Tuesday, September 21, 2004


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.

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