Sunday, October 31, 2004


Did anyone else see this coming?

The Inquirer reported on Wednesday that the prime contractor for the Market Street El reconstruction is suing SEPTA to terminate its contract for the project, which as noted earlier this month, is now 2 years behind schedule.

PKF-Mark III filed suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court yesterday seeking release from its $74 million contract.

"We want out," said Peter E. Getchell, president of the Bucks County company. "We are just pretty much at the end of our rope in trying to get the work done."

This is a story little heard in the local construction world - a prime contractor on a multimillion-dollar project seeking a divorce.

SEPTA began the job to replace the El west of 63d Street in 2001 and expected to finish it first in 2006, then in 2007, and now in 2008. The job is a critical part of the $567 million El makeover in West Philadelphia.
Well, we're already two years behind. What's another couple of years between friends, right?

Informed of the lawsuit, SEPTA chairman Pasquale "Pat" T. Deon Sr. said he would seek to hold PKF to its contract.

"When you give your commitment with a bond and a contract, I expect you to live up to it and not go around and whine and try to change it," Deon said.

Disruptions caused by construction on Market Street and surrounding neighborhoods is regrettable, he added.

"The only thing I'm concerned about is that neighborhood," Deon said.
Excuse me while I laugh...

Deon faulted PKF for unsafe and low-quality construction, including steel beams that the transit agency rejected for poor manufacture.

"We cannot let them build something that is unsafe," he said.
Well, Don Pasquale, you ought to have known something about this contractor. They are from Bucks County, after all...

Different contractors are executing three other major projects on the El in West Philadelphia.

SEPTA and PKF, which was still fielding crews yesterday on the site, say that work on the Cobbs Creek end is proceeding slowly.

The complaint, which PKF filed in the late afternoon, claims that "SEPTA is in material breach of its contract" with the company.

It alleges that SEPTA did not make payments to PKF in accordance with the contract and "persistently interfered with PKF's means and methods." The suit goes on to say that SEPTA continually issued "unjustified stop orders," and failed to accept "work performed in accordance" with the contract and "accepted industry standards."

As a result of SEPTA's actions, PKF asserts that it has been delayed more than 600 days in its work and that its costs have "been substantially increased." PKF said it had "incurred or will incur over $34 million in damages."

SEPTA has 20 days to file its response to the suit.
"Persistently interfered with a company's means and methods?" Where have we heard that one before as it pertains to 1234 Market?

Officials for the city, which owns the El, say they are frustrated, but are uncertain what they can do. Next year, the city's lease agreement with SEPTA to run and maintain the El expires.

"This suit will prolong this thing [the PKF project). It certainly will raise a red flag here that we probably have to get more involved," City Managing Director Phil Goldsmith said yesterday. "There is not a heck of a lot we can do. We're dealing with a regional agency and the city's power is very limited. What makes it especially frustrating is that it is happening to city business people and residents."

City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell pledged to hold public hearings on the El project on Nov. 22.

"This is horrible and I don't know what's going on," said Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia. "Sounds to me that they're both probably wrong."

"This project has been a nightmare, the community has been a hostage, and I sometimes feel like it's never going to get done," she said.
Here's hoping Fearless Leader has a lot of answers for Councilwoman Blackwell; you may recall last year when Fearless Leader was grilled on the same issue at City Hall.

The Federal Transit Administration is funding 80 percent of the El's reconstruction. FTA spokesman Paul Griffo declined to comment yesterday.
Well, if you're the feds, you'd be worried to about the transit equivalent of Boston's "Big Dig" highway fiasco.

SEPTA and PKF have worked satisfactorily together on other projects, including last year's intricate reconstruction of the El in Northeast Philadelphia at the Frankford Transportation Center.
Which, as had been noted in the past, was one of the few projects that actually went for SEPTA.

Rarely do construction projects of this magnitude break down so dramatically, veteran transportation officials say. In 25 years with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, spokesman Bill Capone could not recall such an instance. In the mid-1980s, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials recalled replacing a major contractor during a rebuilding of Interstate 76.

"It just really is an admission of desperation and an admission that adults just can't work together," said Andy Warren, regional PennDot administrator and a former SEPTA board member. "To take that step, you can taste the frustration."

On a somewhat related note, a little bit of research through the web site shows that Mr. and Mrs. Getchell, who list their address as Perkasie, Bucks County, contributed $500 to the Democratic National Committee. The majority of the SEPTA Board (11 of the 15 members) are Republicans (8 appointed by the suburban legislative boards, 2 by Republican legislative leaders; Board Vice-Chair James Schwartzman is reportedly a Republican but appointed by the Senate Democratic leadership).

Draw your own conlcusions...


Just in time for SEPTA's latest pitch to Harrisburg for more money...

Yet another wire problem on the Reading trunk. This time, the #0213 (6:49am R2 Warminster to Center City) reportedly had its pantographs take down wires near Tabor Jct, resulting in a bus bridge between Fern Rock and Glenside. For most of the day, SEPTA only announced that the R2 Warminster, R3 West Trenton, and R5 Lansdale lines were running "reduced schedules", which really didn't mean a heck of a lot when people were trying to catch one of these trains...

Meanwhile, there were reports that a tresspasser was struck and killed along the NEC near Crum Lynne station in Ridley Thursday afternoon. We have been unable to confirm via the papers or internet, but the incident is believed to have occured at around 1:15pm. It appears that either Acela #2111 or SEPTA's #9238 may have been involved as those were the two trains that fit into the timeslot. If more details become available, we'll pass them along...


SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. has been a very busy man these past few weeks...

In addition to dealing with the headaches of a rumored Turnpike strike (he's a member of the Pa. Turnpike Commission; another reason why I always tell friends to get their EZPass tags in Delaware), Don Pasquale has been writing to the editorial pages of the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee), which was published a few weeks ago.

This week's edition of the Northeast News Gleaner features the exact same commentary/manifesto from Don Pasquale, with a few words changed around.

The article in the News Gleaner, however, appears to be a little dated...

I also urge everyone to attend one of the public hearings SEPTA will be holding on the Contingency Plan proposals beginning on October 14, 2004 to express your concern about the future of public transit. Northeast News Gleaner

For starters, this appeared in the October 28 edition of the News Gleaner; the last SEPTA hearing was held on October 21. In fairness, this could've been a bad editing job by News Gleaner editors, but...

Maybe I missed something here, but I didn't think that someone was allowed to submit virtually the same statement with a few words switched around. After all, the same statement appeared in the Daily News on October 19, when 3 of the 5 hearings scheduled had already taken place.

Looks like someone needs a better publicist...


Commuters on the 4:30am 113 to Marcus Hook got more than they baragined for last week following a serious assault on the operator at 69 St.

Millbourne and Upper Darby police officers arrested a 23 year old Philadelphia man after he allegedly attempted to hijack a 113 bus early Thursday morning, the Delaware County Daily Times reports.

The alleged assailant, identified as Sekou S. Williams, 23, of the 5400 block of Chester Avenue, Philadelphia, was apprehended by a another SEPTA employee who came to the driver’s aid after being summoned by two commuters.

SEPTA police, Millbourne police and Upper Darby police responded to the call of an assault in progress on the Route 113 bus at 4:29 a.m. outside the south terminal, 69th and Market streets.

Millbourne Officer Maria Hillanbrand arrived first and observed SEPTA porter Dave Evans restraining Williams on the ground next to the bus.

The female driver told Officer Joseph Dougherty she was seated on the 113 Marcus Hook bus when the defendant approached and allegedly opened the driver’s-side vent window, reached in, opened the passenger’s-side door and got onto the bus.

"She drove the bus approximately 75 feet, hoping to get closer to the terminal where someone might help her," Dougherty wrote in the affidavit about the driver. "The woman stopped the bus a short distance away, and Williams dragged her from the bus, where she fell to the ground."

Williams re-entered the bus and attempted to drive away," but was unsuccessful and allegedly assaulted the driver again, "punching her numerous times in the face, head and upper body. She curled into a fetal position, covering her face with her hands, until Evans came to her aid."

The driver suffered injuries to her right cheek, lips, right hand and right shoulder. She was taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released.
The first question that has to pop into one's mind is this: How did a Millbourne police officer end being the first to arrive at the scene of a crime at a SEPTA facility in Upper Darby?

Beside the fact that Millbourne police are in Upper Darby fairly regularly because of the geography of that area (it's basically a postage stamp size borough surrounded by Upper Darby) and that most arrests made by Millbourne police are processed in Upper Darby, it doesn't seem that unusual.

That said, this would also lead to a question of adequate staffing by SEPTA police, considering that you do have buses running into and out of the terminal 24/7. Not too long ago, I received an email from an SEPTA police insider who says that there are only 8 to 10 officers to cover the entire system between 11pm and 7am. Obviously, that's due to the El and Broad Street Subway not running, but still that's a lot of territory for only 10 officers to cover. From past experiences in having to take a late night 65 bus to Overbrook to catch the R5, SEPTA police coverage at 69 St Terminal - which is supposed to be a major hub, I might add - is spotty at best.

Meanwhile, the processing of Williams didn't quite go as smoothly for Upper Darby police...

While Williams was awaiting arraignment in a holding cell at the Upper Darby Police Station, he stripped naked and refused to get dressed again. This did not prevent him from being presented with a criminal complaint by Pennsylvania state constables.
Insert your own joke here...

He is facing charges of robbery of a motor vehicle, robbery, simple and aggravated assault, receiving stolen property, unlawful restraint, terroristic threats, theft and harassment.

Bail was set at $30,000 pending a preliminary hearing Monday in district court.
Delaware County Daily Times
The aggravated assault charge is most likely an enhanced charge, since attacks on operators of transit vehicles are covered under a separate charge in Pennsylvania (this is based upon what I've seen on buses in other parts of the state, particularly Reading). In New Jersey, NJTransit operators are protected under a similar statute that calls for a 5-to-10 year jail term upon conviction for assaulting an NJT bus or rail operator.


The editorial board of the Phoenix newspaper of Phoenixville (not to be confused with the Swarthmore College publication of the same name) recently asked Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6th) and Democratic challenger Lois "Sponsored by out of towners such as" Murphy about the highly controversial $chuylkill Valley rail corridor that SEPTA has completely bungled much like the hated Yankees bungled that 3-0 lead against my beloved Red Sox (now, if only the Iggles can win a Super Bowl, then this would be a very good year for me). The Phoenix asked this question of both candidates:

How high of a priority is the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro train line from Philadelphia to Reading?

First, Congressman Gerlach's response:

Really, really high. It's one of my most important projects I've been working on. Maybe contrary to what (Murphy) said, if I didn't get the task force formed six months ago to keep the dialogue going on this proposal, it probably would be dead by now. I wrote to Gov. Rendell asking him to be involved in this task force. He assigned PennDOT Secretary Beiler to chair it, and it's made up of himself, me and the SEPTA consultants. We've been working on way to bring the $2.5 billion project [down to] a level of about $800 million, which is really where we need to be if we're going to be competitive with other new-start mass-transit projects around the country. So, if she made comment somehow that I'm not involved then she really doesn't have her facts right, because I'm intimately involved with the project. I was also able, in the House Transportation Authorization Bill, to get the project put on what's called final construction authorization, which has to be in place to get the final OK by the Federal Transit Administration to move forward. I've not only been working here locally with state government to come up with local authorities to come up with the right proposal. I've also come up with the project in the final construction project of the highway authorization bill that is now in conference committee between the House and Senate. It's a huge project of importance and among the communities along the corridor - Norristown, Phoenixville, Pottstown, Reading and Wyomissing. It's important to employers to better connect with employees in the region and hopefully get some traffic congestion alleviated along the 422 and 202 corridors.

Now, Murphy's response:

It's a very high priority for me and for the people of this region, and it's a great disappointment that the current fiscal and budgetary policies in Washington have not resulted in adequate federal funds being applied to promote this very important investment in our local infrastructure.
Murphy is apparently oblivious to the fact that it was SEPTA who wanted a $2 billion gold-plated rail line masquerading as a glorified "trolley" instead of a rational rail proposal. Fortunately, Congressman Gerlach at least realizes that $2 billion was way too much for the line.

On a related question, both candidates were asked about widening the US 422 corridor between the interchange with US 202 and I-76 in Tredyffrin to the end of the 422 expressway in Berks County. The candidates invoked the $chuylkill Valley rail line in their responses. First, the Congressman speaks:

I haven't seen any particular plans to do that. If at the end of the day, through the metropolitan highway process, that is listed by Montgomery County and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission as one of the top projects, I'd support it. But quite frankly, I haven't seen any specific proposals to do that. There is more interest in the creation of the Schuylkill Valley Metro to help alleviate some the congestion. That's not to say, with the continued growth in the western part of the county, along with Berks County, that that project will not necessarily someday. It very well may be. Right now there are no specific plans being put forward. It's not a plan that's at a high level on any priority list. I try to focus on the projects that everybody had agreed we need to do and those are the things we try to pursue funding for. They've already been vetted by the local, county and regional people and they say, "Yep, that's the priority that they have," and that seems like the priority that we have to follow upon.
Murphy's response to the question:

If we had the Schuylkill Valley Metro, we might not have to answer that question. And again, that's probably ultimately going to be a state decision and require the analysis from the state both on the highway consequences and on the environmental consequences. I have sufficient experience to understand the need to reduce traffic or to expand the ability to travel. I don't have enough information to evaluate whether and how it could be expanded. The Phoenix
Of course, as I am apt to remind anyone who will listen (which apparently doesn't include the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market), we could've had rail service operating between at least Phoenixville and Center City if SEPTA hadn't come up with this stupid "MetroRail" concept.

Saturday, October 30, 2004


SEPTA's Regional Rail schedules change tomorrow; for the first time in recent memory, SEPTA timetables are changing at the same time as other railroad systems in the Northeast, including Amtrak and NJTransit. There are very few changes to existing schedules; in fact a grand total of 22 trains will see schedule adjustments. Only minor changes will affect riders on the R2 Marcus Hook, R3 West Trenton, R7 Trenton, R7 Chestnut Hill East, R8 Chestnut Hill West, and R8 Fox Chase. Only the changes on the R3 and R7 affect peak hour trains. Most of the other changes involve minor time adjustments. Follow the link for a detailed listing of all RRD changes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


The following is portions of an email sent to me from DVARP's Matthew Mitchell regarding comments in the Bucks County Courier Times (emphasis added):

Please make sure the record on your blog reflects the fact that the CourierTimes reporter misquoted me regarding the impact of the proposed cuts on the SEPTA budget.

The cuts amount to 30 to 36 percent of SEPTA service(*), not 36 percent ofthe budget. As I explained to (Courier-Times reporter) Alison Hawkes at least twice in our phone call, the impact of the cuts on the budget is reduced because of lost fare revenue and because SEPTA has legitimate overhead and other expenses that are less dependent on the amount of service run. I thought I'd stressed the importance of that to her.

By the time you account for that, and for the ridership losses that will follow from a fare increase, I estimate the total impact on the bottom lineof the budget to be about $150 million (16 or 17 percent of a $900 million total), where the budget deficit is $62 million (less than 7 percent of the total). Thus DVARP's conclusion that SEPTA is significantly overstating the magnitude of cuts needed to balance the budget.

Also, the quote ending "we better make the threats louder" could taken out of context. DVARP has not drawn any conclusions about why SEPTA chose to threaten such drastic cuts, but the belief that the threats are being pumped up in order to scare people into action is what we hear most frequently. SEPTA has denied that this is their motivation.

The article did correctly note that we say SEPTA has a real problem and SEPTA has a genuine need increased state operating support. There is no painless way to close this gap in SEPTA's budget. See "Needed: Dedicated & Predictable State Funding for Transit"...

But we believe that SEPTA is hurting its own credibility by making such dire threats with so little justification. We think this is counterproductive to the interest of securing adequate and predictable state funding.

I hope the correction puts Maloney at ease, but if it doesn't, there's not much else I can do. The SEPTA response ought not be to shoot the messenger, but to level with the public about how cuts of this scale are justified, and to start implementing internal economies as the performance review suggested instead of continuing to trade on cuts made nearly a decade ago.

*--note that we've had to estimate the impact of these proposed cuts, since SEPTA provided so little documentation to justify them or to predict their impact. Obviously there's some uncertainty in these figures, but not so much as to cause any doubt that SEPTA's proposal is an overreaction to a genuine problem. Also, we are making a conservative estimate of the budget impact of these cuts, by assuming SEPTA does nothing to target the cuts so they have the least effect on the riding public. Matthew Mitchell; DVARP

There certainly seems to be a grain of truth regarding SEPTA's response to criticism. A follow-up post on the thin skin of Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market is forthcoming...

Monday, October 25, 2004


Despite the heading, this is not an upcoming court case...

DVARP's statement (pdf file) at the SEPTA hearing in Philadelphia recieved additional press coverage from the Courier-Times (full disclosure note: I am a dues paying member of DVARP, but post this blog with opinions and comments that are my own and do not represent their views as a group):

SEPTA has overblown its funding crisis by proposing service cuts and fare hikes well above what's necessary to meet its budget gap next year, a Delaware Valley public transit watchdog group said Tuesday.

The Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers analyzed SEPTA's budgets and found that agency proposals to eliminate all weekend service, reduce weekday service by 20 percent and raise fares by 25 percent amounts to two to three times more in savings and increased funding than is necessary to close a $62 million shortfall.

While not disputing that the nation's fifth largest public transit agency faces a serious money crisis, the group said SEPTA hadn't bothered to implement some basic belt-tightening measures recommended by a management audit earlier this year. Among them, certain purchasing procedures and employee scheduling.

"It's somewhat unproductive because all that does is undermine their credibility about the real problem," said Matthew Mitchell, a DVARP board member and 10-year research analyst in healthcare policy. "The rationale for that explanation is that the threats from last year didn't do the job so we better make the threats louder."
That sounds about right...

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney reacted with outrage on Tuesday at the group's claims, saying "to even infer that shows a lack of understanding of the process."

"I have to say that when you're dealing with a $62 million deficit, any proposal to deal with that when you're reducing service is going to hurt," he said. "That we have overblown that for any kind of ulterior motive is ridiculous."
Ridiculous would certainly describe the "outrage" from SEPTA's Minister of Mis-information...

SEPTA has cut $420 million from its budget in recent years as well as 1,000 employees. It has also implemented ways to economize service, Maloney said. That management audit came in after SEPTA proposed its cuts and was forwarded to the state Department of Transportation for review.

Maloney wouldn't say whether any of the specific audit recommendations would be implemented, but added "we'll welcome anyone's ideas." That so far doesn't mean a battle over numbers with the DVARP (sic), which Maloney said he would not address directly. The group's rationale is that SEPTA's $62 million budget gap amounts to about 7 percent of the agency's $900 million budget. The proposed service cuts alone - not including the 25 percent fare hike - amount to savings totaling 36 percent of the budget.

"On the face of it, it's overkill," said Mitchell, who is urging SEPTA to lessen its service cuts through alternative measures.

The group recommended that SEPTA consolidate closely spaced peak trains and eliminate little-used off-peak trains, rather than gutting entire transit lines, as was proposed last year. Mitchell said the proposal lessens the impact on transit riders.

But SEPTA - in its quest to pressure Harrisburg for a permanent source of transit funding - has chosen a path that seriously punches the traveling public, he said.

"Again, I think that line of thinking is ridiculous," Maloney said. Bucks County Courier-Times
Why is it ridiculous? Because it's true?

It makes me wonder if SEPTA's "doomsday" tactics might be having the opposite effect on the public. It's scarcely a coincidence that many key state representatives from the region - particularly from the city and Delaware County - have, as of yet, not signed on to the current Greenleaf/Taylor legislation.


One of SEPTA's "Rotating Resumes" made a trip to Middletown Twp to speak to a business group regarding the R3 extension from Elwyn to Wawa ... but not to West Chester. From the Delaware County Daily Times:

SEPTA’s plan to extend rail service on its R-3 line from Elwyn to Wawa continues to move forward.

However, although a 3-mile extension of the line has been in the works for years, commuters won’t be able to board the train at Wawa any time soon. It’ll still be many months before work on the $50 million project is completed and the rehabilitated line is operational.

That’s what Gerald J. Kane, manager of SEPTA’s capital and long range planning department, told the Middletown Township Business and Professional Association at its luncheon meeting at Brodeur’s Country House Inn.

Kane noted so far it’s taken $2 million and 42 months of engineering studies and related research, starting in the early 1990s, to get the project to this point. He said project engineers next must select a firm and then a contract must be negotiated by SEPTA.
And, of course, there's this little project called the $chuylkill Valley "Metro" which is currently going nowhere...

The construction phase probably will get under way in three or four years.It will take 24 to 36 months to complete.

Kane said extensive rehabilitation work on the three-mile stretch of track includes straightening out an existing curve. Along with new infrastructure and a new station, a parking lot for 300-350 vehicles on three or more acres must be developed,

For northbound traffic, there would have to be a new entrance to the station, with traffic channeled by such measures as a jug handle or left turn light.

Kane said extending the line to Wawa and providing a park-and-ride station is expected to attract 500 commuters per day, or 1,000 daily trips. Of those 500 riders, 30-35 percent would be people who currently are driving to Elwyn to catch the train. The other 70 percent would be new riders.

As for extending the line nine miles beyond Wawa to West Chester, Kane indicated cost is the main reason why this is unlikely to happen.
"Cost", of course, didn't stop SEPTA from trying to propose the aforementioned $2 billion (and counting) $chuylkill Valley fiasco.

Asked what can be done about illegal parking at the Elwyn station, Kane said some minor work is being done to provide 90 additional spaces.

"You don’t win friends by towing away your customers," he added.
You also don't win friends further down the line when you choose not to extend a rail line that is primarily in tact (save for signaling and catenary in some segments) to the only county seat in the four suburban counties without direct rail service to Philadelphia. As I have noted to SEPTA many times before, failing to extend the R3 all the way to West Chester is not an acceptable option. Of course, Chester County has never been a high priority to the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market.


At the SEPTA hearing in Media Courthouse, Upper Darby's Al Achtert had inquired where Delaware County's state legislators stood on the issue of SEPTA funding.

On the night of the hearing in Delaware County, several of the candidates were being interviewed by the editorial board of the Delaware County Daily Times. In a recent editorial, the Daily Times noted some of the responses:

Almost all thought SEPTA is worthy of dedicated funding. No one was sure where the money will come from.

"I’m for dedicated funding provided they continue to show us progress in business operations. I suspect we’ll do something in lame duck to keep it up and running," said state Rep. Ron Raymond, R-162, of Ridley Township.

State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160 of Upper Chichester, maintained that dedicated funding for SEPTA is necessary "to keep Delaware County viable."

State Rep. Nick Micozzie, R-163 of Upper Darby, noted, "I’ve always been for dedicated funding but I don’t know how to do that. The governor has to articulate the need."

State Rep. Mario Civera, R-164, of Upper Darby, whose district includes the 69th Street Terminal, a major mass transit hub, said he has been upset with SEPTA for a long time, but admits it needs a dedicated stream of funding. Where it will come from is another matter.

Increasing personal income tax is a possible way to raise SEPTA funds, said Micozzie. State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford, wondered if increased sales tax might be the answer.

Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9 of Chester, doesn’t want to impose a new tax, but recognizes the need for a dedicated source of mass transit funds in Pennsylvania.

State Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165 of Springfield, is a tougher customer in determining whether SEPTA deserves the state money at all.

"I have got to be convinced there is no wasteful spending before dedicating funding," said Adolph.

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159 of Chester, said he is committed to a dedicated funding source "but I dislike constant threats from SEPTA" in terms of cutting service and hiking fares.

He is also realistic about what it means to the state budget. "Where will we get the money? It will have to be a source of dedicated funding but we’ll have to rob Peter to pay Paul," conceded Kirkland.

In the end, the fate of SEPTA affects everyone whether it be from bearing the financial burden of unemployed individuals unable to get to their jobs or sitting in traffic jams because lack of public transportation has forced most people to depend on cars.

If the state Legislature doesn’t provide relief to SEPTA, we’ll all pay for it one way or another. Delaware County Daily Times
We should point out that Kirkland was the only one of the above group who didn't recieve the paper's endorsement, though it was not related to his response to SEPTA.


And now, after 5 days of hearings over a two-week period, the circus known as the Contingency Plan hearings are finally over. Here are some of the highlights as reported by area newspapers, starting with the October 14 hearings at Media Courthouse:

"Service cuts would be inhumane... and catastrophic to our community," said Roderick T. Powell, who is blind.

"We must take this... to the governor and our legislators," said Powell, chairman of a Chester group called the Center for the Visually Impaired and a member of a SEPTA advisory committee on disabled riders.

Others said city-to-suburb and suburb-to-city commuters who work nights or weekends would be especially hard hit.

Robert E. Walhquist, regional manager of a firm that owns and operates the Gallery in Philadelphia, the Plymouth Meeting and Willow Grove Park Malls in Montgomery County, and the Exton Square Mall in Chester County, said 3,500 of the 8,500 employees at those malls ride SEPTA at least once a week.

And many of the 34,000 shoppers who come to those malls on the weekends also travel on SEPTA, Walhquist said.

Cuts in SEPTA service would have a major effect on those people and the area economy, he said. "As they [SEPTA] succeed, so will our region."

Larry Schall, vice president of Swarthmore College, said cuts "will have a dramatic effect" on many of the college's 1,400 students and 1,000 faculty and staff members, whose major city-to-school route is SEPTA's regional rail system.

Susan Wright, a member of the Swarthmore Planning Commission, said, "Many residents located in Swarthmore because of the availability of rail service." That includes a large senior population, she said. Inquirer
Commuter Albert Achtert Jr. of Upper Darby asked why none of the elected state representatives in Delaware County were at the public hearing regarding the possible dismantling of the public transit system.

Achtert said the proposed cutbacks in service would pit one group of riders against another group who aren’t affected.

By cutting down evening and weekend service, "..the guy who works 9 to 5 Monday through Friday (will say), I made it, I got my train to go to work," Achtert said. "Poor slob that works on the weekend, he’s out of luck."

He said SEPTA’s contingency proposal wasn’t acceptable. "It will destroy the authority, and it will destroy the economy of the Philadelphia area," Achtert said."This will no longer be a decent place to live or work. We cannot attract businesses and quality people to move into the area to help development here in this area if we don’t have public transportation."

Douglass Diehl, a representative of Tri State Transit 21, a commuter advocacy group, said, "Imagine in January if the Philadelphia Eagles make it to the NFC Championship game.

"It is played here in Philadelphia at the same time a blizzard dumps a foot and a half of snow," and the only way to get to the game is the Broad Street subway, he said.

Diehl also described a similar worst-case scenario for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Pennsylvania would be the laughing stock of the nation when only a few hundred fans show up for the games," he said.

"Public transportation should not be an afterthought," and only for those who can’t drive, Diehl said. "Public transportation should be thought of as a solution to highway congestion bringing into our state new jobs and businesses, a way to revive depressed areas of our state by giving residents access to new jobs and businesses in nearby cities and towns."

Swarthmore Mayor Eck Gerner and Lisa Aaron, borough council president, cited the passage of a borough resolution supporting dedicated funding for public transit in the state, specifically Senate Bill 1162 and House Bill 2697.

Judy Rice of Haverford, an official of the League of Women Voters, said, "there’s a diverse public making use of public transportation: senior citizens no longer able or wishing to drive, people with disabilities who are much more mobile today than they used to be because of public transportation, the welfare-to-work participants, students, the family with one car well as the commuters we hear about every day on the radio stuck in endless traffic jams.

"All of them could make use of good public transportation if it’s available," Rice said.

Tom Dorricott, a representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said the union doesn’t support the service cuts and fare hikes which will lead to "destruction of the regional economy," citing the need for predictable adequate funding. Delaware County Daily Times
DOYLESTOWN - October 15

It wasn't clear if the choice of jazz musician Norah Jones' "Seven Years," which returned at the slideshow's conclusion, was intentional or not.

But since 1997, the transit authority has reduced its operating budget by more than $420 million and slashed the size of its work force by almost 1,200 positions.

The majority of those cuts took place under Jack Leary; there have been relatively few layoffs since Fearless Leader took over.

The 15-minute slideshow warned that even more drastic cuts could be on the way - including 25 percent fare hikes, 25 percent regional rail service cuts and no weekend bus or train service - if SEPTA doesn't get a new source of dedicated funding from the state legislature.

"Although SEPTA remains committed to do whatever possible to provide quality transit services to our loyal customers, we are out of money, we are out of options and we are out of time," the narrator said.

Upper Makefield resident Thomas Ragan of SEPTA's Citizens Advisory Committee said the proposed reductions of services are "not a viable option," particularly for Bucks County.

"This will further erode ridership," he said. "We should be looking at ways to find more riders."

SEPTA already has some of the highest fares in the country, Ragan said. The advisory committee endorses calls on the legislature to increase its subsidy.

Is anyone else surprised that the CAC is parrotting the rest of the Save Transit propaganda? Have these people even considered asking SEPTA to look at their own house first?

Todd Tranausky of Langhorne called the plan "an abomination and completely unacceptable." The Temple University student said he already pays $163 a month worth of fares, and the proposed increases would cost him $31 more.

Tranausky said SEPTA already has dedicated funding in the form of a tax on public utility properties, as well as a 1.2 percent share of the state's sales tax. If the legislature would lift a $75 million cap on SEPTA's sales tax take, the authority would get $64 million next year - enough to cover its $62 million shortfall.

Johannes Brevis said he has disabilities and relies on public transit to get to both work and college.

"You already know what you need to do. You already know how this impacts people," Brevis said. "So, I want to send a strong message to you and the legislators that we need service on the weekends. We don't need reductions."

Irv Johnston, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, owns a home in Doylestown and commutes to Center City each day for work. If weekend service is cut, he said he would have to stay with co-workers or sleep in his office when he attends Saturday or Sunday functions.

"If you enact your contingency plan, my contingency plan will be to take myself and my family away. And I won't be alone," he said. Bucks County Courier Times
WEST CHESTER - October 18

SEPTA officials said the financial problems resulted from the lack of a dedicated, predictable subsidy source to meet rising operating expenses.

But Mary Lou Sander, a Malvern senior citizen, said the people will not use public transportation if it is unreliable and unpredictable.

She remembered the 1998 strike that paralyzed transit riders in the region."

I took the bus to work. Before the strike, it was full," Sander said. "After, when the buses started running again, there was five people."

She blamed revenue losses on faulty equipment and unrealistic routes.

"It is a lifeline for me," Sander said. "But you are driving your riders away. Once you lose them, they’re gone. They’re not coming back."
I think Ms. Sander hit the nail right on the head...

(West Chester) Borough resident James Schustrich came to the hearing for an update from last year when SEPTA proposed one-time cuts in service, only to find the agency was now considering more extensive reductions.

Greg Steele, of Exton, said the reductions would have a dire affect on the region’s economy."Try to picture a Chester County without rail and bus service," Steele said. "Picture what it would do to the economy and the tax base."

At Exton Square mall, 400 employees ride buses to work at some of the mall’s 140 retail stores, said Mary Kay Owen, marketing director.

She was especially concerned about the proposed elimination of weekend services."The negative impact would be felt immediately," Owen said.

Michael Herron, executive director of the Transportation Management Association of Chester County, called for immediate dedicated transit funding.

"We do not close roads or roll up sidewalks on weekends, as work, commerce and recreation continue," Herron said. "So, why stop the buses and railcars on these days?" Daily Local News
"Access to services and access to employment aren't just things we think our community needs, we know it's something our community needs," said Claudia Hellebush, president of the United Way of Chester County. "I ask that you keep these people in mind when you think about making broader cuts. To not do that will create a domino effect that will be devastating to them." Inquirer

Even veteran SEPTA observers muted their usual critique.

"To quibble with the details of this proposal would be like visiting a dying friend and proposing a new exercise regimen or diet," said Irv Acklesberg, a lawyer from Community Legal Services. ...

Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted that the hospitality industry is the city's foremost job engine, employing some 55,000 people - 90 percent of whom ride transit.

"This is the biggest growth industry in the last 10 years in Philadelphia," Muldoon said. "If we cut service, we are cutting our own throats."

Daniel Brook, a 26-year-old freelance writer from Center City, testified that he moved from Long Island to Philadelphia for a quality, car-free life.

"I will leave here if there is no weekend transit in this city," said Brook, who spoke on behalf of Young Involved Philadelphians, a nonprofit group.

Many senior citizens, working poor and disabled riders have blasted SEPTA for making them pawns in what they say is a high-stakes gamble that the state will come through by year's end.

"We know that SEPTA is making drastic threats as a tactic," Danette McKinley, 46, of West Philadelphia, said.

About 70 percent of downtown office workers commute to work on SEPTA, noted Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District.

"The state has largely refused to meet its responsibilities to its citizens," said John Solether, 58, an architect from Queen Village. "We need statesmen, not politicians. We have to increase taxes. That is reality." Inquirer
And then, there's Dan Geringer's border-line sarcastic (but on the money) recap in the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee):

Merging mass hysteria with mass transit, SEPTA brought its "Show Me the Money!" doomsday hearings to Center City yesterday, threatening to goose fares and slash service if the state doesn't cough up $62 million to patch a budget hole.

Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees are just a couple of crazy, mixed-up kids compared to the sadistic bloodletting that SEPTA plans this winter: 25 percent fare hikes, 20 percent service cuts and totally transitless weekends.

Naturally, the riding public testifying at yesterday's hearings was not pleased.

The woeful weep-in saw the disabled and the able-bodied, the disadvantaged and the advantaged, the sweatsuits and the three-piece suits raise their voices together in a collective chorus of "It's My Trolley and I'll Cry If I Want To!"

Sadly, their audience was a panel of SEPTA pros just slightly more stone-faced than Mount Rushmore.

Even while allegedly teetering on the brink of Transit Armageddon, SEPTA management's obvious disconnect from the folks who foot the bill explains the skepticism among the grassroots grunts who spoke.

Lance Haver, the mayor's consumer affairs director, argued for dedicated state funding for SEPTA but added, "There are stops along the Broad Street Line that smell worse than any barnyard. Parts of the El that were scheduled to be repaired years ago are still under construction... Buses run late. Paratransit doesn't work.

"The City of Philadelphia is 80 percent of the system, 80 percent of the riders are from Philadelphia, the city contributes 80 percent of the local funding and yet, city representatives make up less than 15 percent of the SEPTA board.

"We cannot allow SEPTA to shut the city down, discriminate against city riders and shut the city out of the decision-making process."
Isn't it nice to know that Lance Haver is continuing to act like the Village Idiot, only this time, at taxpayers expense? Thank you, Emperor Street...

Patricia Nigro from the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers supports dedicated state funding but called SEPTA's slasher scenario an "overreaction" based on "sketchy" documentation.

SEPTA, Nigro said, "did not take the time to document the need for and the effects of its proposed service cuts before scheduling these hearings."

She said that her organization "is afraid that SEPTA is overstating the degree of trouble it faces as a ploy to raise the political stakes and bring more pressure on the legislature.

"Regrettably, this has only served to further weaken SEPTA's credibility with the public and with its elected officials."
Bingo. As we've noted for the past few years, SEPTA's credibility was weak coming into this round of hearings.

Gregory McKinley, a community activist from Cobbs Creek, asked why SEPTA hasn't responded to his suggestions during past public hearings: 1) raise millions by selling the naming rights for stations, and train and bus lines, to corporations; 2) send busloads of senior citizens and school children to lobby for dedicated funding instead of relying only on professional lobbyists.

He received no response from the SEPTAcrats yesterday. After testifying, he told the Daily News that he never has.

"Enlist grandmom and the school kids," McKinley said. "Get the grassroots involved. They want the masses to support SEPTA, but they don't get the masses involved. In politics, the muscle is the masses. I've tried to get SEPTA to understand that. It's like pulling teeth." Daily News
Mr. McKinley is preaching to the choir. It seems SEPTA would rather reach out to the business community and elected officials as opposed to the rank-and-file people who ride the system every day.

NORRISTOWN - October 21

The cuts, if enacted, could further effect the competitiveness of the region's university's, whose students select area colleges because of close proximity with Philadelphia's cultural amenities, state Sen. Connie Williams, D- 17th Dist., said.

County Commissioner Tom Ellis warned that the cuts could "destroy the mass transit system."

Williams and Ellis were the only two elected officials to attend the hearings yesterday. ...

Rob Hart, general manager of the Plaza at King of Prussia, said the cuts would wreak havoc not just on sales, but also on the mall's ability to attract employees.

"We need to keep service going seven days per week to the King of Prussia Mall," Hart said.

He said that of the mall's 3,400 employees, 34 percent take public transportation to work.

Without SEPTA employers might have a hard time finding employees in Upper Merion Township, which had a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in August of this year, Hart said.

Seventy percent of workers in Center City arrive to their workplaces via SEPTA. Retired Montgomery County transportation planner Richard Byler testified that if SEPTA follows through with cuts in evening service, those employees could be affected because some would drive to work to avoid missing the train.

Other transit experts testified that the cuts could add 30,000 cars to the region's highways and that cuts to the regional rail lines would not just affect local retail businesses.

Large employers that operate shuttle buses for their employees to alleviate traffic would also have trouble attracting employees, said another transit planner.

If the cuts go into effect, they will begin in 2005. Norristown Times-Herald


City Council's Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities postponed today's meeting; most of the Council members were at today's John Kerry/Bill Clinton festival of lies and slander (masquerading as a rally). There's no word on a rescheduled date...

However, the Transportation committee will hold what appears to be a joint meeting with the Finance Committee tomorrow at 1:00pm in Council Chambers regarding the status of the Market Street El reconstruction project. Presumably, this is in response to concerns raised by members of the region's Congressional delegation.


The Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities will meet today at 2:00pm, assuming people can get through the "Clinton-lock" due to today's rally in support of U.S. Sen. John Forbes Kerry (D-Mass./Ted Kennedy's back pocket). The long-time Liberal back-bencher turned presidential wannabe will be joined by former President Bill Clinton (head for the hills, ladies) at Love Park this afternoon. Naturally, there's no mention of any SEPTA related detours around the area on the SEPTA web site, as Howard Bender reported that several streets in and around Center City are closed off. Back to the hearing...

The hearing will deal with Council resolution 040821, a resolution "authorizing the Council Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities to hold hearings on the importance of public transportation to the Philadelphia and the Southeastern Pennsylvania region, to evaluate the need for increased dedicated state funding for public transit, and to review strategies to enhance coordinated and comprehensive transportation policy and planning."

Somehow, I have a feeling that Fearless Leader, or at the very least one of the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market will make a public appearance to promote the "coalition of the parrots" known as "Save Transit". It wouldn't bother me at all if some council members use this hearing as an opportunity to take a few shots at SEPTA.

Oh, and the chairman of this committee? One Councilman Michael Nutter (D-4th), who may not exactly be on Fearless Leader's holiday greeting card list after the fiasco involving the restoration of the 15 to trolley service...

Assuming the system isn't gridlocked because of the aforementioned rally, we will attempt to report on this hearing...

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Or at least it seems like its been a while since the last report of major wire problems on the Reading trunk of the Regional Rail system. At around 8:30am, SEPTA reported catenary damage at Newtown Jct. Several trains, including the #811 (8:16am Fox Chase to Center City and Chestnut Hill West), were held up as crews repaired the damaged wire on 1 and 2 tracks. The 811 had to reverse from Newtown Jct to Cheltenham station to allow the outbound #814 (8:13am Suburban to Fox Chase) to clear the junction at head north to Fox Chase. The 811 finally cleared the junction at 8:53am - nearly 20 minutes behind schedule.

The problems also affected trains on the R2 Warminster, R3 West Trenton, and R5 Lansdale lines towards the end of the AM peak. The #327 (7:44am West Trenton to Elwyn via Center City) - among others - had to be escorted through the incident area by the train crew, also running about 20 minutes late. Through most of the late morning and early afternoon, trains were running with nearly 30 minute delays.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


We now have a couple of reports from other newsgroups and forums regarding last Monday's shut-down - and subsequent media blackout - of the El at Bridge-Pratt.

According to one poster in the usenet group:

On Monday, October 11, the Frankford Transportation Center was shut down and evacuated around 4:40 p.m. or so, and it lasted for a few hours. A device with wires was discovered and removed.

The traffic reports around 5 p.m. all said that the trains were shut down between Bridge St. and Erie Ave. because of "police activity." There were no follow-up reports, and none of the TV stations did anything about it. I didn't see anything in the Inky about it, but I scanned it quickly.

Over on the Schuylkill Expressway, however, another device was found,attributed to Earth Liberation Front (ELF). That was major news on WB17, and KYW3 was going to do a story on it they said, when I called at 10:15 p.m. Monday to check about the Bridge and Pratt incident.

In fact, I called both WB17 and KYW to ask what happened. I was told that the police said, "It was a non-story," so everything was dismissed. Interesting. The public's right to know, as well as the public's safety is discounted because they were told it was a non-story. A non-story that took place at rush-hour, shutting down amajor transportation hub in the city.
Yes, folks, a great team effort by SEPTA's Ministry of Mis-Information and SEPTA's AGM for Public Safety James Jordan.

According to a regular poster at, it looked like a scene from a Hollywood action flick at Bridge-Pratt:

If you were one of those that experienced this event, you were privy to what was at the end of the line.

It looked like something out of a movie. Police everywhere, fire trucks and firefighters, police helicopters overhead, and to boot, the bomb squad.

The entire area was taped off with police yellow tape. And when you got there nobody from SEPTA offered any idea of what was going on. You could obviously tell something wasn't right.

I looked on as I walked through, and saw a wpvi channel 6 news van at the scene parked next to Wallgreens. I walked on up Bustleton Ave looking for a spot that looked like any bus that would be detoured would pass. About a half mile past there was a bus stop that buses were pulling into and picking up.

The driver of the bus that I boarded looked pale white and scared. He wouldn't comment on what happened.

I came home and turned the TV on hoping to find out exactly what happened.

The news didn't show anything.

I searched every local news source for Philadelphia, and found nothing.

The morning after, I again searched and found zip.

Septa offered nothing close to a clue of what went down.

So you might ask, what did happen?

I have it from a source that a PGW worker had left a briefcase on the platform and forgot it. So of course everyone at the FTC panicked, calling in the cavalry.

My gripe?

If this was a real threat to us (considering the day and age we live in) why in the hell would they continue to send people directly into what could have been a very bad scene?

We live in a color-coded society now, whether we like it or not. The test of survival is information. (Of course the cheezy signs on the platforms still read "All service running close to schedule.")

God help us if there is a real emergency and depend on SEPTA to pass along information in a timely manner.
I don't think I could've said it any better myself.

Come to think of it, god help us if Jordan still has his position by this time next year. And SEPTA asks us to lobby our legislators for more money from Harrisburg?

Get real...

Anyway, as I get into Bill O'Reilly "no-spin" mode, here's a talking points memo for Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market:

The memo today deals with a failure of the folks at 1234 Market to communicate with the public.

About the only things you hear from 1234 Market these days is the same refrain that has been coming from there for the past 18 months: "We're broke and we need money from Harrisburg or else we're going to shut down the system." It's been a message that's been pounded into our heads from the minute that Fearless Leader decided to try and shut down several key bus and rail lines as part of last year's botched "extortion" attempt.

Meanwhile, incident's such as last Monday's shut-down of the Bridge-Pratt El terminal in Frankford go unreported by the city's media outlets. Thousands of passengers who were unable to get to Bridge-Pratt to connect with buses or experienced longer than expected travel times due to the incident were inconvenienced in a major way.

And SEPTA's response to the incident. Silence.

Funny how whenever SEPTA claims to be out of money and out of options, they employ a full media blitz of parrots who echo the SEPTA party line: "Without more money from Harrisburg, SEPTA will be dismantled." SEPTA has done a good job of getting that message across, but what about telling commuters who are inconvienced when a major transit hub is shut down following a suspicious package report something as simple as the truth about what happened?

Forget it.

And it's not just limited to susupcious package incidents that neither SEPTA nor the Philadelphia Police want to keep under wraps.

How many times have you been on a Regional Rail train that was 45 to 60 minutes late because of wire problems or a disabled train? Take last Friday night on the R2 Warminster, as the push-pull train assigned to that line (assigned for reasons that many insiders admit are "political" - apparently, there's a high-ranking hack who takes that particular train) broke down at 16 St Junction. That train had to be towed to Wayne Jct, where passengers were forced to board other trains. Apparently, this caused a ripple effect on all of the RDG side lines.

Was any explaination offered to R2 passengers? As best as we can tell, no.

Or, the frequent lack of communication regarding late buses departing from 69 St Terminal over the past few years. More often than not, the white shirts at 69 St either don't know what's going on, or they know what's going on and choose not to tell the public. The worst problems on this front always tended to involve the West Chester Pike buses (104, 112, 120, and 123).

Or, there's the often annoying task of not posting detours (or the correct detour information) on most routes in the suburbs when parades take place.

And that's just a sample of the lack of communication between SEPTA and the riding public.

And let's not forget the lack of communication between SEPTA and government officials in the municipalities. How else can you explain the fact that SEPTA waited until two months before the restoration of trolley service on the 15 was to take place before asking the City of Philadelphia to make changes in traffic patterns along 59 St between Callowhill and Girard?

Or snubbing Bristol Township officials by not inviting them to attend a ceremony involving the announcement of capital improvments to two stations in the township?

Or the "miscommunication" between SEPTA and Upper Darby Township officials over renewing the grade crossing at Lansdowne Av and Garret Rd?

As an agency funded by OUR tax and OUR fare dollars, SEPTA has an obligation to notify the public as to why train or bus service was disrupted for a extended period of time. When SEPTA fails to inform the public, riders lose confidence in the system (if they haven't already) and go to other alternatives, including driving to Center City.

SEPTA also has an obligation to offer better communication to and work in partnership with the City of Philadelphia and its four suburban counties in order to improve a transit system that has roots dating back to the 19th century.

Unfortunately for riders and elected officials alike, SEPTA has proven to be anything but responsive. But, at the same time, they expect us to contact our elected officals and demand more funding for a system that is inconsistent at best, unreliable at worst. And this comes after SEPTA's grand "MetroRail" scheme for the Schuylkill Valley corridor was rejected by the FTA as unrealistic and financially unfeasible.

This may explain why one of the primary sponsors of legislation designed to give SEPTA and other transit agencies across the state more funding from Harrisburg, State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast Philadelphia) claimed to have only recieved one call from a concerned constituent regarding SEPTA in the two weeks prior to the "made for TV" rally in Harrisburg.

Perhaps the riding public is sending a clear message to Fearless Leader and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market. "You want a bailout? You're on your own."

Friday, October 15, 2004


You had to see this coming...

The website reports major problems with the reconstruction of the Market St El. Apparently, some members of the state's congressional delegation are less than thrilled with delays to the project, to say nothing about the long running complaints of people along the Market St corridor in West Philadelphia:

Nearly two years behind schedule, the $74 million Market-Frankford El reconstruction in West Philadelphia is in such dire straits that seven area congressmen have asked the Federal Transit Administration to review SEPTA's management of the project.

The delay also has placed businesses near 63d and Market in dire straits. Nick Millas' Galaxy Diner no longer serves soup or dinner and closes two hours earlier. Wanda Glover's beauty salon a few doors away used to have eight stylists. Today, she is the only one.

A bitter dispute between the transit agency and PKF-Mark III, its Bucks County prime contractor, has stalled a new El and two stations between the city's Cobbs Creek section and Delaware County. As a result, the U.S. House members asked whether the entire $567 million El project was "still a priority."

"We invite any public scrutiny of this project," said SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney, adding that he was not able to say how much additional money the delays might cost. He said transit agency officials had briefed FTA staff on the matter. "We would be more than pleased to sit down with the congressional delegation."
What the Minister of Mis-Information really meant: "We'll tell you what you want to hear so we can get more money from Washington."

The project, which began in 2000, calls for demolishing the dilapidated two-column El in West Philadelphia, adding a sleek one-column guideway, and rebuilding two stations between 63d Street and Millbourne - while keeping the current elevated train in operation. Its completion date was 2006; now it is 2008, barring any more problems.

PKF, the sole bidder, faults SEPTA's approach, saying the agency's actions range from bureaucratic indifference to micro-management.

"It is not unusual to have issues like this. What is unusual is not to be able to resolve them in a timely fashion to progress the work," PKF president Peter Getchell said in an interview. "SEPTA does not seem to have any priority in getting this project done."
No, SEPTA's priority is extorting more money from Harrisburg. And micro-management? Where have we heard that complaint before?

SEPTA officials insist that PKF has failed to manage the project with a focus on quality and the safety of about more than 100,000 daily El passengers.

"We are not talking about an isolated case," said Dominic Sabatini, SEPTA capital-projects manager. "When it is pervasive, it is a problem."

SEPTA said a number of issues, including 43 of 56 steel support beams that were unsafe to PKF's not having the proper drawings, often took months to solve - if they were solved at all.

Three other projects to rebuild the El in West Philadelphia are proceeding satisfactorily, Sabatini said. But work on the Cobbs Creek end, he added, is at "an extremely slow pace."

Construction is so slow and causing customers such headaches that Millas, 40, is considering closing his diner, which his father opened 40 years ago.

"Business has dropped 50 percent since the project began," said Millas, a Drexel Hill resident. "My clientele is elderly, and they can't get here. Half the places on the block are either closed or they moved. See, these are my worry beads. My stress level is way up. My business, it's dying.

"I'd sell, but who'd buy it?"
Good question...

Glover, 41, of the Northeast, said that with SEPTA's help she was moving next month to 60th Street because her customers just wouldn't come to Market Street anymore. She's been there six years.

"People don't want to be hassled, and then they can't find a parking place," she said. "People can't afford to get their hair done and pay a parking ticket."
Can't imagine what's worse: dealing with SEPTA or the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Yeah, I can see how that's a tough decision to have to make...

Grants from the FTA pay 80 percent of the half-billion-dollar bill to renew the nearly century-old rail line, supplemented with state and local money.

Among items in dispute are massive steel beams fabricated by High Steel Structures Inc. in Lancaster, a PKF subcontractor based in U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts' [R-16th] district.

"I think SEPTA has done a poor job in managing this project. I would love the FTA to look into this and get to the bottom of it," Pitts said. "We stand to lose a lot of federal funds in this project. We could, if this is mismanaged."

His staff wrote the two-page letter late last week to FTA chief Jenna Dorn. It was also signed by U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach [R-6th], Curt Weldon [R-7th], Bob Brady [D-1st], Jim Greenwood [R-8th], Chaka Fattah [D-2nd] and Joseph Hoeffel [D-13th - for now].

"What oversight does FTA have on this project to ensure that federal grant money... is not squandered or wasted?" the letter asked. "If it is determined that irreconcilable differences exist between SEPTA and PKF, what recourse does the FTA have...?"

The matter is under review, FTA spokesman Paul Griffo said.
Which means we may not hear from the FTA again for a long time, if at all...

Brady, a Democrat, said he was happy to sign the letter offered by Pitts, a Republican.

"I would have signed it three times," he said. "My constituents should be strangling me for what's happening. It's an absolute disgrace what SEPTA is doing to businesses there."

Gerlach is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His spokesman, John Gentzel, said the Chester County Republican wanted to be certain that SEPTA wisely managed federal money. The letter was signed at Pitts' request, he added.
Let me give Congressman Gerlach a simple answer to his question: No. The first-term congressman should also be aware that this is the same agency that botched (big time) the $chuylkill Valley rail project - which would directly benefit his district, BTW - to the point where it may never get built.

SEPTA's Maloney said that the transit agency's "overriding concern is replacing a structure 100 years old with another structure that we hope lasts 100 years. It has to be done right, it has to be done right the first time and it has to designed and constructed safely." Inquirer
And it will probably be completed by 2010 at this current pace. Incidentially, SEPTA's propaganda web page for the Market St El project indicates that four of the six stations on the Market St El - Millbourne, 63 St, 56 St and 46 St - were to have been closed for six months (not all at once obviously) over the next four years; Millbourne was to have been closed for a six month last year; 63 St was to have closed this year. Obviously, that hasn't taken place.

Stay tuned. Like every other SEPTA capital project, this has fiasco written all over it...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Some of the gory details regarding SEPTA's "doomsday plan" to eliminate weekend service, dramatically reduce weekday service, and significantly raise fares across the board have now been posted at the site. Note that the specific details regarding exactly which Regional Rail trains would be cut and how severe each individual surface and rail route would reduced are not yet available, either (a) because even SEPTA doesn't know what to cut or (b) they know what to cut, but refuse to let the public know.

In either case, the first of 5 hearings will take place tomorrow at Media Courthouse.

Monday, October 11, 2004


According to the SEPTA web site, the El is short-turning at Erie-Torresdale due to "police activity" at Bridge-Pratt. There's no word on how the bus routes that serve the terminal are being impacted. Since there's no mention of any bus routes being detoured, I'd suspect that there was likely a jumper in the tracks between Erie-Torresdale and Bridge-Pratt. It's highly doubtful that a suspicious package would've caused this incident since, as noted, there's no report of bus detours. Assuming SEPTA decides to tell us what the hell is going on (and don't hold your breath on that one), more details should become available later.

Friday, October 08, 2004


The public hearing regarding the elimination of the 311/Commonwealth Breeze will take place on Wednesday, November 10 at 6:30pm. The hearing will be held at the American Legion hall in Upper Moreland.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


An automobile was struck by an inbound R3 train just east of Lansdowne near the end of tonight's PM peak. Based on preliminary reports, it appears the train involved was the #9359 (4:36pm to Elwyn).

According to news accounts, the vehicle was stuck on the tracks at Wycombe Av in Lansdowne when the 9359 struck it shortly before 6:00pm. The vehicle was pinned underneath the train, requiring one person to be extricated from the car. That person was taken to an area hospital; a second adult passenger was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Three children were also in the car, but it appears that they were uninjured.

Service was delayed in both directions by nearly 30 minutes while an investigation was initiated.


It certainly helps to have friends in high places, especially if you're a high ranking Montgomery County official.

According to the Norristown Times-Herald, Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas J. Ellis, who also serves as a SEPTA Board member from Montgomery County, was in the middle of a volatile domestic situation involving his former girlfriend:

Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas J. Ellis' ex-fiancée, and mother of the couple's 10-month-old son, has accused Ellis of repeatedly backing into her with his car last Saturday and, on another occasion in August, threatening her with a golf club.

These allegations were contained in a petition for protection from abuse that Lisa Ann Whalen, a resident of Wilmington, Del., filed Monday in Montgomery County Court against Ellis, a Cheltenham lawyer serving the first of a four-year term as commissioner.

Ellis, the divorced father of two girls, described Whalen as his "twice ex-fiancée" while Whalen, in her petition, described the 45-year-old Ellis as her "current or former sexual/intimate partner."
Apparently, Ms. Whalen's feelings towards the embattled commish isn't mutual...

Ellis, a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Tuesday issued a joint statement by him and Whalen.

Whalen's attorney, Michael Fingerman, confirmed it was a joint statement.

The statement read: "The parties have agreed not to pursue the Protection from Abuse action at this time. The parties and counsel are to meet and hopefully resolve all outstanding issues, including but not limited to custodial arrangements of the minor child, etc. It is anticipated this will result in the withdrawal of the Petition for Protection from Abuse."
Translation: we'll probably see you in civil court...

In her petition, Whalen said that Ellis engaged in a pattern of abuse, "primarily verbal and emotional until recently," during the three years of their "on again off again" relationship.

For example, she said in the petition, when Ellis became angry with her, he would repeatedly call her on her home phone and cell phone, sometimes 10 or more times in a five-minute span, or show up unannounced at her home.

"His verbal abuse includes seemingly unprovoked outbursts of screaming and extreme profanity," stated Whalen in the petition. "I am often fearful."
Can't say that I blame her...

Unhappy that she would not move in with him, Ellis once in August began driving so recklessly and dangerously with her and the baby in the car that she felt compelled to call 911, Whalen said in the petition.

She said she abandoned the call when Ellis seemed to regain control, according to the petition.

That was the same month Ellis threatened her with a golf club at a miniature golf course, according to Whalen.

Ellis raised the golf club and was shaking it at her while saying, "Do you know what I want to do with this," Whalen said in her petition.

Ellis "reacted explosively" to Whalen's attempt to move her belongings from his home on Sept. 25, the petition said. He was "verbally abusive" and "locked me out of house, threw items around house," Whalen said in the petition.

While she was at his house last Saturday to pack her belongings where they had temporarily been stored, Ellis again became verbally abusive, according to the petition.

"This rapidly escalated to behavior that made me extremely fearful for my own safety and the safety of my baby including shouting and threatening with his fists," Whalen said in the petition.

Whalen said she called 911 but before police could arrive, Ellis took the couple's baby and attempted to leave with him, according to the petition.

"I tried to stop him by blocking his vehicle with my body," Whalen said in the petition. "He proceeded to back into me over and over again while I screamed loudly for help. He ultimately over-powered me with the vehicle and left with the baby."

Whalen, who has since regained physical custody of the child, said that last Saturday she waited at the Cheltenham police station some four to five hours in an attempt to secure an emergency order for protection from abuse.

Unable to get that order, Whalen said she was "terrified" to go home and went to another location where she thought she would be safe, according to the petition.

Cheltenham Police Chief John Norris could not be reached for comment.
Of course nobody in Cheltenham Township is talking. Do you think they want to be the ones responsible for bringing a powerful county official to jail without fear for losing their jobs? Also remember that Ellis was a member of the Board of Supervisors in Cheltenham Township before his election as county commissioner last year.

That said, I guarantee you that if this were a regular citizen with no political ties, that individual would probably be sitting in Montgomery County Prison by now. Based on the account in the Times-Herald, you have, at a bare minimum, a choice of charges, including terroristic threats, simple assault, reckless endangerment, custodial interference, and unlawful restraint.

The petition for protection from abuse Monday went to Montgomery County Judge Emanuel A. Bertin.

Bertin said he recused himself from the case because he has known Ellis "for years."
County President Judge S. Gerald Corso subsequently decided that it was inappropriate for any of the county's judges to hear the case.

Corso said Tuesday he had two options - assign the case to a visiting judge or send it to the Bucks County Court because Whalen currently is residing with her mother in Doylestown.

He opted to send the case to Bucks County because it would be heard "more expeditiously."

Whalen, who has an unlisted phone number, could not be reached for comment.

Ellis, who was absent from Tuesday's departmental budget reviews by the commissioners, met with two news reporters in his county office at the conclusion of the budget hearings.

At the time he was meeting with the media, Ellis initially had been scheduled to present a proclamation from the commissioners marking October as "Domestic Violence Awareness" month at a domestic violence awareness ceremony held at noon at the county courthouse in Norristown, according to Commissioner Ruth S. Damsker.
How ironic...

Also attending the session with the two reporters was county Solicitor Barry M. Miller and county Communications Director John A. Corcoran. Both Miller and Corcoran said they were not there in their official capacities but as "a friend" to Ellis.
Bulls**t. I believe the proper term for this is called "damage control."

Asked point blank whether he had engaged in any abusive behavior towards Whalen, Ellis responded that, based on the advice he had received from his lawyer, he was not allowed to say anything beyond what was contained in the joint statement authored by the lawyers representing both him and Whalen.

Noting that a child is involved, Ellis said both sides are close to working out their differences including custody and that he did not want to jeopardize that by a "battle in the press."

Asked whether the allegations against him stemmed from a dispute over the custody of the child, Ellis said, "You can come to your own conclusions."

Ellis said he expects the differences between the couple to be resolved next week at which time the petition for protection from abuse will be withdrawn.
Norristown Times-Herald
Of course he can expect that. He's a county commissioner. In the back of his mind, he knows that there's no chance of him being charged with any crime, unless that cop wants to work a desk job for the rest of his or her career...

And, of course, the Montco GOP isn't exactly in a hurry to push him out the door either, at least according to the Inquirer:

Ken Davis, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said he would not ask Ellis to step down.

"I think it would be a personal decision on his part," Davis said. "He has to think of his family."

Davis called Ellis "a great guy and a great Republican." Ellis has two years to decide whether he will run for reelection, he said.

"I think he's got some time to sort out his life," Davis said.
Nah. You think so?

Commissioners Chairman Jim Matthews, a Republican, said he and his wife, Karen, know both Ellis and Whalen well.

"We wish them both the best in these difficult times," Matthews said.

The father of two teenage daughters, Ellis is divorced. He said he had been engaged to Whalen twice, but they had never lived together.
Don't you just love it when a man can't make up his mind about a relationship? (Okay, I think most guys have been there before, but not to Ellis' extent.)

Caustic remarks aside, it shoud be noted that in the interest of fairness (and, yes, I'm holding my nose as I type this), the accusations haven't been proven in court, nor, to the best of my knowledge has there been any attempt to file charges by Ms. Whalen. For all we know, the accusations could be false, but I doubt that Ms. Whalen would've tried to file for a PFA if that were the case.

(Sorry, but there are certain crimes that I can't be impartial about - murder of a police officer, child molestation and domestic violence are at the top of that list.)


Just when it seemed that every media outlet appeared to be on the SEPTA bandwagon, the News of Delaware County weekly paper comes out with a scathing commentary on the sorry state of SEPTA:

SEPTA's board of directors must work for the auto industry.
Actually, here's the backgrounds of SEPTA's board members, based on Google searches and other sources...

They seem to be doing everything they can to make sure no one can ride, or afford to ride, a trolley, bus, train or subway in the Philadelphia region.

It's no wonder the highways are clogged.
That and the fact that the Regional Rail system in recent years has had numerous maintenance issues, some that are SEPTA's fault, some Amtrak's fault, and others mother nature's fault.

Why, we ask, is SEPTA often ranked nationwide as the mass transit company that offers the most expensive rides and worst service?
Because of a lack of operational leadership from Fearless Leaders and the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market.

And now, just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does. SEPTA officials are contemplating further cuts in service, including an end to weekend service region-wide. For the priviliege of having less, riders will get to pay more. Rate hikes are also proposed.

SEPTA officials say they cannot maintain present levels of service, bad or otherwise, without continued federal subsidies. They say shoring up SEPTA's $41 million deficit is a small price to pay for the savings in fuel and lost time if people had to drive instead.
There are some unofficial reports by other transit activists that indicate that SEPTA is probably cutting much more than it has to, although without seeing the raw data, I have no way of confirming this. If that's the case, then it's not a surprising tactics from SEPTA.

Yet other cities report cheaper mass transit systems with better and more frequent service. Washington D.C. has the Metro, San Francisco has its BART system. These cities do well to attract both local residents and visitors because they have transit systems that are affordable, pleasurable to ride and convenient. Other transit systems seem to run cheaper and better than SEPTA. So what's the deal here? Why does Philadelphia have to be the victim of decaying
mass transit?

Take your pick. Either complete apathy from Emperor Street's offices at Broad and Market, the incompentence at 1234 Market, or the fact that the unions have far too much power in Philadelphia compared to other major cities in the nation.

In the 1950s, when mass transit workers went on strike, it was big news. The strike crippled businesses and left thousands of workers and customers stranded without a way to get around.

Today, such a strike would still be news. But the impact would be much less severe, because of the declining ridership. SEPTA seems to have abandoned its customers, so the customers have fled the trains, subways and buses to the relative convenience of the automobile.

Yet even in this age when highways dominate, a good mass transit system is an attractive alternative to workers and tourists, especially in the city, where driving is more difficult.

It's easy to blame a lack of funding for SEPTA's woes. But other cities offer proof that a well-run and affordable system of public transportation can compete with the SUV and the roadway without continually going to the taxpayers to bail them out. SEPTA must find a way out of this downward spiral.
Hopefully, reports being issued by the House Republican leadership (via a committee headed by State Rep. Ron Raymond of Sharon Hill, which was noted yesterday) and the Governor's office will give SEPTA a push in the right direction.

Give people a reason to ride, and the riders will be there, ready to pay for the privliege of a comfortable, affordable and convenient ride, away from the hassles of the road. News of Delaware County
There really isn't much of a reason to ride a system which has slowly deteriorated over the past few years.


From the "Who the hell is this guy" department, we present a gossip item from today's Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid for subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee):
CELEBRITY FASHION stylist Anthony Henderson is about to become a celebrity himself.

In about a week, SEPTA will begin rolling out buses with giant pictures of him plastered on the sides.

"He's a rider. He's also up and coming. We works with various celebrities," said Barbara Siegel, a SEPTA spokeswoman. "We felt that he speaks to the youth market. That was our primary reason for selecting him."

Henderson, a Philadelphian who divides his time between Germantown and Beverly Hills, has worked with Eve and other entertainers and has worked as a fashion consultant for the Daily News on a number of our fashion spreads. (Just remember we knew you when, Anthony.)

The SEPTA campaign, which promotes Safe Transit, will run through next month. Daily News

We're guessing that the reference is to the "Save Transit" propaganda campaign, unless SEPTA's working on another campaign that we're unaware of...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


This morning's "Ticket To Ride" breakfast and rally took place in Harrisburg, with very few of the high ranking Rotating Resumes from 1234 Market attending. The Pennsylvania Cable Network (which, for some odd reason, is not on several of Comcast's systems in the Philadelphia area) taped the event for possible rebroadcast.

The highest ranking Rotating Resume in Harrisburg today was Juan Torres, who is the AGM for Public and Governmental Affairs; the only other high-ranking SEPTA official attending was the Minister of Mis-Information himself, Richard Maloney.

At the breakfast held at the Harrisburg Hilton (insert your own Hilton sister joke here), State Rep. George Geist (R-Blair), the Majority Chair of the Transportation Committee, noted that securing funding for any kind of transportation improvements is very difficult at best:

"It never gets you re-elected. These are votes that scare the bejesus out of guys I talk to," Geist said. He added "there are no current proposals to raise gas taxes for roads and other taxes for transit." Inquirer

Giest also noted that the last "stand-alone" transit funding bill was introduced by then State Rep. (now Congressman) Joseph Pitts of Southern Chester County. That bill was introduced around 1979-1980. Today, stand-alone bills are virtually extinct.

Giest also noted that one of the biggest challanges for transit funding in Pennsylvania was finding a replacement for the controversial PURTA tax, whose revenues have sharply declined since the state de-regulated the electricity industry.

Giest's Democratic counterpart, State Rep. Michael Veon (D-Beaver) offered a rather pessimistic view of the chances of SB1162 and HB2697:

"What is needed is a series of dedicated fees and taxes for mass transportation."

Veon was also opposed to any attempt by the legislature to divert the $280-300 million needed for transit systems directly from the General Fund.

The breakfast wrapped up with comments from Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet), who was also attending a separate event at the Hilton (no, it was not an Andy Reid press conference). Rendell noted that one fo the toughest challenges facing transit funding was the lack of reaction from voters, stating that legislators "have to speak for people who have no lobbyists." (Easier said than done since there are probably more lobbyists in Harrisburg than there are hookers on Kensington Avenue).

During his comments, Rendell also hinted that SEPTA and other agencies should attempt to continue to find ways to cut costs, noting that the Port Authority of Allegheny County was "very responsive to calls ... to be more efficient."

Following the breakfast meeting, a few rumors had circulated that Rendell's audit of SEPTA, conducted by former Amtrak manager Arlene Friner, was highly critical of the folks at 1234 Market. As of right now, no formal document had become available for public review, but one has the feeling that rumors will start to float around about what Rendell's suggestions are.

The majority of attendees then went over to the Captiol Rotunda for a rally in support of dedicated funding, and were later joined by transit activists from Pittsburgh. This was nothing more than a "made-for-TV" photo op which sought to bring attention to the cause.

State Sen. (and SEPTA Board Member) Stewart Greenleaf (R-Upper Moreland) offered an example of the impact of funding for SEPTA by bringing up the PNC Operations Center in Southwest Philadelphia (but not mentioning it by name). Greenleaf indicated that PNC would've moved 8,000 jobs that are presently at the Eastwick facility to Delaware; the move was averted thanks to the construction of the Eastwick station on the R1 Airport line.

Greenleaf also peddled one of the most consistent lies that has come from 1234 Market, in claiming that SEPTA "has done everything they can" to become more efficient, reducing expenses by $420 million and eliminating 1,300 jobs. While there's no disputing the reduction of expenses, the job reductions Greenleaf noted took effect nearly 5 years ago when Jack Leary was in charge. There have been very few positions eliminated in recent years, however.

Both Greenleaf and State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast Philadelphia) ran over many of the same talking points that have been pushed by the SaveTransit coalition. Taylor also noted that he did not seen "upsetment or panic" from his constituents, claiming that only one person had contacted him regarding SEPTA funding issues in the past few weeks. Then again, his part of Northeast Philadelphia isn't neccesarily as transit dependent as, say, West Philadelphia or Germantown.

In a related note, the ad hoc committee which met at 1234 Market last month is slated to release its findings on whether or not to restructure the way SEPTA is governed. According to staffers for State Rep. Ron Raymond (R-Sharon Hill), a report is being circulated internally and is expected to be released to the public within a couple of weeks. This same board is studying the possibility of a state takeover of airports in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg. That committee is scheduled to meet in Tinicum on October 15 as part of a hearing on Philadelphia International Airport.