Saturday, December 04, 2004


Today's Inquirer reported on the riding habits - or lack thereof - of SEPTA's Board members in the aftermath of Thursday's dramatic meeting in which the city representatives to the board effectively vetoed the proposed service cuts and fare hikes:

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.

"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.
At least someone understands his purpose of being on the SEPTA Board.

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.

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.
Insert laughter here...

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.

"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."
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.

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.

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
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...

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...

No comments: