due to 76 being shut down in both directions between PA 23 and US 1.

I'm sure there are other delays around the system, but these are the ones that I can confirm right now.

Monday, September 27, 2004


It appears that there will be a new president of Transport Workers Union Local 234, according to the Inquirer:

With election results still unclear for control of SEPTA's largest union, Transport Workers Union Local 234 president Jean Alexander found a note today on the door of the union hall threatening to lock her out.

"All former alarm codes have been deleted," the notice posted on the door of the union hall on Spring Garden said. "Any attempt to gain entry with an old code will bring a police response."

Alexander, at the moment, trails her challenger, Jeff Brooks, by 69 votes - 1420 votes to 1489 votes. This week, the results of 93 sealed ballots will be counted, deciding polling which took place Friday. Another candidate, Bill Simmons, received 817 votes.

Refusing to concede defeat until all votes are counted this week and a formal transition takes place Oct. 3, Alexander was in her office and still fighting yesterday.

"This is what I've had to put up with for the last two years," Alexander said of the note posted by a member of Brooks' slate.
Sounds like the new management is jumping the gun a little bit...

Brooks, 48, was ill with the flu and unavailable for comment, his spokesman Bob "R.J." Bedard said yesterday.

"It appears that Jeff Brooks is going to win the election," Bedard added. "The membership wants new leadership."

So begins a new, suspenseful chapter in the bitter recent history of the 4,700-member union whose workers operate or maintain every bus, subway, trolley and Market Frankford El vehicle in Philadelphia.
And almost certainly begins the strike watch, which, if negotiations fail, will end on March 15, 2005, when the current 1-year agreement expires.

Elected in 2001, Alexander has twice trounced coup attempts by her executive board, most of whom were elected from an opposing slate.

Brooks' campaign marks the end of his recent suspension from participating in union politics. In 2000, Brooks was one of many union officials stripped of their duties by the New York-based Transport Workers Union International following an inquiry into union financial mismanagement.

Continuing turbulence at the top of Local 234 gives SEPTA riders one more thing to worry about.
It would seem most riders couldn't care less about who's running the unions as long as bus and rail service is operating normally. Of course, Philadelphia is a notoriously strong union town...
SEPTA has already threatened to cut weekend service and raise fares 25 percent to meet its $62 million budget crisis unless the legislature acts before Jan 1. Next March, SEPTA and Local 234 will have to negotiate a new contract or face a city-paralyzing strike.

Alexander, 67, averted a strike last March by winning an unusual one-year contract that preserved virtually free healthcare and lifetime prescription benefits but offered no raises. For that she won a standing ovation at the state convention of the AFLCIO last spring. But that stop gap contract was not enough for many Local 234 members, Bedard said.

"All she did was delay the confrontation for another year," he said.
Not to mention the headaches associated with a potential strike, namely heavier traffic and a lot of people not getting to work...

With Brooks the apparent victor, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney yesterday sought to build the relationship.

"If there is new leadership," Maloney said, "It would be in the interest of the union to continue our partnership to seek permanent dedicated funding in Harrisburg."
Perhaps it would also be in the best interest of the public if the Minister of Mis-information could come up with a less caustic remark.

Alexander has jointly lobbied legislators with SEPTA general manager Faye Moore to end the transit agency's budget woes. The Brooks team is looking for more than that, asserting yesterday that the union - not SEPTA - will drive lobbying efforts.

"Up to date, SEPTA has not been full and equal partners with us," Bedard said.
Boy, us riders - and a lot of municipal politicians - can relate to that...


The four SEPTA bus routes service West Chester will be on a long term detour starting Wednesday. The detours will be intiated due to the construction of the new West Chester Transportation Center/Chester County Parking Garage at New and Market Sts, which will be located across the street from the county's new courthouse. This project was schedule to start last year, however SEPTA's delays in agreeing to a lease with Chester County held things up. Now, with the project about to start, the following changes will be implemented:

  • The 92 will not operate via Gay, New, or Market Sts in both directions. All service will remain on High St.
  • The 104 will retain its westbound routing, however all eastbound trips will turn off of High onto Market St; this is bascially the detour routing when Gay St is blocked off due to parades/street festivals/etc.
  • The 119 will be extended one block west to operate via Gay, Wayne, and Market Sts, and will layover at the Social Security Building on Market between New and Wayne; this will remain in effect until November 22, when service on the 119 between Cheyney and West Chester is eliminated on November 22.
  • The 314 will also be extended to operate to Market and Wayne; the new 314 Circulator service (which needs a brand name similar to the 310/Horsham Breeze so it doesn't wither and die like the West Whiteland Township sponosored 207/WHIRL) will take effect on November 22.
The new transportation center is scheduled to open late next year.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


State Rep Ron Raymond (R-162/Delaware County) - whose most significant accomplishment related to SEPTA was siding with Norwood residents and officials in blocking the 115 from operating through that borough - is the chairman of a committee appointed by House Speaker John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) that was referred to on this blog earlier this week.

Raymond, along with 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans, are reviewing a possibility of a state-takeover of airports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, along with SEPTA. Raymond's district also includes Tinicum Township, Delaware County, in which 2/3 of PHL Airport is located.

The Delaware County Daily Times offers a couple more comments in today's editions:

State Rep. Thomas H. Killion, R-168, of Newtown, a former member of the SEPTA board, and Bob Boland, Ridley Park councilman and head of the Machinists Union representing 3,800 workers at the airport, are also on the commission, he said.

"The commission met with SEPTA officials Tuesday regarding its $62 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2005 and plans to cut service 20 percent and raise fares 25 percent if sufficient funding isn't received from Harrisburg.Legislators have indicated that stopgap funding most likely will be provided to prevent a shutdown, but a long-term solution won't be taken until they return to Harrisburg in January.

"We have 10 session days before Nov. 30," when the current session ends, Raymond said. "We have to take that up and come up with some help for them."

State Rep. William F. Adolph Jr., R-165, of Springfield, said, "In the SEPTA situation, they're looking for a stopgap measure right now to get them through the balance of this current year and also looking for an additional dedicated funding source."

Once we get these reports back, we'll have a better understanding regarding the operation of these airport authorities, as well as SEPTA," Adolph said.


Apparently, elected officals aren't the only ones who are not big fans of SEPTA. Take Aaron Sakulich, a columnist with The Triangle, the student newspaper at Drexel University:

Third, don't take SEPTA anywhere if you have to. It's expensive, breaks down more often than not, and the people that run it are a bunch of tools. The only thing SEPTA is good for is being an example of why state-owned quasi-communist ventures are always less efficient and inferior in every way to the free enterprise system. I hate SEPTA. The Triangle
Sound familiar? It just seems to echo the sentiments of a significant number of passengers who ride the system every day...


The Montgomery Newspapers group reports that the Route 311/Commonwealth Breeze may be on its last legs after efforts by Montgomery County to secure outside funding failed:

Montgomery County officials have decided to stop funding the commuter bus service after failing to get private subsidies from businesses served by the SEPTA-operated route, a county official said last week.

Leo Bagley, chief transportation planner at the Montgomery County Planning Commission, said the Breeze Route 311 will stop running by year's end, when county commissioners end the county's subsidy of the route.

The county is paying about $100,000 of the yearly cost for the route, with about $30,000 in fares coming from the 75 passenger trips each day on the route, Bagley said.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority must first hold a hearing before officially abandoning the route, which Bagley said he expected to happen by November.

Ridership on the route has declined from about 200 passengers a day three years ago, he said.

Bagley said workforce. changes among businesses along the route has led to declines in riders.

The county looked at changing the bus' route to better serve businesses and attract subsidies from employers.

But Bagley said the two key businesses served by the route weren't interested. GMAC, the lending subsidiary of General Motors, planned to set up an internal mechanism to get people to its several offices in Horsham without funding the SEPTA route, Bagley said.

The Abington Health Center on Maryland Avenue in Upper Moreland, run by Abington Memorial Hospital, told the county that it would have its inconvenienced workers use other bus routes, which would add a quarter-mile walk to their commute, Bagley said.

"We're not going to be able to work it out," he said.

Ridership on the Horsham Breeze Route 310 remains strong with several hundred passengers daily but it can't be expanded because it would interfere with that bus' connections to other transit routes, Bagley explained.

That route primarily serves businesses in office parks along Blair Mill and Dresher roads.

The Commonwealth Breeze runs a loop from Willow Grove Park Mall north to the Commonwealth Corporate Center north of Horsham Road.

Ridership declined in recent years after Advanta and Prudential Financial cut the number of jobs in Upper Moreland and Horsham, Bagley said. Souderton Independent/Montgomery Newspapers


This month's "rubber-stamp" session of the SEPTA Board began at 3:09pm and featured a noteworthy absence: Don Pasquale himself (our guess is that the chairman was too busy planning his next fishing trip with Al Mezzaroba). Hence, today's meeting was chaired by Vice Chairman James Schwartzman. Amazingly enough, there were a few minor but almost humorous flubs by Schwartzman during the meeting, including forgetting to call the question (for a vote) on accepting the monthly financial reports and almost skipping over the public comment on agenda items portion prior to voting on the consent calendar. One would think that six years as vice chairman would've prepared him a little better, but then again what do I know...

The meeting was highlighted by several comments on the Annual Service Plan that was to have been fully approved at today's meeting. However, Al Achtert of Upper Darby criticized how the new routing for the 118 in the Garden City district of Nether Providence Township (aka Darby with Trees) came about via the experimental order process. It was noted that the hearing examiner had recommended the 118 be routed via Media Pkwy and Moore Rd, however the current routing via Chestnut Pkwy, Waterville Rd and Brookhaven Rd.

Lorraine Brill of Northeast Philadelphia spoke in opposition to increasing the minimum boarding standards on the Regional Rail system from 50 boards to 75 boards/alights per day. She noted that the figures in the proposal were based on the 2003 Regional Rail Ridership Census and that any action be delayed until the next ridership survey is complete in 2005.

Don Nigro from DVARP stated his support for the Regional Rail standards, but not for the removal of similar standards for the Red Arrow rail lines (P&W and Media/Sharon Hill trolleys). He also noted that there's no consistent flag stop policy on the Regional Rail system.

The City of Philadelphia submitted written testimony opposing not only the proposed RRD standards, but also any plans to close Regional Rail stations within city limits. This was noted by board member Jettie Newkirk, who was able to get that portion of the service standards tabled until at least the October meeting. The tabling came after some confusion on how the motion would be worded and consultation by the vice chair with Shyster-in-Chief Nick Staffieri and Fearless Leader.

The rest of the consent calendar was approved, including the balance of the Annual Service Plan approving routing changes to several routes in the Chester City area, the restructuring of the 314 bus to become a West Chester area circulator, and a re-routing of the 104 via Paoli Pike to serve West Goshen Shopping Center (which is presently served by the 119).

After no reports were given from neither the Shyster-in-Chief or Fearless Leader, the meeting adjourned at 3:38pm.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


And now, living proof that the Daily Local News (aka the "Daily Lack-of News") seems to get its stories relating to SEPTA via stagecoach...

In today's editions - nearly two weeks after SEPTA's bombshell announcement of draconian service cuts and fare hikes - the DLN finally got around to running a story on SEPTA's embarassing situation:

SEPTA’s recent announcement that it may have to increase fares and to reduce services to balance its budget could have repercussions for Chester County residents.

"Balancing a budget by reducing services or increasing costs to those people least able to sustain existence is just totally misguided," said Bob Holliday, manager of business development for United Way of Chester County.

Residents who rely on public transportation will lose access to their jobs and to the services they need, he said.

SEPTA, however, never seems to get that message...

"In Chester County, the people who will be hurt the most are those who are poor, young or elderly who depend on the public transportation to get to work or to church or to do other activities," said Commissioner Andrew Dinniman.
Fortunately, Dinniman's comments aren't as divisive as those of fellow Democrat and Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker.

SEPTA must pass a balanced budget by law. As a result, its combined savings from its proposed measures must equal $62.2 million, the estimated deficit of its 2005 operating budget.

"Accessibility, especially in Chester County, is just far and away mentioned as a limitation," said Holliday. "It really does hurt all of us even though it takes a while to catch up."

However, he said the consequences of the cuts could be felt in a matter of weeks.

According to a press release, SEPTA would implement the cost-cutting measures no later than Jan. 1.
This, we already knew.

"The problem lies in the failure of the state Legislature to provide adequate funding for SEPTA," Dinniman said.

In June, the SEPTA board adopted a $919.7 million budget with a $70 million deficit. The state Legislature adopted a budget in July that included an additional state and local subsidy of $7.8 million more than Gov. Rendell’s budget proposal.

"I think it’s a leadership issue, not a budget issue," said Holliday.
As to whether Mr. Holliday's "leadership issue" remark was directed at SEPTA or at Harrisburg is a little unclear, but either way, it's fairly accurate.

There's even some debate in Harrisburg within the State Senate that could derail the two bills currently under consideration.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-12th, of Montgomery County, has introduced legislation that would redistribute a portion of the sales tax to bail out more than 70 cash-strapped mass transit agencies, including SEPTA, statewide.

However, said state Sen. Robert J. Thompson, R-19th, of West Goshen, the proposed legislation would set aside money that has been earmarked for other expenditures.

"We do need an overall solution to the issue," said Thompson, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "But we also need one that doesn’t play havoc with the rest of the general fund budget."
Thompson, by the way, is one of the co-sponsors of Greenleaf's bill in the senate.

Dinniman said reduced public transportation services will be as detrimental to motorists as they will be to those without cars.

"The solution to traffic congestion is not going to be solved by simply building more lanes of highways," he said. "There has to be a strong public transportation system, as well."

SEPTA officials said they are reluctant to implement the proposals.

"These contingency measures are contrary to every aspect of the mission of this transit authority. We should be expanding the system -- not dismantling it. There is nothing fair in this agonizing process," said Faye Moore, SEPTA general manager, in a press release.
As noted before, there really hasn't been anything fair about Fearless Leader's management of SEPTA...

Thursday evening, commuters at the Paoli train station on SEPTA’s R5 line, which carries 17,900 passengers between Philadelphia and Thorndale on weekdays, were dismayed about the proposed rate increases. However, some said SEPTA still would remain their best option for transportation into Center City.

"I’d probably have to just bite the bullet and do it," said Doug Miller of Willistown, who teaches at Temple University School of Law. "We’re a one-car family, and my wife needs the car during the day."

John Kyle of East Goshen, an internal auditor for Sunoco, said he still would prefer to ride on SEPTA than to drive into Philadelphia.

"I really hate driving in because of the traffic," he said. "I think it’s bad for people that they don’t have transportation, especially people that live in the city."

Even with a 25 percent rate increase, Kyle said, it would be more economical for him to take the train than to pay for parking in Center City.

Stephanie Newcomb of Phoenixville, who was waiting in her car to pick up her husband, Craig, said he just started riding the R5 train two weeks ago.

"Right now we’re weighing the stress of driving into the city with the ease of taking the train," she said.

She said her husband, a program analyst at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was thinking of buying a monthly pass.

Even though Penn might pay a percentage of his rail pass, she said, the rate hikes might make him reconsider.

Under SEPTA’s proposal, the cost of a $126.50 monthly rail pass would increase to $154.
Bear in mind that most of the interviewees can probably afford to pay the fare increase. The rest of transit riders living in the county - mainly those who take the 92, 99, 104, 133, 204, 206, and 314 - can't afford this fare hike. It's interesting how the DLN forgot to ask bus riders for their views.

Chester County's hearing will take place on October 18 at West Chester Borough Hall. I presume that the DLN will be there, but don't count on it...


On Saturday, the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee) reports that SEPTA was among several government entities recently served with subpoenas in the ongoing federal probe into alleged corruption in Emperor Street's adminstration.

Officials at SEPTA, the Philadelphia Parking Authority and the city of Pittsburgh confirmed yesterday that the U.S. Attorney's Office (in Philadelphia) has asked for records of any business dealings with West Insurance, a minority-owned insurance agency headquartered on South Broad Street, or with Watlington & Cooper, another minority-owned agency bought by West in 2000.

West Insurance has been involved placing coverage for SEPTA, the Parking Authority, the city and other public agencies, earning commissions running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Its officers and employees - especially the company's founder, Bernard T. West and his son, Kobie West, the chief executive officer - also have been significant political donors. They gave at least $18,000 to Ed Rendell's campaign for governor in 2002 and $9,750 to Mayor Street in 2000 and 2002, along with smaller amounts to various state legislators, according to state records.

Besides naming the Wests, the federal subpoenas asked for documents dealing with several other individuals or firms with ties to the West agency, including John Hegarty, Mike Jones, Fareed Ahmad, Stephen Bradley, Urban Underwriters Insurance and the Chapman Insurance Agency.

SEPTA told the Daily News it has paid $358,573 to the West firm since 2001. It's one of three insurance agencies who sit on SEPTA's "risk-management advisory committee," finding insurance companies to cover SEPTA's risks and then
splitting commissions from the insurance companies.

One slot on the committee is reserved for a minority-owned insurance agency, according to SEPTA's assistant general manager for public and operational safety, James B. Jordan.

When SEPTA's board last picked committee members in 2000, Watlington & Cooper was the only minority firm to apply, and West took over the work when it bought Watlington, Jordan said.

The two other positions are held by AON Risk Services, a national firm, and the Selzer Co. of Warrington, Bucks County, a major regional firm led by Ronald J. Selzer, a significant contributor to Republican causes.

Jordan said SEPTA's insurance commissions are normally split among AON, Selzer and West on a 40-40-20 basis, recognizing that the West agency plays a much smaller role than the two others shopping SEPTA's insurance work among
national and international insurers.

But the West agency has worked hard at other assignments, Jordan said, including a current project looking at risks associated with SEPTA's leases and surveys last year on how transit agencies are dealing with terrorism and
director-liability issues.
Daily News

There's no word on whether or not SEPTA did anything improper in dealing with West.

From Sunday's Inquirer:

At SEPTA, West Insurance is the minority representative on a three-member team that selects insurance companies. Since 2001, it has earned more than $500,000 in commissions.

Aon Corp., a member of the team and one of the nation's largest insurance brokerages, handles the major work. West Insurance, a smaller firm, gets 15 percent to 20 percent of the commissions.

The third company on the SEPTA team is Selzer Co., of Bucks County. Its president, Ronald J. Selzer, did not return calls left at his office. In the past, he has praised the work of West Insurance.

Selzer, which brokers insurance for several government entities in Bucks County, also works with West Insurance at the Convention Center.


First it was the School District of Philadelphia...

Then, it was the Pennsylvania Convention Center...

Then, it was the Philadelphia Parking Authority...

Then, it was a plan for the state to take over Philadelphia International Airport via a sale of the airport from the city of Philadelphia to the state...

Now, if House Speaker John Perzel (R-Frankford) has his way, SEPTA could become part of a mega-regional transportation agency.

According to the Inquirer:

A panel of state lawmakers assembled by Perzel will question SEPTA brass today with an eye toward creating a state-run regional transportation authority. The mega-agency would oversee not only SEPTA but also Philadelphia International Airport, the Delaware River Port Authority, the Port of Philadelphia, and local operations for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Perzel said yesterday.

Somehow, I think there will be some people in New Jersey who aren't going to take to kindly to a Pennsylvania takeover of the notorious patronage mill that is the DRPA. Then again, the Democratic Party (oxymoron alert) bosses are probably busy patting themselves on the back after thwarting the rights of voters in the Garden State to elect a successor to Gov. James E. McGreedy, um, I mean McGreevey.

In June, however, Perzel decided that SEPTA, staring at a $62 million deficit, also should be studied by the nine-member panel, most of them House legislators. A centralized operation, he said, could go a long way toward solving the transit agency's seemingly intractable money troubles.

"Maybe SEPTA could find a funding source that doesn't put them in a box every year," Rep. Ron Raymond (R., Delaware), chairman of the panel, said yesterday.

Or, maybe this new panel could replace the existing management structure and start anew, as many people have suggested in other forums.

In an attempt to force the legislature to come up with more money, SEPTA general manager Faye Moore threatened recently to raise fares 25 percent and slash all weekend transit by January.

Yesterday Moore said, "We are ready to move in any direction they want."

The direction that most of the riding public would like to see is Fearless Leader in the direction of the unemployement line.

In 2001, Perzel engineered a Republican takeover of the Philadelphia Parking Authority, an act that passed through the legislature without public hearings.

In regard to the airport, however, "I'm not interested in taking anything," Perzel said. "The mayor is broke. The state has money. We're willing to buy the thing off him."

Luz Cardenas, a spokeswoman for Mayor Street, responded: "The mayor is not looking to unload the airport for a one-time cash injection. That's not the agenda here. We are pretty proud of the way we run the facility, despite the challenges that have been thrown our way."

The panel will delve into airport operations at hearings tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14 and 15; no location has been set. The members also are examining airports in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and expect to finish their inquiry by the end of November.

The hearing, which is open to the public, begins at 10 a.m. today at SEPTA headquarters at 12th and Market Streets, Philadelphia.

Oops. Had I had found out about this earlier, I might have been able to make it, but we'll just have to wait for reports in the press. One has the feeling that Perzel has already made up his mind about having the state take SEPTA over; the irony is that most of the appointees to the SEPTA Board are Republicans, like Perzel.

Monday, September 20, 2004


This time, the wire failure occured on the R6 Norristown line between Spring Mill and Miquon stations. Few details are available, but one can imagine that there were some delays on the line.

Monday, September 13, 2004


Since the Duo of Doom's announcement that SEPTA would make draconian cuts next year if Harrisburg didn't find more state funding (in the non-governmental world, some would call that extortion), quite a few articles have come out across the region. Here's a samping of the reaction to SEPTA's game of chicken with Harrisburg:

Friday, 10 September: Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee) with comments from Emperor Street (and yet another dis at the suburbs for which he's become famous for):

But later in the day, Mayor Street said that the city opposes SEPTA's plan for drastic cuts.

He complained that the city uses SEPTA much more and pays a much larger share of the transit authority's local government subsidy than suburban counties do, yet is hit the hardest when SEPTA raises fares or cuts services.

In fiscal year 2004, Philadelphia contributed $53.5 million, which is 80 percent, of the region's $67 million SEPTA subsidy.

"We don't think it's fair for SEPTA to now gouge our riders," Street said. "These are the people who are helping to pay the freight for SEPTA."

Street recalled that Gov. Rendell initiated an external audit of SEPTA's books last year when the agency was threatening fare hikes and service cuts.

Rendell's office said yesterday that the audit, started in May, 2003, is still not completed.

While Street agreed that SEPTA needs a dedicated source of funding, he said he would urge Rendell to consider a "complete overhaul" of how the agency handles its finances and how it is governed.

The city has only two representatives on SEPTA's 15-member board of directors, which is dominated by appointees from the surrounding counties.

"We don't have much of a say in SEPTA anymore," Street said. "It's basically run by suburbanites. I don't think we get a fair share on return in our investment in SEPTA."
Someone send Emperor Street a crying towel.

The Emperor's reaction is par for the course, as Street comes off as more hostile to the suburbs than any other mayor in recent memory. Perhaps someone should remind the Emperor that a significant majority of people who work in Center City are from the suburbs. There'd probably be more people coming into Philadelphia to work if he had bothered to reform the city's tax structure.

Friday, 10 September: Bucks County Courier Times

"If these cutbacks are enacted, it's not only going to be an economic disaster for the Philadelphia region, but also very hard for people who never use public transportation," said Peter Javsicas, executive director of Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions, a mass transit advocacy group.

He predicted traffic jams caused by people who used to commute on SEPTA and difficulties accessing weekend events if the transit agency's proposal to hike fares and cut weekend service goes into effect.

SEPTA passengers take about 296.7 million trips a year, according to the authority's 2004 budget. And a large number of these passengers use SEPTA for all their travel, said Richard Voith, senior vice president of Econsult Corp., a Philadelphia consulting group that deals with transportation issues.

If the cuts are enacted, the whole region will be a less attractive place to live and work, he said. The communications industry, law firms and universities tend to locate in dense urban and suburban areas with good public transportation, Voith said.

"Usually we just complain about SEPTA, but they have done their best. They have been providing relatively high levels of service with less and less money," Voith said. "We, as a region, should get behind them to support additional funding."

People who depend on public transportation already are aware of the cuts' potential impacts, Javsicas said. But they're not the only ones who will feel the crunch.

"This is going to increase the number of people having to find other options, which will be cars," said Aaron Firestone, policy analyst for Pennsylvania's Clean Air Council. While his organization worries about the pollution that will result, Firestone said the proposal is worrisome for senior citizens who no longer can drive and workers who can't afford cars and depend on mass transit to get to work.

"Cuts like this won't be an acceptable solution to this problem," he said. "There will be environmental, social and economic impacts."

The proposed service reductions may deal a blow to the region's tourism. While most visitors drive to Bucks County, those going to Philadelphia for an evening excursion or a day trip often take SEPTA's regional rail service, said Keith Toler, executive director of the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau.

"It's bad enough that service stops at midnight," he said. (The current proposal would reduce service after 8 p.m.) "I understand that $70 million is a lot of money to make up, but I'm not sure if this is the right way to go about it."
Friday, 10 September - Norristown Times-Herald

While (Montgomery County Commissioner and SEPTA Board Member Thomas J.) Ellis said that efforts were made to "spread the pain," county Commissioner Ruth S. Damsker said the proposed service cutbacks and fare increases amount to "class warfare."

"Not everyone can afford a car and insurance," said Damsker, noting that many low-income residents in the region depend on mass transit to get them to and from their jobs.

Ellis said that about 80 percent of people living in the suburbs have cars while only about 40 percent of those living in the city own cars.

"We need a dedicated funding source," said Damsker, adding that state law bars any use of gas tax money for mass transit. "We do not need less mass transit, we need more."

Funding mass transit should be a high priority for both the state and federal government, said Damsker.

Without mass transit, fewer people can get to their jobs, she said. This can result in unemployment that then causes homelessness and other social problems such as alcoholism, she said. In the end, it is cheaper to fund mass transit than spend additional money to cure these social problems, according to Damsker.

"I would like to see a permanent funding source," said Commissioners Chairman James R. Matthews, adding that this "chest beating" by SEPTA each year for additional dollars from the state "is getting old."

"Mass transit is a quality of life issue and is essential to our economic status," said Matthews.
Perhaps Damsker has been taking public speaking lessons from Emperor Street...

Friday, 10 September - Delaware County Daily Times:

Tom Killion, R-168, of Middletown, a former SEPTA board member, said the only good news "..s that this is effective Jan. 1, so we have some time to see what we can do to prevent these devastating cuts."

"As a former SEPTA board member, I understand firsthand the position they’re in, in having to pass a balanced budget when they have no large base of dedicated funding outside the fare box," Killion said.

"The cuts as outlined (Thursday) by SEPTA would be devastating to Delaware County and the regional economy," Killion said.

"Therefore, we have to work together on a solution to SEPTA’s funding crisis."
Saturday, 11 September - Inquirer:

She doesn't own a car and she can't afford cab fare. Like many other public transportation riders, Tanya Hunter doesn't merely use SEPTA, she depends on it.

"If they take off the service on the weekends, people will suffer," said Hunter, 36, of North Philadelphia. "Especially low-income people."

Alice Carr, who has been using SEPTA for 18 years to get from her home in Southwest Philadelphia to her job with a catering company near the Philadelphia International Airport, said yesterday that she believes him.

"They're the only bus company in town," said Carr, 48. "When they say they're going on strike, they go. When they say they're going to raise fares, they do."

Irving Briddell said his job would be in jeopardy.

"Without SEPTA, I don't know what I'd do," Briddell, 52, of Germantown, said yesterday as he boarded the G bus at Broad and Oregon Streets on the last leg of his three-bus ride to work in Southwest Philadelphia. "I've been at my job for six years and I rely on SEPTA to get there."

Hunter, a single mother of nine children, said SEPTA enabled her to go from welfare to work.

"People are trying to get off welfare," she said. "They're getting jobs. But now, how are they going to get there?"
Other articles:

SEPTA riders react to the news Daily Times

Uneasy Riders Courier Times


As the AM peak was concluding this morning, service on the El and subway-surface lines were impacted following the report of a bomb threat at the 22 St trolley station. Subway-surface cars operated "over the top" while El service between 40 St and 15 St was suspended, forcing a bus bridge between the two stations.

On a related note, the Inquirer ran a story today on the incompatibility of the Philadelphia Police/Fire radio system with SEPTA's newer radio system.

Two years ago, the city installed a new, $54 million radio system for fire and police units. For the first time, a police commander on the scene of a major situation could switch to a common channel to talk to a commanding fire chief.
But the 800-megahertz radios are not on the same frequency as radios used by transit police working for SEPTA. Also, the new police and fire radios do not work underground in rail and subway tunnels.

With rising concerns about terrorism, the lack of radio links between transit police and the city's police and fire departments is a major concern for SEPTA officials.

"It scares us," said James Jordan, head of security for SEPTA. "If you have two firefighters standing around the bend of a tunnel, they can't talk to each other."

Jordan said it would cost more than $20 million to wire SEPTA's 25-mile tunnel system with repeaters to carry police and fire signals underground - money that neither the city nor the transit agency has.

Jordan said SEPTA has received $3.1 million in federal funding to explore ways to enhance its radio system. In the meantime, SEPTA dispatchers keep radios from the fire and police departments on hand as a stopgap measure.

"In an emergency, that's not anyone's idea of an effective system," Jordan said.

No kidding...

Thursday, September 09, 2004


You just knew that SEPTA's game of chicken with Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) and the General Assembly would come to a severe head with more scare tactics eminating from Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market.

But this is ridiculous...

Today, Fearless Leader and Don Pasquale unveiled the most draconian plan that anyone who has lived in this area and dealt with SEPTA can ever recall. At a press conference, the "Duo of Doom" said that if Harrisburg doesn't follow through with dedicated funding by the end of the current legislative session, these severe actions would be taken:
  • All weekend/holiday service on all modes would be "suspended"
  • 20 percent of all weekday City and Suburban Transit service would be reduced "across the board", with increased headways, reduced hours of operation, and certain trips on certain lines eliminated to impact the "fewest passengers" (yeah, right)
  • 20 percent of all Regional Rail service would be eliminated mainly focusing on service after 8:00pm and mid-day reductions, with certain peak-hour trains combined, resulting in a loss of express service (that's not going to sit too well, particularly on the R5)
  • Elimination of nearly 1,400 jobs (both management and unionized)
  • A loss of nearly 225,000 daily passenger trips (22 percent)
  • Fare increases ranging anywhere from 25 to 50 percent
    Base fare increase from $2.00 to $2.50
  • Weekly and monthy passes would cost approximately 25 percent more
And now, some excerpts from the SEPTA press release with quotes from the "Duo of Doom":
This is the worst crisis to face SEPTA in its 36-year history. Don Pasquale

Really? I thought that the whole Silverliner V fiasco was even worse, but what do I know?

The SEPTA Board has forestalled this catastrophic action as long as possible. Public hearings were conducted throughout the region last May for the specific purpose of alerting the public to our funding crisis, and we have been gratified with the support we have received. Don Pasquale

Don't count on getting any more support this time around; after all, the same tactics, but on a less horrifying scale, were tried last year, impressing very few officials in Harrisburg and even fewer people in Philadelphia.
Senator Stewart Greenleaf and State Representative John Taylor have introduced legislation to provide funding, not only for SEPTA, but also for the 70 other transit agencies in similar straits throughout Pennsylvania. This is our last chance to get it passed. Don Pasquale

The impact of these measures on the lives of our customers, businesses in the region, as well as my fellow SEPTA employees, would be devastating. This is our last chance to avoid disaster. Fearless Leader

And how many chances has the public given the often incompetent people running our system? Well, at least the "Duo of Doom" are on the same page when it comes to last chances...
These contingency measures are contrary to every aspect of the mission of this transit authority. Fearless Leader

This is as opposed to what SEPTA's mission really is: Charging high fares for service that, over the past few years, has deteriorated to the point that most riders would rather buy a car than deal with SEPTA.
We should be expanding the system - not dismantling it. There is nothing fair in this agonizing process. It is unfair to everyone who relies on public transportation, especially the working poor, the elderly, the disabled, students and others for whom public transportation is their sole means of mobility around this large metropolitan region. Fearless Leader

When has there ever been anything fair coming out of 1234 Market?

Public hearings will be scheduled on the following dates (note that specific locations and times have yet to be announced):
  • Delaware County: October 14
  • Bucks County: October 15
  • Chester County: October 18
  • Philadelphia: October 19
  • Montgomery County: October 20
If this is approved (and god help us if it is) all of these changes would take effect on January 1, 2005. Perhaps Fearless Leader should resign, and the SEPTA Board should name someone more appropriate to run the system. How about Stephen Baldwin, host of Sci-Fi Network's Scare Tactics?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Schedules on almost all City Transit Division routes will change on Sunday (routes which offer no Sunday/holiday service - 1, 8, 19, 71, 80, 121, 310, and 316 - will have new schedules effective Tuesday). Among the highlights noted so far:

  • ROUTE 1: Seasonal adjustments to IRS service, with two added evening trips from Roosevelt Blvd/Byberry Rd to Venango Loop.
  • ROUTE 17: Additional AM peak service from 20-Washington to Center City; addition PM peak departures from 15-JFK to South Philadelphia.
  • ROUTE 22: Night Owl service discontinued.
  • ROUTE 25: Pier 70 trips now extended to Columbus Crossing on S Delaware Av; PM Express service via Aramingo eliminated, PM peak service "re-aligned".
  • ROUTE 27: Two AM peak trips to Barren Hill to serve Lankenau School, departing Center City at 6:25am and 6:45am; return trips depart Lankenau at 2:16pm and 2:18pm.
  • ROUTE 28: Eastbound 8:35pm departs Fern Rock 5 minutes earlier.
  • ROUTE 36: AM peak hour headways increased to 3 minutes.
  • ROUTE 55: Short-turn trips to Warrington Twp will operate as locals, bypassing Willow Grove Park mall; some Night Owl trips discontinued.
  • ROUTE 58: New round-trip departs Bridge-Pratt at 1:00am to Bustleton/County Line.
  • ROUTE 59: All Night Owl service discontinued.
  • ROUTE 121: Two new evening departures between the Gladwynne district of Lower Merion and 54 St/City Av.

Other major changes will be noted as time permits. Most routes will see school-related trippers back in effect in time for the new school year. Also, the 25, 30, 31S, and 89 will officially become part of the Bike Route Network; oddly enough, despite virtually all NABIs at Comly being retrofit with racks, none of the routes out of that depot - particularly the 14, 20, and 84 - were added to the network this time around...


Literally moments after an off-duty officer was robbed at Wayne Jct, police had another situation to deal with on the Broad Street Line in South Philadelphia. Police responded to a bank robbery call at the Prudential Bank branch at Broad and Morris shortly after 12 noon today. KYW reports that the suspect claimed to have a pipe bomb at the time of the robbery. The suspect left with an undertermined amount of cash, along with a dye pack tossed in by a bank employee. The suspect then fled into the Tasker-Morris subway station as the dye pack, which contained pepper spray, exploded, allowing the suspect to flee into the subway. Philadelphia Police then shut down the Broad Street Line to search for the suspect. Several Philadelphia Police officers and a few commuters were treated for exposure to the pepper spray; two officers were taken to the hospital, while the remaining victims were treated and released.

More details on both of these stories should become available later today...


An off-duty Philadelphia Police officer was robbed at gunpoint earlier this afternoon. According to KYW NewsRadio, three suspects - two male and one female - allegedly approached the officer - whose name was not released pending an Internal Affairs investigation, but was identified as a member of the SWAT unit - shortly after 12 noon today. One of the male subjects pulled a gun on the officer, who fired his weapon. Nobody was hit during the shooting. The two male subjects fled the scene, while police captured the female subject. KYW also reports that the suspects fled with the officer's cell phone.

Friday, September 03, 2004


Channel 6 reported today that a man was robbed on the West Overbrook P&W platform on Monday.

It began like any other morning, a commuter heads down to the West Overbrook SEPTA platform to wait for a train into the city. He exchanges pleasantries with one of three men already waiting. And that's when things go bad.

Two of the men take off with the victim's personal belongings including the pin number to his A.T.M card. Surveillance photos captured one of the suspects withdrawing money while the other man stayed with the victim and forced him to walk along the tracks at gunpoint.

Within ten minutes, a train makes its way towards the platform, the victim motions for help and the remaining suspect flees. Police have two leads.

They believe the men have some connection to Lower Merion because instead of going to a bank machine closest to the station they hit two on Lancaster Avenue, one at the Brynmawr (sic) Trust next to the
Wynnewood Shopping Center and the other at the Wachovia next to McDonald's in Ardmore.

Investigators are also hoping someone recognizes the partial features of the suspect: wearing what appears to be a pricey watch. The victim says he has stocky building, with hair braids and scruffy facial hair and his hands are extremely large.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Haverord Township Police Dept. at 610-853-1298 extension 237.

Interesting how the Haverford Township police is investigating the robbery as opposed to SEPTA "rent-a-cops", but that's probably just as well.


Police in Philadelphia and Wilmington were investigating two separate accidents inolving transit buses.

The first accident occured in Wilmington as a DART bus operating on the 4/W 4 St-Lancaster Av line was rear-ended by a van at the intersection of Lancaster and Gray Avs. Nine people, inlcuding an infant, were taken to local hosptials for observation.

Yesterday, a woman was struck by a SEPTA bus at the Spring Garden El station. The incident occured shortly after 7:30am, when the bus struck the victim at 2 St at Spring Garden.

No further details were available on either accident.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


NJ Transit bus service and RiverLINE service will also see schedule changes this weekend. The most noteworthy change in South Jersey is the consolidation of the 451 and 454 routes. The 451 between Camden and Eschelon Mall in Voorhees Twp will be extended to the Lindenwold PATCO station; the 454 peak-hour service between Haddonfield PATCO and Lindenwold PATCO via Somerdale and Magnolia will now operate as the 451, with the same service levels between Haddonfield and Lindenwold. On the RiverLINE, the 6:17am departure from Bordentown to Trenton will now originate in Florence at 6:08am, stopping at Roebling 6:11am, thanks to an agreement reached with ConRail.

Elsewhere in interior South Jersey:
  • ROUTES 400 and 403: "New weekday schedules" to improve reliability
  • ROUTES 404, 405, 406, and 407: Schedule adjustments to improve reliability
  • ROUTE 408: 4:27pm, 6:19pm, and 10:12pm trips from Philadelphia extended to Millville
  • ROUTE 419: New timetable issued, no major adjustments
  • ROUTE 459: Resume service to Camden County College
Down the Shore:
  • ROUTES 313, 315, 316, and 319: Seasonal service ended, will resume in June
  • ROUTE 504: New 50 minute headways between Ventnor and Atlantic City to improve reliability
  • ROUTE 507: New timetable issued, no major adjustments
  • ROUTE 509: New Saturday 6:55am from Atlantic Av/S Carolina Av to Somers Point, new Saturday 7:59am Atlantic Av/Ohio Av to Somers Point
  • ROUTE 553: Minor schedule adjustments to trips serving South Jersey Health Care Regional Medical Center in Vineland
  • ROUTE 554: Adjustments to 5:40am Atlantic City to Lindenwold PATCO to improve on-time performance
In Mercer County, the 602 bus will see service reduced to every 90 minutes in order to serve the ETS Office Park on Reed Rd in Ewing Twp.

Elsewhere in the Trenton area:
  • ROUTES 600 and 605: Minor routing and time adjustments related to the elimination of the US 1/Nassau Park Blvd jughandle
  • ROUTES 601 and 608: Added "Capital Connection" service during peak hours
  • ROUTE 603: New routing between Mercer and Quaker Bridge malls due to the elimination of the US 1/Nassau Park Blvd jughandle
  • ROUTE 604: Adjusted running times between Trenton Rail Station and the Justice Complex to improve RiverLINE connections

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


As a follow-up to last week's report on the planned demise of the Route 311/Commonwealth Breeze, it appears the service will limp on for at least a couple more months. From today's Inquirer:

For seven years, Shannon Ricks has taken the Broad Street subway, two buses, and the Route 311 shuttle to her far-flung job off Horsham Road in Montgomery County.

But SEPTA's Route 311 bus - known as the Commonwealth Breeze - is threatened by lack of private funding. Unless new support is found, Ricks and about 100 other riders could lose the last leg of a long commute by mid-autumn.
The economic policies of either President Bush or Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) can be blamed here, depending on which side of the political aisle you're on. Personally, while a lot of the mergers haven't exactly been stopped by the Bush Administration, Harrisburg - nor for that matter, the idiots running (or ruining) the city at Broad and Market -isn't exactly doing a great job of encouraging these merged companies to stay in the region.

A series of corporate mergers and redeployments in a continually sluggish economy has resulted in companies withdrawing funding for the Route 311. Montgomery County officials say the county cannot afford to solely sponsor the bus.

The Commonwealth Breeze began running during an effervescent job market in 1997, taking passengers from the Willow Grove Park mall to jobs on Welsh, Dresher, and Horsham Roads, to name a few.

Unlike most SEPTA routes, which are funded mostly by the state and by riders' fares, the Route 311 is supported both by riders paying a full SEPTA fare and by Montgomery County and company sponsors.
The 310/Horsham Breeze, 314, and 316/LUCY bus routes are the other routes in this category.

As a transit novelty for suburban firms desperate, at that time, for entry-level workers, the Breeze was a crucial link.

"Housing for people who make those kinds of salaries is just not available in Montgomery County," said Leo D. Bagley, associate director of the county Planning Commission.
Hey, Leo, been to Norristown or Pottstown lately?

Ricks, 25, was one of many who traveled long distances for entry-level jobs that started at $10 an hour. From her home in Germantown, she often spent between three and four hours to reach the Fleet offices in Horsham, where she works as a credit investigator.

"The only good jobs," she said, "are outside the city."
And for this, we can thank the dis-honorable John F. Street, Emperor of Philadelphia for doing virtually nothing to jump-start the city's economy.

And now, like the Commonwealth Breeze, those jobs are in jeopardy. Since merging with Bank of America earlier this year, Fleet has pared its Tournament
Drive operation from five buildings to one. ...

As jobs on the route have declined in recent years, ridership has fallen by about half, SEPTA reported. As a result, the daily number of riders has declined from 221 in 2001 to fewer than 100 in recent months.

Two firms that originally financed the Commonwealth Breeze have withdrawn support for the bus: Advanta Corp. in 2000 and Prudential Financial Inc. earlier this year. Prudential, an insurance and financial-services conglomerate, transferred a group-insurance unit away from the area to another Horsham location, company spokeswoman Alicia Rodgers-Alston said.
Didn't Advanta use to be a major player in supporting other events in and around Philadelphia?

Montgomery County has always provided a third to half of Route 311's annual $131,200 cost. But without corporate sponsors, Bagley said, the county cannot go it alone.

"Prudential was our last partner to pull out this year. We have no partners, and the county cannot afford to continue."

Facing a $70 million deficit in its $920 million fiscal 2005 operating budget, SEPTA cannot assume responsibility for the Route 311, John McGee, director of revenue and ridership for the transit agency, said.
Oh, so it's back to $70 million instead of $62 million?

Earlier this month, SEPTA circulated flyers on the buses warning that the "route will discontinue operations after August 31st." While the bus route is in trouble, that notice was misleading, SEPTA spokesman Jim Whitaker said yesterday.

"It could have been better written," Whitaker said. "At this point, there is no date for service to be discontinued."
Put this one in the "no s**t" column for SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information...
Instead, Montgomery County is continuing talks with potential sponsors. Before
it can end the route, SEPTA will have to hold a public hearing and ask its board
of directors for permission to cut service, possibly in late October, Whitaker

I was under the impression that the 311 could've been discontinued without a hearing as a result of a prior hearing, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

If the Route 311 disappears, Marnisha Fuller would face a half-mile hike up Computer Drive from the nearest stop on SEPTA's Route 310 bus. "I can do it if the weather is not bad," said the working mother from Willow Grove who earns $11 an hour as a medical receptionist.

Like the LUCY bus operating in University City, the Commonwealth Breeze is provided by SEPTA as a contract service. Under this arrangement, its drivers earn about a third of what veteran SEPTA drivers employed under the transit agency's agreement with Transport Workers Union Local 234 get.

For example, Route 311 driver Tanya Dickerson, 37, said she works for $8.89 an hour. While she could still drive on other SEPTA contract routes, Dickerson said, the possible demise of the Route 311 had helped persuade her to leave that low wage behind and go back to driving a school bus.

"I cannot prepare for the future with an income like this," Dickerson said. "This
is the kind of salary a teenager makes."

One would think that some of the part-timers would be able to apply for full-time slots in the city. Then again, I'm surprised that some school bus companies or school districts are paying that much higher than the $8.89 hourly wage at TPC/Germantown.

By the way, about the only SEPTA contract routes left operating out of Germantown are the 310/Horsham Breeze, 316/LUCY, and the Cornwells Heights shuttle.

If the Route 311 ends, Ricks hopes to carpool with coworkers, who can pick her up at the Willow Grove Park mall bus stop. Or she hopes to depend on her future father-in-law for the occasional ride. At worst, she said, a taxi ride from the mall costs $10 each way.

"This is going to be extremely stressful," Ricks said. "Luckily, I have good friends."
No kidding...

Meanwhile, let's take a trip on the way-back machine to the October 23, 2003 Norristown Times-Herald article on a candidate's forum in which Montgomery County Commissioner and SEPTA Board member Thomas Jay Ellis made these remarks:
Noting that Ellis was one of the county's two representatives on the SEPTA Board, (then-Democratic Commissioner candidate Frank X.) Custer said he had to question Ellis' commitment to public transportation since he did not attend any of SEPTA's area public hearings earlier this year on proposed service cutbacks.

Ellis responded that it was because of his championing of the R6 Norristown commuter rail line that there were no service cutbacks on that service. Since he was appointed to the board, Ellis said, there have been no service cutbacks in the county. Times-Herald, 10/23/03

Well, Tommy, I guess some records are meant to be broken, eh?

Also bear in mind that 311's service area just so happens to be in the district of fellow SEPTA Board member/State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-12).


From yesterday's "Cop Shop" column in the Delaware County Daily Times:

Seven SEPTA Transit Police Officers who work at 69th Street Terminal have been commended for outstanding performance. Sgt. Edward Reynolds received a commendation for bravery. Sgt. Robert Wright and Officer Gary Macklin both received a pat on the back for perfect attendance. Officers Richard Buggy, Warren Bannister and James Davis all received merit commendations. And last but not least, Officer Francis George was commended for bravery and as officer of the second quarter.

The article doesn't indicate what the "rent-a-cops" did to earn these awards, but given how low the standards seem to be to become a "rent-a-cop" for SEPTA - at least compared to Philadelphia and other suburbs in Pennsylvania - it must not have been much.


SEPTA is not doing too good of a job keeping its directories secure... - Links to bus and rail schedules, some of which are outdated - Links to current and some previous Regional Rail timetables - Links to the correct subway-surface timetables

Aren't you usually supposed to keep these pages from public view?