Tuesday, December 07, 2004


City Councilman W. Wilson Goode, Jr. (D-At Large) wrote a scathing pro-transit/anti-SEPTA commentary in today's Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee). The son of the former mayor seemed to hint that an entity other than SEPTA could potentially be operating portions of the city's transit infrastructure:

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.

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).

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...

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