Thursday, December 30, 2004
Monday, December 27, 2004
The "Phase II" Contingency Plan hearings are scheduled for the end of January at the following locations:
- Monday, 24 January: Council Chambers, Delaware County Government Center, 201 W Front St, Media Courthouse (3:00pm and 6:00pm)
- Tuesday, 25 January: Convention Center, Room 113, Philadelphia (11:00am and 5:00pm)
- Wednesday, 26 January: Community Room, Doylestown Courthouse (3:00pm and 6:00pm)
- Thursday, 27 January: Council Chambers, West Chester Borough Hall (3:00pm and 6:00pm)
- Friday, 26 January: Commissioners Chambers, Norristown Courthouse (3:00pm and 6:00pm)
In other scheduled hearings:
- Thursday, 6 January: Route K public hearing at the Awbury Rec Center, 6101 Ardleigh St, Philadelphia, 2:00pm. This hearing will deal with a re-routing of the K bus at Chelten and Ogontz, due to the reconfiguration of Chelten at Ogontz.
- Wednesday, 19 January: Route 99 public hearing at Phoenixville Hook, Hose, and Ladder Co (Station 65), 1:00pm. This hearing will deal with two routing changes, one in Phoenixville, the other in Royersford.
- Wednesday, 19 January: Routes 9, 35, 61, and 62 at Philadelphia Police, 5th District stationhouse, Ridge Av & Cinnaminson St, Roxborough at 7:00pm. This hearing will deal with the elimination of the 35, re-routing of the 9 and 61, and renaming of the existing 61 Express service to "Route 62".
- Tuesday, 25 January: Route 71/Navy Yard Shuttle at Vivetta Conference Room, Navy Yard, 4747 S Broad, S Philadelphia. This hearing is to make the 71 permanent.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
This marks the second time this week that signal problems have affected the RRD; earlier this week, the R1 Airport and R2 Wilmington lines were delayed due to major signal problems on the NEC between Philadelphia and Wilmington. At one point, R1 service was using a bus-bridge between 30 St and the Airport, then service was restored but only operating hourly.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Possible loss of SEPTA jobs and service presents an opportunity for Gov. Rendell not only to save the day, but maybe save the year.
With a $62 million SEPTA hole threatening to suck down a chunk of the regional economy, there is every reason to act and act fast.
For despite blame aimed at the Legislature for ending its two-year session early, the governor is the most identifiable and responsible leader on this issue. He has the authority, the smarts and certainly the reasons to avert a transit nightmare.
Plus, the Legislature's gone until January, when cuts and fare increases are set to start.
The only problem is, Iggles season drags on through the holidays and Gov. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) is rather busy with other priorities right now...
So, Ed. There's "flexible" federal highway money, not a first choice, but an option; there's capital fund cash, I'm told, authorized but never bonded; perhaps unexpended balances in PennDOT or other agencies; maybe the option of
accelerating normal state payments to SEPTA as was done for schools during the
last "crisis"; or even slush fund grants.
Point is the government is huge. Things can be done. I'd note, for example, after a tax-breaks-for-Comcast deal flopped in the Legislature, Ed found a $30 million grant for the company.
If you can find money to help people who run corporations, you can find money to help people who ride the early bus.
Of course he helped Comcast. He's on the payroll, remember?
Make no mistake: The situation at hand is the result of failures on the part of lawmakers and the governor. That SEPTA workers face the fear of layoffs is directly attributable to gamesmanship and lackluster leadership.Even then, the buses and trains don't run as well as they could...
The problem exists, along with others, because early warnings were ignored and because the Legislature's four caucuses and two houses do not work well enough together or with the administration.
That, and the fact Ed and GOP leaders are at distant odds over pay raises and name-calling, petty partisanship no one but they care about but that, yet again, prevents problem-solving.
Folks who work for and ride SEPTA have no interest in who called whom what, or who failed to act when - they just want the buses and trains to run.
The politics are plain.And the Governor won't race down the Turnpike at 90 miles per hour en route to get to his Iggles gig, right?
SEPTA gets 68 percent of the state's $741 million mass-transit budget. Now it wants more. By most accounts, the agency's well-run, basically the victim of underestimated revenues from a funding fix in '91. So its need seems real.
But Republicans who run the Legislature hate the idea of their constituents, who mostly never see a SEPTA vehicle, paying increased taxes or fees of any kind for services they don't use.
This is well-known. Yet a Dwight Evans plan backed by Rendell offered at the 11th
hour is $110 million in various increased statewide fees, and when it's rejected, Rendell and others act surprised.
Who's kidding whom?
Meanwhile, Republicans say some Rendell wish lists near the end of session did not include SEPTA, and at least one priority-numbered list had SEPTA only at the bottom and without a number, as if, said a source, "it's an afterthought."
Rendell press secretary Kate Philips says, "That's not the case."
Whatever is the case, SEPTA got short shrift. And when its board then
proposed drastic cuts and fare increases, Rendell called it, "The inevitable
result of the Legislature's failure to act."
Come on. The problem isn't new; the solution offered isn't politic. The governor and the Legislature dropped the ball.
What does makes sense is for the governor to find funds to keep SEPTA running now without blaming the Legislature.
Then it makes sense for Rendell and the legislature to find ways (gas tax, property-transfer tax, parking tax, commuter tax, some combination) to better fund SEPTA with statewide revenue that also funds other transportation needs or with regional revenue used solely for SEPTA.
A challenge, no question. But also an opportunity - to show leadership, improve political relations, save the day and maybe the year. Daily News
At least Baer isn't blindly blaming Republicans as is often the tact of most reporters on the Daily News payroll...
Perhaps the good councilman should realize that other than Detroit and San Francisco, virtually no other major city in the United States has a transit system that is not operated by a state-, regional- or county-managed authority (or in the case of WMATA, an inter-state authority).
The veto is symbolic of the fact that those two SEPTA board members are there to represent Philadelphia, which contributes the highest subsidy of the five counties served by the authority and the highest portion of the authority's fare revenue. It does not represent real power so Philadelphia does not have real equity in the governance of public transportation in the region. The city has been bound by state legislation that established and oversees the authority - and a 36-year-old lease agreement that luckily will expire next year.
Under the terms of the agreement with the now-defunct Philadelphia Transportation Co., SEPTA acquired properties from PTC and the rights to use transit facilities owned by the city. The lease will expire when SEPTA has made the last payment, or on Dec. 31, 2005.
Last week, as SEPTA board members were planning to raise the base fare to become the highest in the nation, City Council unanimously passed a resolution to review the city's lease agreement with SEPTA. It is imperative that the city, in the interest of local SEPTA riders and all of its citizens, examine the city's stake in SEPTA's infrastructure through the lease agreement. The city controls a significant amount of transit infrastructure that can possibly be operated by a system other than SEPTA.
Okay, and as soon as you figure out who that other system will be, please let us know, Mr. Goode...
When the lease ends, the city could require SEPTA to purchase that infrastructure with state and federal capital dollars - not funds that would be used for operating expenses - or risk competition from another transit system. At the least, the city must use its leverage to negotiate a better lease agreement with SEPTA if it is expected to meet our mass transit needs in a way that benefits public transit customers as well as the city as a whole. Mass transit is crucial to our economic vitality and quality of life.
As the former chairman of City Council's transportation committee, I have both sued SEPTA on behalf of the citizens of Philadelphia and seized control of and transferred its local subsidy to create legal, legislative and political leverage against board decisions that might negatively affect the city.
So I now call on the governor and state legislature to create a dedicated source of funding for mass transit in Philadelphia. I also urge the state to remedy the inequity that exists with regard to Philadelphia's role in the regional governance of mass transit, considering that the city contributes both the highest subsidy of the five counties and the highest portion of fare-box revenue.
I also call on the mayor and my Council colleagues to immediately consider our options as our lease agreement with SEPTA comes to an end after more than three decades. We desperately need mass transit in this city, but not at any cost under the terms of an old agreement.
It's time to use all of the leverage at our disposal. Daily News
Well, considering that Emperor Street has been too busy tap dancing his way around possible ensnarement in the current "pay-for-play" scandal and by his own admission has done next to nothing to lobby on behalf of SEPTA or mass transit in the city, this seems like a tall task. Bear in mind that transportation planning has gond from a cabinet level position during the Rendell administration (at least when Fast Eddie wasn't moonlighting for Comcast SportsNet during Iggles season) to a relatively irrelevant department of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, it's almost laughable that the city would now start giving a damn about SEPTA.
And, no, Emperor Street, simply sending Lance Haver to do your dirty work on behalf of the city is woefully inadequate...
Of course not, Mr. Suarez. Why let an over-rated loser like Ramos (who works for the most evil radio ownership corporation in America) endanger himself or other passengers when you have James Jordan, Richard Evans, and David Scott to endanger the lives of us passengers every day with questionable deployment and management decisions?
SEPTA police thwarted a planned stunt by Q102's Diego Ramos Friday morning. Ramos, who'd heard of an elderly woman's being mugged on a bus, announced that he'd dress up as an old man and board a bus at 11th and Market to tempt fate. The wife of a SEPTA exec heard of Ramos' intentions on WIOQ-FM (102.1), and phoned in a tip. SEPTA police were waiting when he stepped out of the Q102 van. Ramos, who got into trouble 21/2 years ago when he drew police to a Northeast Philly IHOP during a stunt, says he backed down quickly.
SEPTA spokesman Felipe Suarez yesterday said: "We couldn't allow him to stage an event or become part of a gimmick to boost ratings that could have potentially endangered himself and other passengers." Inquirer
Apparently, something is minor as a catastrophic budget crisis is preventing SEPTA from proceeding with this waste of taxpayer money:
Sponsors of the 2004-2005 Kimmel Center Presents season include Mellon Financial Corporation, University of Pennsylvania Health Systems, Bank of America, Sovereign Bank, Wachovia Foundation, The American Express Company, Verizon Foundation, Bucks County Coffee, and SEPTA, the Commuter’s Choice.And just where is SEPTA able to find the money to even sponsor the Kimmel Center events? It's not as though a substantial portion of the audience takes SEPTA to these events...
Monday, December 06, 2004
A possible $5 million in state grants has Borough Council and developer Don Pulver working quickly and collectively to draw the eyes of the governor's office.If awarded, the money would be split between Oliver Tyrone Pulver Corp. financing its Ten Tower Bridge project and aiding various projects in the borough.
Following the passage of a resolution Tuesday, council gave its blessing for the pair to jointly pursue the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Grant. The money is earmarked for community and economic development projects, such as the parking garage planned in Norristown.
Pulver and others from his company presented their ideas before council Tuesday, displaying some projects the acquired grant money could benefit in the borough.
At the top of the list was a large-scale renovation to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority station on Washington Street. Pulver envisioned providing a covered, modern platform for both sides of the tracks. He said he would also like to expand parking available to rail users.
"It would be good for the borough, because the train station now is a wreck and needs to be brought up to today's standards," he said.
Not only would the train station renovations be beneficial to Conshohocken residents, but the project would also be viewed more favorably by the state government and thus give them a better chance at more money should the grant application be approved, Pulver added.
Second Ward Representative Ray Pirollo said he welcomes the proposed renovations to the SEPTA station, located within his district. He also supported the joint venture with the developer, who has been a kind of "pioneer" in his work that has helped revitalize the borough. Council's only hesitation was initially when members were unsure just how the grant money would be divided.
Pulver promised a close to 50/50 split, and council voted to hold him to that, adding a condition in their resolution that would ensure that balance of funding.
"We just wanted to make sure the borough was not promised things that wouldn't be delivered," Pirollo said. Norristown Times-Herald
Not too long ago, reaction at 1234 Market to rehabing the station was luke-warm at best. Maybe the funding from Harrisburg will get a better response from SEPTA...
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Last year, six African-American SEPTA cops - including the son of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson - filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in federal court. Two weeks ago, a judge ruled that the case can proceed, according to WCAU-TV (NBC 10).
"Finally we have a chance to bring them to court and let the case be heard," said SEPTA Officer Marcus Blake. WCAU-TVBlake gave a more detailed account to NBC 10 on November 23, the feed of which is still available at the NBC 10 web site. Among other things, Blake accused SEPTA Police higher-ups of not providing adequte back-up on assignments considered to be high-risk. Blake, it should be pointed out, identified himself as an undercover officer, and his face was obscured during the on-air interview.
SEPTA offically had no comment on the suit, as is SOP at 1234 Market. However...
NBC 10 ran a separate yet unrelated story on an increase in pickpocketing on SEPTA, including an incident last month in which a 68-year-old Philadelphia woman was robbed on a SEPTA bus:
Louise Richardson, 68, said she was a victim last month.Sadly, it is that time of the year when theives are hard at work trying to steal from honest hard-working people, and to be fair, its not just limited to SEPTA.
Shortly after paying her cell phone bill in cash, Richardson said she boarded a crowded SEPTA bus at 11th and Market.
"I felt someone hit me on my side, and being crowded you pay that no attention," she said. "And someone hit me again, and still paid it no attention because the lady next to me had a baby."
But Richardson said that once she got off the bus, she realized what happened.
"When I went to reach in my pocket where the money was in a bank envelope, there was no envelope," she said.
Richardson said about $2,000 was missing.
Richardson filed two police reports, one with Philadephia and the other with SEPTA. She identified the thief as the woman with the baby.
"If that woman and that baby were working that bus, she's going to get more than me. She's going to get a lot more seniors," Richardson said.
Go to any mall, and I guarantee you, local police departments (or in the case of Granite Run Mall, the State Police) are spending more time at malls than they are on the road. Philadelphia DA Lynne Abraham recently held a press conference on this issue and other fraud related issues to warn seniors and all citizens about an increase in theft. And, in a heart-wrenching story, a thief in Montgomeryville allegedly burglarized several homes, stealing Christmas presents, according to KYW's Suburban Bureau (read: MontCo Courthouse) chief Jay Lloyd (we refer to Mr. Lloyd's title as such because it seems every other report he files is from Norristown Courthouse).
Now, back to our story...
SEPTA police sources said nearly a dozen riders were ripped off. But SEPTA officials would only confirm that pick pocketing increases this time of year, and they have stepped up patrols.Why do we tie the two stories together?
"We have a pickpocket patrol at the SEPTA Police Department, and they're undercover police, and they make arrests," SEPTA spokesman Rich Maloney said. NBC 10
We recieved an email today from a SEPTA insider, who asked not to be identified for obvious fear of retailation.
"Funny thing is the day after the report aired on the news [November 24 - ed.], SEPTA Police Deputy Chief David Scott sent a memo down canceling plainclothes/undercover departmentwide claiming he wanted higher visibility for the holiday season.So, once again, we appear to have caught the Minster of Mis-Information in a lie, eh? But wait, there's more trouble brewing at 1234 Market, according to our insider, including a follow-up to a recent comment noting the lack of SEPTA Police presence during certain hours, including the overnight and early AM peak:
Plainclothes/undercover assignments were actually stopped because the one officer in the report (Blake) identified himself as an undercover officer and he pissed the administration off big time and this was their way of getting back at him. Pickpocketing is more frequent throughout the SEPTA system during the holidays so it makes no sense to stop the undercover assignments."
"In other news, I read how you stated they barely have any SEPTA Police between 11pm-7am. This is true. If at full staff, the night shift has 10 officers working between 11pm-7am, so if anyone is off or out sick, which occurs quite often, you could be down to 7 or 8 guys covering the whole system. Several times i have heard of only 4 officers working when at peak vacation season in the summer, but the SEPTA Police Dept doesn't really care about late night riders.The sad part about this is that even assuming that in fact SEPTA Police are rotated around school dismissal times, that doesn't explain the violent brawl that took place at the Spring Garden subway station this past April involving students from a charter school and an disciplinary high school. That said, the above comments confirms much of what was reported to me by another SEPTA insider regarding how shifts are managed.
Also, for the most part, all SEPTA Police adminstration care about are the school kids at dismissal time, so most officers shifts are adjusted to work 8am-4pm, 8:30am-4:30pm or 9am-5pm and middle shift works 1pm-9pm, 1:30pm-9:30pm or 2pm-10pm. All this does is have a large amount of officers working at dismissal time to stop all the kids from robbing everyone on trains. Funny thing is that this leaves practically no officers working during morning rush from 6am-9am, you're lucky if there are 15 officers out there systemwide between those hours due to the adjusted schedules because the department refuses to pay overtime. Also there are usually no officers out on the system after 9pm or 10pm because their shifts are adjusted to prevent overtime."
It also confirms that SEPTA financial crisis may also have an impact on the safety of its riders. One would think that SEPTA's AGM for Safety and Risk Mis-Management James Jordan would get his head out of his ass and realize that despite all of the talk about passengers being more vigilant and safety being a #1 priority, the majority of riders can sum SEPTA's concerns about safety in two words:
"Yes, we have no solution."
Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D-Pa./Comcast SportsNet) issued this statement on Thursday regarding the status of temporary financial help for SEPTA and the other transit agencies across the commonwealth:
The cutback plan considered by the SEPTA Board is the inevitable result of the legislature's failure to act. Unfortunately, Republican legislative leaders chose to recess their session early rather than work toward a responsible solution, creating a fiscal crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Actually, Eddie, it's because you're more concerned with Terrell Owens' next touchdown celebration dance instead of finding a solution to the transit crisis and other problems that have essentially slowed Harrisburg down to a crawl...
Everyone familiar with the finances of our state's transit agencies knows that it is necessary to find new sources of stable, dedicated funding. This is no less true for the small systems serving places like Altoona than for the large ones serving Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
I have supported a plan to provide $111 million per year in new money for transit. While in a letter dated Nov. 20, 2004, Republican legislative leaders said, "you can be certain of our interest in addressing the short-term needs of public transportation in Pennsylvania," they inexplicably ended their session with 10 working days left in the session without voting on this or a viable alternative plan to close the funding gap. Now that any opportunity for legislative action has passed, I am exploring whether options exist that would postpone the severe service cuts, fare increases and employee layoffs that are coming. The technical and legal barriers to providing stopgap funding are significant, and my administration is working to see if they can be solved. There is no free lunch, and no guarantees that we can solve this problem.
Here's one thing we can guarantee. It's going to get ugly, and fast...
On KYW NewsRadio today, Tony Romeo interviewed Franklin and Marshall College political scientist Terry Madonna (one of the state's foremost experts on Harrisburg happenings) for his thoughts on the crisis (note that the report is not at the KYW web site as of the time of this posting). Madonna seems to think that Rendell is deliberately stalling any action on the transit issue to put more pressure on the legislature. Bailing out SEPTA, Mr. Madonna says, would in effect eliminate any emergency, thus the legislature won't take any immediate action.
While Rendell indicated that he is "committed to finding a solution" to the crisis, he did note that some options, including flexing highway funding temporarily until a stable funding solution can be reached, may not be legal under state and federal law.
Yeah, right, and the Miami Dolphins will win the AFC Championship...
Meanwhile, Emperor Street has finally been making noise on SEPTA's latest financial fiasco. The Emperor, who is rather busy running the city into the ground, threatened to take legal action to block the fare hikes or even have the City Transit Division split from the rest of SEPTA and taken over by City Hall. At the same time, the Michael Moore-on wanna-be took a few shots at legislative leaders in Harrisburg:
"I’ll bet the Pennsylvania general assembly has spent more time trying to figure out how to take over the Philadelphia airport than how to fix the problems of SEPTA. These people are really really good at paying attention to things that are local matters."
No, they're more concerned about how to get a piece of the slots action, but I digress. As far as the airport is concerned, I don't think the folks in Tinicum Township or Delaware County would mind having a say in how PHL is managed; after all, a chunk of the airport is in Delaware County...
That said, any legal action by the city is an uphill battle at best. More will come out by the time Decmeber 16 comes and goes...
In a survey of 14 of 15 SEPTA board members, 10 described themselves as using the system occasionally or rarely. Four members said they travel SEPTA on a regular basis, or at least twice a week. Board member Thomas Babcock [Delaware County - ed.] did not return four phone calls.At least someone understands his purpose of being on the SEPTA Board.
"I think it gives me a real perspective of our general ridership," said Christian DiCicco, one of Philadelphia's two representatives on the board, who said he takes SEPTA at least four times a week.
As they consider overriding the veto at their Dec. 16 meeting, board members offered varying opinions on the importance of their riding habits in their decision making on the board, which approves and directs the spending of SEPTA's $920 million annual budget and $427 million annual capital budget.Insert laughter here...
DiCicco and other board members questioned the need for a board member to take the train every day.
"It's like any other board. There are people who serve on boards who have very little or nothing to do with the product produced by the company," said board member Michael O'Donoghue [Montgpmery County - ed.], who said he rides SEPTA about three times a month.
Some members said they must take a broader view. Regardless of how often they use the system, they said, they need to consider the regional impact on the economy and riders.
"Whatever my personal experience, it's more important I know the interest and concerns of the riding public," said James C. Schwartzman [Senate Democrats - ed.], the board's vice chairman.
Lance Haver, director of Mayor Street's Office of Consumer Affairs and a founder of the Philadelphia Transit Campaign, a transit advocacy group, said he wasn't overly concerned with how often the board members took a trolley or a bus.How can he not be? After all, we're not asking that they ride every single day...
But the board does not meet Schwartzman's standard of listening to the ridership, he said. By holding meetings in the middle of the day, and conducting hearings only during crises, the board gives the impression it doesn't care, he said.Isn't it funny how Mr. Haver has suddenly toned down some of his rhetoric now that he's on the city payroll?
The 15-member board has no seat reserved for a rider's representative. A 29-member Citizens Advisory Committee was created in 1981 by the Pennsylvania Legislature, but activists question its effectiveness.Although some members such as Chairman Bob Clearfield of Montgomery County and Greg Pastore of Philadelphia have taken their roles on the CAC seriously, we haven't heard too much from any of the other members on this issue.
"It's not really how often they ride the system; it's how they make it hard for riders... to voice their concerns," Haver said. "That's why riders don't always feel that SEPTA represents their interests."
O'Donoghue and seven others described themselves as occasional riders: those who ride less than twice a week but at least twice a month. Two others, Cornelius Cassidy [Delaware County - ed.] and Herman Wooden [House Democrats - ed.], said they seldom used the system.It should be pointed out that while State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-12th, Upper Moreland) is a SEPTA Board member who has been on the front line for transit funding, he doesn't exactly practice what he preaches, as he frequently drives from to and from Harrisburg instead of taking Amtrak. A couple days before the lame duck session ended, Greenleaf was involved in a minor vehicle accident, apparently due to falling asleep, according to news reports.
Board chairman Pasquale T. "Pat" Deon of Bucks County, who described himself as an occasional rider on the R5, R3 and R7 rail lines, questioned the relevance of his riding habits during the current crisis.Apparently, neither is your big mouth, Don Pasquale. I don't think it's a coincidence that quite a few of the road projects that could be sacrificed to bail SEPTA out are in Bucks County...
Referring to the failed attempt to get legislators to provide more funding for SEPTA, Deon said: "My riding is not going to produce $62 million out of Harrisburg." Inquirer
That said, Don Pasquale's riding could certainly open his eyes as to how many riders feel about SEPTA. And I can guarantee you that the results wouldn't be pretty...
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Jettie Newkirk and Christian DiCicco, the city of Philadelphia's two representatives to the SEPTA Board were the lone dissenters, effectively vetoing the resolution until the regular "rubber-stamp" session on December 16. The announcement by Newkirk that the city would exercise its veto power angered most of the board members, not to mention confuse many observers who questioned the logic of that decision. To override the veto, 12 votes are needed, and its obvious to anyone with half a brain (ie. most of SEPTA's management) that the votes are there to override the veto.
The plan would reduce weekday service headways by 20 percent across the board, however service spans would remain largely unaffected. Saturday schedules would be reduced to Sunday headway levels on most routes in the system (though some City Transit and Regional Rail lines already have that in effect, along with Red Arrow route 305) with some modifications, and routes with no Sunday service would retain Saturday service (such as the 1, 19, 92, 103, 111, and 127 among others). A fare increase of 25 percent would be implemented on January 23, the same date as the service reductions, while a second fare increase of nearly 20 percent would be imposed in March.
More details, commentary, and links to stories will be posted as this story develops...