Tuesday, November 30, 2004


An elderly motorist was treated and released from a Philadelphia hospital following an accident on the R5 Lansdale line at the Walnut St crossing in Hatfield Twp, Montgomery County. The incident occured shortly after 1:30pm according to the Allentown Morning Call, when Samuel Fiume, 78, of Hatfield, drove his car onto the tracks with the crossing gates down. Fiume's car was struck by the #554, which was apparently running a few minutes behind schedule. Fiume was transported to UPenn Hospital, where he was treated and released... not to mention very lucky. R5 service was suspended for two hours as Hatfield Twp police investigated.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


An off-duty Bethlehem City police officer was struck and killed by an R5 train at Melrose Park station on Wednesday night, according to the Easton Express-Times. P/O Tracy Szoke was pronounced dead at Einstein Medical Center after being struck by the #596 (10:55pm Lansdale local). Even though reports say that the #596 was not scheduled to stop at Melrose Park, the timetable does list Melrose Park as a flag stop...

In any case, the Inquirer ran a story in Saturday's editions:

According to Cheltenham police, "the victim was in a place she shouldn't have been," SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said yesterday. "It's a terrible tragedy."

He said police reported that Szoke and a male companion got off at the station after realizing they were on the wrong train. Szoke crossed the tracks and jumped the fence to see whether the station was open so she could get information, he said.

While making her way back, Szoke was struck by a northbound R5 train that was not scheduled to stop at Melrose Park and was traveling about 50 m.p.h., Maloney said.

"It takes a long time to stop," he said. "The engineer is powerless in a situation like that."


The Pottstown Mercury reports that $10 million in federal funding will be allocated for the ongoing saga that is the $chuylkill Valley rail corridor:

... [T]he project has struggled to win federal funding approval over the years, largely because the projected cost has steadily risen beyond $2.5 billion.

The Metro money in this bill -- a bill that has been criticized as excessive and full of "pork barrel" projects in the national press and by Arizona Sen. John McCain -- will be used for engineering and design work, according to a release from the office of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Sen. McCain has long been known as an opponent of rail service in general, specifically Amtrak. However, the senator seems to be referring to the whole bill in general...

You don’t have to tell Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th Dist., about how important the Metro is.

When the price tag threatened to kill the project entirely, Gerlach was among a handful of officials who stepped in to try to whittle the cost down to a level that would make it viable for federal funding.

In fact, he said the final recommendations from the oversight committee he convened may be released in December or early January.

"The talks on this are on track, no pun intended," Gerlach said with a dry chuckle.

All the people of the 6th District can say is "Thank god this guy was re-elected."

"In the next few months, the engineers and consultants who are doing the actual crunching of the numbers to try to get us below $800 million will be reporting back with their final recommendations," said Gerlach.

The reason the price tag needs to get to that magic number, Gerlach said, is because the Federal Transit Admin-istration "is not funding any new project over $800 million."

With an FTA official at the table during these talks, Gerlach said he remains hopeful the project, which is seen as particularly important for the revitalization of older boroughs like Phoenixville, Royersford and Pottstown, can move forward.

"As far as they’re concerned, we’re asking the right questions and looking for the right answers," said Gerlach.

"Right now, we’re considering questions such as whether to go with diesel or electric; how many stops we should have; whether to go with 15-, 20- or 30-minute intervals and where in Philadelphia it should stop, 30th Street or Suburbia Station, that sort of thing," said Gerlach.

"We’re trying to whittle the cost down and still keep it viable in terms of ridership," he said.

"It’s a two-pronged ap-proach," Gerlach said. "We need to reach a regional consensus and we need to keep the federal money flowing into it."

Hopefully, one of those prongs will involve SEPTA being stripped of anything to do with this project at all...

Ultimately, that federal money will only amount to 60 percent of the total cost if the project is approved.

The remainder of the funding will have to come from state or local sources, said the two-term Con-gressman.

"The local share could come from a variety of sources, even in-kind services," said Gerlach. "For example, a private group could pay to retrofit the Pottstown train station or something like that."

Who in their right minds would want to even invest in an armpit like Pottstown is beyond me, but that's another rant for another time...

In any case, elected officials, along with those who have followed this project from day one, will anxiously await the results of Congressman Gerlach's panel...

Sunday, November 21, 2004


The legislature offically adjourned overnight without passing any kind of financial relief to SEPTA or other transit agencies in the Commonwealth. This means that barring a last minute miracle by Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet), it appears that major fare hikes and service cuts will be implemented within the next couple of months. There have been many rumors flowing around as to how severe the fare hikes and/or service cuts will be.

Already, the guestbook has been rife with rumors, including the elimination of routes that SEPTA has tried to eliminate before, such as the 19 and 121. Of course, nothing is final until December 2, when the SEPTA Board will hold a special meeting at 9:00am at 1234 Market. But, we shall see what happens and will try to keep you posted as to any rumors that may be out there...

Monday, November 15, 2004


And now, we present a brief lesson in how to run through a meeting in under 10 minutes, courtesy of SEPTA Board Chairman (and jack of all trades/master of none) Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. For starters, the meeting started nearly half an hour late due to an "executive session", where one could speculate that the budget mess was one of the topics. At 3:28pm, the meeting finally began, with Bucks County Commissioner and Board member Charles Martin not in attendance.

During the financial report, Treasurer Joe Casey noted that fuel costs for the first few months of the fiscal year jumped by nearly $445,000, which would appear to further compound SEPTA's woes. The higher fuel costs were blamed on the recent hurricanes that hit the Gulf of Mexico a couple of months ago (that's according to media reports, not Mr. Casey).

There was very little that stood out in this month's agenda, except for two major items that had been noted on the blog over the past year:

  1. SEPTA reached an agreement with UTU Local 61, which represents conductors and assistant conductors on the Regional Rail system. Negotiations with the union were at an impass, leading to the creation of Railway Labor Act Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) 237. Among the highlights of the new contract, a revised progression rate was introduced, meaning that conductors would now require 10 years to reach the full rate of $23.7291 instead of the current 3 years; assistant conductors hired from this point forward (assuming no major layoffs as part of the Doomsday Plan) would be paid at a lower starting rate, but would still reach the top level after 3 years; a change in insurance plans, which would increase the co-pay for specialist visits from $5.00 to $15.00 and reduce co-insurance for out of network visits from 80 percent to 70 percent; during the first two years of the deal, a one-time 6 percent wage increase was implemented on November 7, with the third year seeing a one-time $1,000 bonus paid to all employees in lieu of a pay raise.
  2. Also, SEPTA will have a new advertising agency. Titan Outdoor LLC, a realatively new firm based in New York City, will take over the advertising for all of SEPTA's bus and rail vehicles from Viacom starting May 1, 2005. The new deal with Titan is expected to raise a minimum of $22.5 million in guaranteed revenues over the first three years of the deal, and features 2 three-year options. Earlier this year, SEPTA had attempted to extend its current deal with Viacom, however that deal was rejected by the FTA. In June, Titan took over the advertising services contract from New Jersey Transit, which was also held by Viacom and it's predecessor, TDI.

Other than those two deals, there were no major items that stood out on the October agenda.

There was a moment of almost unintentional comedy when Don Pasquale called for speakers on non-agenda items and saw none. At that point, he immediately asked "Where's Don?", a reference to DVARP President Don Nigro, who was not in attendance (presumably because this was a very boring month for the agenda). After the "non-report" report of Shyster-in-Chief Nick Staffieri, Fearless Leader reminded everyone about the November 10 rally at Harrisburg, then recognized SEPTA's representatives to the recently held APTA Roadeo in Atlanta - Southern bus operator John Rinylo and the Midvale maintenance team of Dave Allmond, Phil Carey, and Mike Westerfer.

Following the dog-and-pony show (and don't get me wrong, the APTA Roadeo team deserved to be recongized), the meeting ended at 3:37pm.

And that, ladies and gentlement, is how to run an 8 minute meeting...


The Duo of Doom along with an assortment of Rotating Resumes from 1234 Market and members of TWU Local 234 attended a public hearing of Philadelphia City Council's Transportation and Public Utilities committee earlier this afternoon. SEPTA officials and board members gave the same song and dance that the public has been hearing for the past few months.

The hearing began nearly 15 minutes late because another committee hearing on an unrelated matter ran long. When it began, Councilman Michael Nutter (D-4th) heard from Don Pasquale, who left early to lobby in Harrisburg (of course, Mr. Turnpike Commissioner shouldn't have any problems getting through the toll plazas on the Turnpike) repeated many of the same talking points that have been hashed out before: SEPTA's reduced the workforce by nearly 1,800 people over the past five years as part of a $20 million savings plan (even though most of the savings took place prior to Fearless Leader's promotion to General Manager); it's critical that there's a unified message; we don't want to make these cuts, but we have no choice; etc., etc.

Board member Jettie Newkirk of Philadelphia reiterated the same mantras during her comments.

"There is no more fat," she said of the budget.

As far as the doomsday plan:

"This is not a threat ... it is simply a proposal to the board" in case funding from Harrisburg doesn't come through. "This is not something management wants to do. Nobody wants to see cessation of weekend service."

Following brief comments by SEPTA Board member Chris DiCicco, Nutter, who has been critical of how SEPTA has handled the Market Street El reconstruction and restoration of trolley service on the 15/Girard line, noted that SEPTA's presentation "brings great clarity to this situation" adding that it was truly a state-wide problem with most of the attention focused on Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Fearless Leader then spoke, and yes, she brought up the same talking points before closing out her statement with this quote:

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if ... SEPTA was able to devote its full efforts towards running the system and less time begging for funding?"

My answer? Yes.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Depending on (a) who you ask and (b) what day it is, SEPTA is either getting a big bailout from Harrisburg, or is in really deep doo-doo...

Starting with Thursday's "unofficial" SEPTA Board committee meetings, SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. was gracious enough to interrupt his busy schedule of planning fishing trips with Al Mezzaroba and micro-managing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to grace us with some pessimistic news, according to the Inquirer:

"We can't get enough momentum to push the governor and the legislature... . There is not a groundswell of public support," Deon said as the board's budget committee reviewed the crisis. "We have no more rabbits in our hat."
Gee, way to show that bright optimism there, Don Pasquale...

Meanwhile, the other half of the Duo of Doom, Fearless Leader, uttered these words:

SEPTA riders "take us for granted," transit agency general manager Faye Moore said in an interview yesterday. This is the third year in a row of dire straits for SEPTA caused by a lack of predictable state funding, she said. "There is no good alternative. We have to increase fares or cut service."
Is it any coincidence that the aforementioned three years of "dire straits" all occured under Fearless Leader's watch? Perhaps Jack Leary left at the right time...

Representatives of both Gov. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) and House Speaker John Perzel (R., Phila.) took a more positive view.

Rendell "is cautiously optimistic that a solution is within reach" that would avoid layoffs and service cuts before the legislature's two-year term ends this month, Kate Philips, his press secretary, said yesterday.

"He's working on a solution that will help SEPTA in the near term... and he also wants a long-term solution," said Philips, who refused to discuss current talks. "He's not looking for a quick fix that will necessitate another quick fix."

Beth Williams, Perzel's press secretary, said: "We are working on it, and we are looking to have some kind of relief by the end of the session."

Just as Rendell and many GOP leaders have had long-standing doubts about SEPTA's fiscal condition, the public does not believe the transit agency is truly facing a crisis, says a report the transit agency released yesterday summarizing its recent budget hearings.

Perhaps because the public has heard the same BS from SEPTA officials for the past three years...
As in past years of financial trial, SEPTA officials will contemplate a different course at the last minute.

Deon yesterday directed SEPTA staff to "come back with some options" other than the current plan. The SEPTA board will meet Thursday and has tentatively scheduled a Dec. 2 gathering.

How much do you want to bet that this will involve service cuts on top of a major fare hike. There are already rumors posted on the guestbook that some under-performing routes such as the 8, 19, and 121 are on the chopping block, along with the elimination of night owl service, but nothing is official until the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market figure out an exit strategy...
In a possible violation of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Law, the SEPTA board's budget committee met behind closed doors yesterday to discuss the budget and possible layoffs an hour before the noon public meeting.

Going into the private session, SEPTA lawyer Nicholas Staffieri said the board would discuss "what has been going on in Harrisburg and its implications for the budget."

He said the closed-door gathering was legal because the board would be discussing specifics of layoffs related to the budget crisis.

With few exceptions, the Sunshine Law requires public-agency officials to deliberate in public. When more than half the members of a board assemble, they are allowed to meet privately only to consider limited matters, such as personnel, real estate, labor negotiations, or anticipated or pending court cases.

Nine of 15 SEPTA board members "straggled in" during the executive session, Deon said. Their private talks were proper, he asserted.

"The ship is really going down this time," Deon said. "Don't twist the story around on things that don't matter."

Okay, I'm sure Jere Downs wouldn't walk into WBCB radio in the Levittown district of Bristol Township to tell Don Pasquale how to run his radio station; I don't think Ms. Downs - or any member of the media - needs to be told how to do his or her job.

Meanwhile, the hearing examiners came out with their report and recommendations on how to proceed with this year's budget crisis...
As for the public not believing a real crisis is at hand, independent SEPTA hearing examiners Ronald DeGraw and retired Judge Murray C. Goldman said in their report yesterday that "the general tenor is that this is just another ploy by SEPTA to get more money." They cited two recent state audits of SEPTA that they said "refute this assumption."

The hearing examiners suggested that SEPTA hike fares next month, trim weekday service in January, and delay ending weekend service until February or March. SEPTA is not required to follow their advice.

"Taking action immediately... may serve to convince the public, the governor and the legislature that this transit crisis... is indeed a very serious one," the report stated. Inquirer
Meanwhile, Dan Geringer filed this report in Friday's Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee):
Isolated from the public behind a red-tape barrier with no nameplates to identify them, SEPTA's board members yesterday heard the agency's budget director detail a $62-million-deficit winter plan for drastic service cuts and fare hikes.

The meeting began with the ominous announcement that there would be no public comment, and went downhill from there:

Unless the Legislature finds $62 million to eliminate SEPTA's deficit, budget director Richard Burnfield said, fares will be hiked 25 percent on Jan. 1, followed on Jan. 23 by a 20 percent cut in weekday service, and the
elimination of all weekend service and 1,400 jobs.

In the surprisingly brief and emotionally flat discussion that followed, the few board members who spoke showed no sense of urgency or outrage at the possibility of public transit turmoil here.

One member's only contribution was to blame SEPTA's troubles on the media for suggesting that the transit giant was "crying wolf" about its money woes.

Too bad I couldn't make it, because I probably would've been able to point out which board member has been taking pages out of the Ministry of Mis-Information's playbook, particularly the page on "How to attack your enemies..."
Another asked SEPTA lobbyist Jeanne Neese how things were going in Harrisburg, where SEPTA's funding fate will be decided by month's end.

Neese said she's heard everything from SEPTA will get its $62-million bandage to "absolutely nothing."

Ahh, more money well spent...
She said legislators complain to her about not hearing a public outcry from their constituents to save mass transit.

Gee, I wonder why...

And now, we hear from Lance Haver, who is continuing his role as public nuisance extraordinaire who's now doing his thing on the dime of the taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia:
"SEPTA's board meetings, where there is no way for riders to be heard, violate every concept of the Sunshine Act," he said.

"You do things behind closed doors, then come out, discuss it a little in public and vote. You put riders in the role of complainers. You refuse to address riders' concerns, and then you're surprised they're not there for you
when you need them to ask for money?"

Haver said the SEPTA board was an isolated, insulated group that offends the very people it should be most responsive to: riders who pay the fares.

"The people who are SEPTA's base, who have no choice but to ride public transit, who are wed to SEPTA by economic marriage, are the people they mistreat," Haver said.

"After years of abusing me, are you surprised that I don't want to help you when you're in trouble?" Haver asked. "It's easy to get people to come to a hearing and scream at you, but it's hard to get people to come out and say how wonderful you are - because you're not wonderful."
Daily News

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner...

That's pretty much the reason why hardly anyone except the usual vocal transit activists have been showing up in Harrisburg more often than your typical lobbyist.

Of course, that was just what happened on Thursday. Yesterday, the Daily News came back with this potential bombshell:
(State Rep. Dwight) Evans (D-Philadelphia), minority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was mysterious but upbeat yesterday about the state Legislature saving mass transit with a last-minute cash

"I've talked to all the different players, Republicans and Democrats, and I know this may sound naive, but no one has said 'No' to me about trying to do something," he said.

Evans clammed up when asked if that "something" includes his recently-announced idea of raising $46 million through a new inspection sticker fee for emissions and safety, and state Rep. Michael McGeehan's, D-Philadelphia, proposal to raise $50 million by increasing the tire tax from $1 to $3, and the car rental tax from $2 to $4.

"My staff has worked up an idea today involving general fees and a technique that we used last year involving some small portion of the sales tax," Evans said. "We'll circulate that idea around with people, and may shoot for a vote on Monday.

"It's easy to have a solution. The question is: Do we have the votes?"

Honestly? I'd doubt it...

You may recall that former SPETA Board member Richard Voith, who now works for a transportation policy think-tank, once floated around a similar idea to what Evans is proposing. While I don't remember the exact proposal off the top of my head, I do recall it involved raising dedicated revenue for mass transit via emission or registration fees...

Meanwhile, at the edifice at Broad and Market known as Philadelphia City Hall...
... City Councilman Michael Nutter (D-4th) will conduct a 2 p.m. public hearing Monday on rescuing SEPTA from having to raise fares and slash service so severely that thousands of bus-and-train-dependent riders won't be able to get to work.

All the key city players, including SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore and Transport Workers Union Local 234 president Jeff Brooks, are due to testify. Afterwards, the transportation committee that Nutter chairs will
consider action on SEPTA's brink-of-disaster funding crisis.

"What's unfortunate," Evans said, "is that there's such a huge sense of cynicism, people thinking that this is not for real, that SEPTA's just crying wolf. You don't like Faye Moore? You don't like [SEPTA board chairman] Pat Deon? Let's look beyond personalities."

Actually, Mr. Evans I can't stand either of them. As noted earlier in this post, the past three years of SEPTA's budget problems have all come during Fearless Leader's watch. But, anyway...
"Let's look at the direct connection between SEPTA and our workforce, our economy. Let's look at the effect of the devastating actions they'll take if they don't get the money they need."

Evans believes that his colleagues on both sides of the aisle understand they can't just ignore the statewide public transit funding crisis, which is most obviously critical in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

"They're feeling the heat," he said of his fellow-legislators. "They know they cannot leave there without doing something about this. So let's put it up for a vote. I want to offer my amendment. I want my shot." Daily

Thursday, November 11, 2004


A report in today's Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger indicates that NJ Transit may consider a fare increase for the first time since 2002, just as Gov. Jim McGreevey is about to resign from office (and not soon enough, some say).

NJ Transit warned yesterday that it may impose a 15 percent fare increase on its 375,000 bus, train and light rail passengers next year to close an impending budget gap of up to $65 million.

Transportation officials blamed the potential fare hike on skyrocketing expenses for things like fuel, security and employee health benefits, as well as on the loss of financial maneuvers they previously used to balance past budgets.

The agency this year expects to collect about $560 million in fares, which covers about 43 percent of its $1.3 billion operating budget. State taxpayers pick up most of the rest of the tab.

The proposed increase comes during a changing of the guard in Trenton and ultimately would require the approval of Senate President Richard Codey, who becomes acting governor next week.

"He's looking at this as a last-resort option," said Kelley Heck, Codey's spokesperson.

Dissatisfied commuters -- who were hit with an average 10 percent increase in 2002 -- say another fare increase would be an insult.

"With the service they currently provide, I think I am paying too much now," said Matt Wagner of North Plainfield, who commutes on the Raritan Valley Line. "An additional 15 percent might force me back to driving."

"Hiking the fare would just be throwing good money after bad unless NJ Transit guarantees up front that the extra money would go to improve service and run the trains on time," said Greg Storey of Roselle Park, another Raritan Valley Line rider. "I've been riding NJ Transit for over 18 years and its service and the customer-be-damned attitude of its management are as bad as I've ever seen."

NJ Transit Executive Director George Warrington and state Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere promised yesterday to do everything possible to try to minimize the size of the increase or to avoid it altogether. They said they were not considering cutting services -- even though operating at large deficits -- to close the budget gap.

"We're still early in the process," Warrington said.

"We have our work cut out for us," Lettiere said.

The exact size of the increase may vary for NJ Transit's buses, trains and light rail systems as well as for different lines within those modes of transportation.

By January, officials said they would put together a plan with specific details on the increase. In February, they expect to hold public hearings on the hike, which most likely would take effect in July, officials said. A 15 percent increase would produce about $55 million in extra revenue, officials said.

If anyone recalls the hearing held at Walter Rand Transportation Center, then you can expect these hearings not to go too well. While NJT had reduced some of its proposed fare hikes and modified some of its fare policies to make it more user-friendly in some modes, the hearing itself was held inside the lobby of the transportation center, making it difficult to hear many of the comments. That said, I'd expect more details to become available in the near future...

Warrington said his agency faces a $15 million increase in fuel costs next year, an extra $13 million for security measures and rising health insurance costs that already have jumped by $37 million annually since 2001.

In the past, NJ Transit has been able to rely on two financing maneuvers to close budget gaps.

First, it has used about $350 million per year that was borrowed for big projects to cover operating expenses. But officials said they do not want to take a bigger cut out of the capital budget money.

Officials also have used about $48 million over the past four years from so-called leveraged lease agreements -- which are basically deals that allow private investors to pay a fee to NJ Transit to buy the tax benefits of the depreciation on transit equipment. But the federal government last year placed a moratorium on leveraged lease deals nationwide because of the loss of tax to the U.S. Treasury.

As part of its 2002 hike, NJ Transit had the option of imposing 3 percent fare increases for inflation in each of the past three years, but the agency decided not to do so. Officials acknowledged that if they followed through with that plan, they would not need a steep hike now.

"At the time, Governor McGreevey was very concerned about a fare increase in uncertain economic times," Lettiere said.

Jeffrey Warsh, Warrington's predecessor as NJ Transit's executive director, said yesterday that the McGreevey administration reduced its subsidy for mass transit in 2002, effectively shifting the proceeds from that year's fare hike into the state's general treasury.

"The public needs to be assured that the proceeds for any future fare increase will be applied exclusively to the NJ Transit system," Warsh said.

Yes, another wonderful legacy of the McGreevey administration. Robbing NJT to pay for some of his pet projects on top of tax hikes.

Indeed, riders yesterday said they would be more tolerant of a fare hike if they believed their commutes would improve.

Anthony Baldo, a Middletown resident who rides the North Jersey Coast Line, said the agency needs to fix equipment that frequently breaks down and should come up with better contingency plans for whenever there are service disruptions.

Tom Schopper of Bloomingdale said NJ Transit ought to improve security at its bus park-and-ride on Route 23 in Wayne, where he said cars are often broken into.

Anthony Buccino of Nutley said the agency should provide better information about bus connections at its new -- and uncomfortable -- Newark city subway station at Branch Brook Park.

"NJ Transit is increasing fares while service delays have increased, customer service has gotten worse, maintenance of rail cars has been minimal," said Michael Weinstock, a rail rider from Scotch Plains. "Many cars have electrical tape holding things together, cars haven't been washed on the outside in ages, conductor interaction with passengers is more confrontational given the encounters I have witnessed over the past year, and communication with commuters when there are delays is minimal and usually sporadic."

"Passengers are being asked to pay more for less," Weinstock said.

That's not even including how bad bus service is in some parts of South Jersey, particularly the Washington Twp routes where the Flxs operate (400, 403, 406) and some runs out of Newton Av garage (404, 405, 407, 413, 419), where the 1988-era Flxibles continue to chug on - barely, in some cases - while North Jersey seems to get preferential treatment when it comes to newer buses. Supposedly, new buses are on order to replace the 1988 Flxibles, but when they're going to get to South Jersey remains to be seen.


DART First State introduced two new diesel-electric hybrid buses to its New Castle County fleet on Monday. The low floor buses, built by Gillig, have a similar drivetrain to SEPTA's New Flyer hybrid buses operating out of Southern Depot.

"This bus uses the most efficient hybrid architecture available in the world today, and is an important initiative in our three-prong hybrid technology approach that is designed to provide our customers fuel economy gains and reduced emissions in a wide variety of products," said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM Powertrain. "We have developed a second generation advanced hybrid system, based on this hybrid bus technology that will be applied to GM full-size sport utility vehicles and pickups during the next few years."

DTC Executive Director Ray Miller stated, "These colorful hybrid electric-diesel buses represent our continuing commitment to provide our riders with the latest in leading edge technology that will improve our efficiency, save us fuel costs, and help reduce harmful emissions. We're very pleased to be bringing these new hybrid buses into our fleet to better serve our riders."
DART Press Release

These are believed to be the first new hybrid buses built by Gillig. It's very interesting that DART, which had purchased nearly 60 Gillig Phantoms in 1995-96 and 7 Advantage low-floor buses in 2001, has decided to purchase hybrids from Gillig after a major purchase from NABI a few years ago.


There will be a new CEO of a transit agency in the tri-state area...

The bad news is that the CEO in question isn't SEPTA's own Fearless Leader...

Raymond C. Miller, the Executive Director of the Delaware Transit Corporation (DART First State), has been named the executive director of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HARTLine). Mr. Miller will begin his new position in January.

Monday, November 08, 2004


In a follow-up to Friday's posting, the Inquirer ran the full article in both Saturday's edition and apparently in Sunday's editions as well. Sunday's posting is identical from Saturday's article, with a couple of notable paragraphs missing from Sunday (these are highlighted in boldface; the rest of the quotes are a follow-up to what was originally posted on Friday afternoon):

However, Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Philadelphia) predicted yesterday that dependable funding for transit would be secured by the time lawmakers adjourn for the year before Thanksgiving.

"We must fix this problem. It's connected to the economy, the hospitality industry, everything," said Evans, the minority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Forget the turkey. Nobody gets stuffing until it gets fixed."

By state law, transit agencies use riders' fares to pay half their operating costs and rely on state subsidies for the rest.

For SEPTA, only about 14 percent of those subsidies comes from a reliable source that can be counted on to grow with inflation, according to a Brookings Institution report released in June. In that respect, SEPTA lags at the bottom of a list of transit agencies. Others, such as those serving Boston and Dallas, receive more than half their subsidies from dedicated state sources.

SEPTA's current funding crisis has been slow but sure in coming. For the six years preceding the current state budget, for example, Pennsylvania transit agencies largely received flat or declining state aid.

"It is like living on a fixed income," Moore said yesterday.

Now, SEPTA managers are drawing up plans to downsize, Moore said. It is a massive effort, she added, including selecting workers and combing through union pacts and federal and state rules to determine who can be laid off and when.

"If there is going to be a Band-Aid solution, I need to to know because I have to tell people if they will have a job or not," Moore said.

If SEPTA begins layoffs, managers must go first, said Jeff Brooks, the newly elected president of the 5,000 members of Transport Workers Union Local 234. Bus and subway operators, mechanics, cashiers and others are protected, Brooks said recently, because their contract has a no-layoff provision after one
year on the job.

"The legislature should hold SEPTA management accountable for the deficit," Brooks said. "Remember the boy who cried wolf? Nobody believes they are really broke this time."

But no SEPTA employee is safe, Moore said yesterday.

"Tell Mr. New Person that he better get his act together and read his contract," Moore said of Brooks. "A big part of this will be TWU operators and mechanics."

Isn't it interesting how a couple of Fearless Leader's comments, including her angry response to Mr. Brooks were left out of Sunday's editions? Either (a) there was some very loud complaining from Fearless Leader or possibly the Ministry of Mis-Information regarding the bold faced comments or (b) the Inky ran had to edit the article in Sunday's editions due to space limiations. Either way, I have a feeling that enough people may have caught Saturday's article that led to the "offending" comments being removed.

Friday, November 05, 2004


The Inquirer posted this article regarding SEPTA's plans to lay-off nearly 1,400 employees if (when) Harrisburg fails to come through with more funding:
With no action apparent in Harrisburg to pump needed money into SEPTA, the transit agency's general manager, Faye Moore, announced today that she was preparing Jan. 1 layoff notices for 1,400 employees.

Moore has said that if state aid is not received to close a $62 million budget gap, SEPTA would be forced to fire workers from its 9,000 person staff, end weekend service and raise fares.

"As people play chicken and poker in Harrisburg, we are continuing to play with people's lives," Moore said in an interview in King of Prussia. She appeared alongside legislators in a forum dedicated to the state shortage of highway, bridge and transit funding.

Well, Fearless Leader would know about "playing chicken" as that's what SEPTA's strategy has been when dealing with Harrisburg over the past couple of years...
Lawmakers are to return to Harrisburg Monday for a lame-duck session, but the Republican leadership does not have the issue of transit funding on its agenda.

"Honestly, it is not," Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Samuel H. Smith (R., Jefferson). "We're not ignorant about SEPTA. There is a feeling ... that SEPTA creates these budgets to create a crisis."

That's partially true. Then again, questionable management decisions certainly don't help SEPTA's cause, either. Especially the decision to make threats to severely cut service if Harrisburg doesn't cough up more funding, a mantra that has alienated SEPTA and it's counterpart in Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which is also facing similar cuts and fare hikes if Harrisburg doesn't show them the money...

In a speech last month, Gov. Rendell pledged to lead the fight for transit funding after the election. He also made it clear that he would not raise transit spending without a tax increase. He could not be reached immediately for comment today. Rendell has told some lawmakers that he expects to unveil his lame duck session priorities on Monday or Tuesday. Inquirer
How much are you willing to bet that transit funding may not be one of those priorities?

Meanwhile, KYW NewsRadio recieved these comments from SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney:

“We are required by law and by labor agreements, that if we have to implement these actions, to give notice approximately 60 days in advance. So the wheels of bureaucracy are in motion, but we still remain hopeful that Harrisburg will come through and we won’t have to put this into effect.”

Maloney says the only way to realize savings with service cuts is to cut jobs:

“The tragic part is that to save 62 million dollars, when most of our costs are labor costs, we would have to cut service. And the people who are running that service, some of them would have to lose their jobs.”

The real tragic part is that - as far as we know - neither Fearless Leader nor most of the Senior Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market will be among those getting pinkslipped.

But, Maloney says, if layoffs happen the number of jobs cut may be less than 1,400:

“Fourteen hundred is the number that was determined by the size of the cubacks in service by the elimination of weekend and evening. We are still studying the number that would be affected by that, and we don’t have a number yet.”

Somehow, I think SEPTA knows damned well what they're going to cut. It's just a gut feeling...

SEPTA wants a new permanent source of funding. But that kind of funding for mass transit would likely have to be coupled with a gasoline tax increase to pay for highway projects.

And just this week, Governor Rendell said that high gas prices make that unlikely.

But Rendell believes temporary funding, less than what SEPTA says it needs, is possible.

Of course, Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) has other priorities, such as his Iggles Post-Game Live appearances...

Monday, November 01, 2004


In September, this blog had criticized SEPTA for failing to restore full express service on the P&W (Route 100/Norristown High Speed Line) after that line had gone to all local service over the summer. It was later learned that a new signal project slated to be completed this fall would not only restore express service, but it would in fact introduce a new 3-tier service pattern on the P&W.

Within the past couple of hours, we have recieved word that express service will be restored to the P&W on November 22, with the 3-tier pattern that was mentioned earlier. The signal project apparently has been completed, thus allowing the service to be restructured.

Northbound service between 69 St and Norristown will operate as follows:
  • Local trains will make all stops between 69 St and Bryn Mawr; in addition, there will be local trains between 69 St and Hughes Park
  • Two express patterns will be introduced: Express trains to Hughes Park will run non-stop to Beechwood-Brookline, then make all stops to Hughes Park; Express trains to Norristown will stop at Penfield, Ardmore Jct, and Ardmore Av, then make all stops between Bryn Mawr and Norristown
  • Norristown Limited trains will stop only at Ardmore Jct, Radnor, and all stops between Gulph Mills and Norristown
Southbound service between Norristown and 69 St will operate as follows:
  • Local trains will originate at Bryn Mawr and Hughes Park, making all stops to 69 St
  • Hughes Park Express trains will make all stops to Beechwood-Brookline, except for County Line, then run express to 69 St
  • Norristown Express trains will make all stops to Bryn Mawr, then stop only at Ardmore Av, Ardmore Jct, and Penfield en route to 69 St Terminal
  • Norristown Limited trains will make all stops to Gulph Mills, then stop only at Radnor and Ardmore Jct en route to 69 St

The changes will take effect on November 22, when all Red Arrow route changes will also take effect. The new P&W timetables will probably be available for preview within the next week or two.