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 phl.media 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 septasucks.com, 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."

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