Thursday, May 26, 2005


At around 08:30, there was a report of police activity along Market between 9 and 10 Sts; Control Center reports a possible bomb threat is causing Market to be shut down. It's unclear what the bus route detours are, as it appears to vary route-by-route. Reportedly, 124/125 buses are being told to operate with extreme caution but with no detour route that I was able to hear. It appears that westbound buses are being diverted via 9 St to Arch and back to Market via 10; eastbound buses are being routed via 10 St, Chestnut, and 9 St back to regular route. There was also a report that El trains were not being operated through the area. Suffice to say that there's a lot of gridlock as of right now...

09:12 - Control Center confirms that the bomb scare is at the Gallery. There's no word on the status of Regional Rail service at this time. There are a lot of detoured bus routes this morning, with an accident earlier this morning at 17-Snyder forcing the 2 and 17 to divert (the 17 was already diverting as it was).

Monday, May 23, 2005


For the second time this month, a person was struck by a SEPTA train on a Regional Rail line in Montgomery County.

The incident occured between Spring Mill and Conshohocken on the R6 Norristown shortly before 22:00 last night, when the victim was struck by outbound #4630 en route to Elm Street. It is unknown whether the victim was a trespasser or simply a wayward passenger, nor were details available about the victim's identity or condition.

On a related note, SEPTA reports that the R6 is suspended the entire length between Center City and Norristown, forcing commuters to transfer to the El and P&W to reach NTC. The offical reason listed is downed wires.


An cyclist v. trolley accident disrupted service on the 10 earlier this afternoon. Channel 6 reports that an eastbound 10 struck a cyclist at 61-Lansdowne shortly after 13:45 today. Few details are available right now, but the victim was taken to Penn with non-life threatening injuries...

Not too long after that incident, service on the 36 is operating shuttle buses between 49-Woodland and Penrose Plaza loop due to an accident at 68-Elmwood. As of 15:36, Control Center was attempting to round up buses to cover a bus bridge. So far, there was an attempt to raise at least one deadheading 21 bus to cover the bus bridge. In addition, because of the stalled trolleys along Elmwood, bus service on the 108 and school trippers from Southwest Philadelphia has also been impacted.

At 15:51, the Control Center declared the line open with service returning to normal, though there are residual delays along the 36.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Less than one month before the current extension of the CBA between SEPTA and TWU 234 comes this story from Dan Geringer at the Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of regarding two bus v. passenger fatalities blamed by blind spots on the New Flyer buses:

Was it bus-driver error or a blind spot behind the huge side-view bus mirror that killed two pedestrians, months apart, in eerily similar SEPTA accidents last year?

The transit agency blames the operators for the fatal accidents, in which pedestrians were struck by the driver’s side of the 40-foot New Flyer Low Floor buses as they turned left through major intersections in daylight.

But Transport Workers Union Local 234 blames the operators’ extra-large side-view mirrors — the target of driver complaints to SEPTA management for months before the fatal accidents because they create a blind spot that hides pedestrians during a left turn.

The union argues that because drivers can’t see a pedestrian who has “disappeared” behind the largest side-view mirror in SEPTA’s fleet, the transit agency should take responsibility for the accidents instead of scapegoating operators.

A picture by Alejandro Alvarez in the Daily News on Monday (posted along with this article) appears to prove the union's point...

On the morning of May 15, 2004, one of SEPTA’s 518 New Flyer Low Floor buses, which have been in service here since 2001, was turning left off 9th Street when it struck and killed a pedestrian in the middle of Erie Avenue.

“As I was turning onto Erie Avenue off of 9th Street, I saw a man at my left driver’s side mirror,” the bus driver told SEPTA. “I hit the brakes, screamed and called for help via control center.”

The victim, Pedro DeJesus, 62, of Kensington, who was not in the crosswalk, was hit by the driver’s side of the bus and died of head wounds at Temple University Hospital.

Seven months later, on the morning of Dec. 6, 2004, another New Flyer Low Floor bus struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk as it turned left onto Washington Lane from Ogontz Avenue.

The victim, Ernestine Clemmons, 67, of West Oak Lane, was also hit by the driver’s side of the bus.

SEPTA safety inspectors restaged the second fatal accident “in response to complaints received that the New Flyer Low Floor Bus has blind spots that may create a hazard to pedestrians and other motorist\[s\]” according to a SEPTA memo.

Um, any particular reason why they didn't do so after the first incident?

After re-enacting the accident, SEPTA inspectors reported that “if a pedestrian is exactly aligned with the left side front windshield support structure divide, there may be a moment where visual obstruction is experienced.”

But the transit agency’s report concluded that “the allegation of an engineering flaw creating a visual obstruction for bus operators operating the New Flyer Bus is unfounded.”

“The safety investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was operator error,” said James B. Jordan, SEPTA’s assistant general manager for public and operational safety.

“I did not see how anything other than operator carelessness could have caused these deaths,” he said.

Somehow, it's doubtful Jordan was present for the actual re-enactment, so how could he see anything in the first place?

SEPTA has one of the largest fleets of New Flyer buses in America. It’s unclear whether other transit authorities have had problems.

Jordan said SEPTA checked with other transit agencies, “looking for accidents under similar circumstances with the same type of bus. We found none.”

The driver in the West Oak Lane accident is out on leave for an unrelated injury and has not had a hearing. SEPTA fired the bus operator in the Erie Avenue accident for what it called “reckless and inexcusable” driving.

“We make safety suggestions, SEPTA doesn't act on them and then there’s an accident and SEPTA says it’s all our fault,” said a visibly angry Jeff Brooks, president of TWU Local 234, hoping to win upcoming arbitration, and get the fired bus driver rehired and placed in a nondriving job.

“They didn’t take her good driving record since 1994 into consideration,” Brooks said. “They didn’t consider the fact that bus operators had complained for more than a year about that mirror creating a blind spot, and SEPTA didn’t do anything about it. They just made her the fall guy.”

So, in addition to being president of TWU 234, Mr. Brooks apparently has the ability to magically change an operator's gender? (Sorry, but one has to admit that was a rather odd phrasing that last sentence...)

SEPTA Assistant GM Jordan says he did not know that drivers had complained before the fatalities about the blind spot created by the mirror.

But the TWU gave the Daily News documents showing that SEPTA’s mid-level safety managers knew.

On March 5, 2003, Tony Bednarz, a union official at the Comly depot, sent a safety hazard report to SEPTA manager R. Martinez stating that “many operators are complaining about a sizable blind spot in all New Flyer buses.

“The size of the driver side mirror combined with the current location of the AMDT \[electronic messaging\] screen greatly obstructs \[the\] view of the left side of the bus. This obstruction increases the risk of accident.”

On Oct. 22, 2003, Comly depot’s joint union/management safety committee minutes note: “The issue concerning outside mirrors on New Flyers has been sent to Jim Fox/Director of System Safety.”

Midvale depot’s safety committee has a paper trail stretching from September 2003 (“Mirrors on buses are blocking view of the drivers”) to September 2004 — after the first fatal accident but three months before the second one — when the union/management joint safety committee was notified: “New Flyers — driver side mirror blocks driver’s line of sight.”

How Jordan - or for that matter, Fearless Leader and/or any of the Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market responsible for risk management - couldn't have been made aware of this fact is completely mind boggling... until you consider the way that SEPTA Transit Police have practically become a joke in recent years thanks in large part to what many consider to be incompetent management (read: Jordan)...

Asked why SEPTA doesn’t replace the big mirrors with smaller ones, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said, “When ordering new buses, we do not specify any design features for rear-view mirrors. We accept mirrors provided and designed by the manufacturer, which meet federal safety standards.”

Add this line to the latest series of canned replies from our beloved Minister of Mis-Information...

At the fired bus driver’s state unemployment-compensation hearing in March, the referee noted that there had been “numerous complaints from drivers regarding the side-view mirror on the type of vehicle that the claimant was driving,” that she “checked her mirrors and proceeded slowly, but struck a pedestrian from the left front side of the vehicle” and that she “did not drive recklessly.”

In awarding the bus driver unemployment benefits, the referee wrote that she “credibly testified that there appears to be a blind spot in the mirror on the vehicle which she was driving, and that the employer was aware of complaints regarding this mirror.”

The referee concluded that “the employer has failed to prove that the claimant willfully or deliberately caused the accident, or that the claimant was reckless in her driving.”

Take away the rhetoric from both SEPTA and TWU, and it certainly sounds an impartial evaluation of the facts to me...

After reviewing SEPTA's “line of vision checks” on the controversial mirror, the Daily News ran its own tests at a depot.

[Geringer] and [Alvarez] took turns sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked bus while union officials acted as pedestrians crossing in front of the bus from right to left.

Both reporter and photographer saw pedestrians on the driver’s side “disappear” behind the mirror, which is installed very close to the thick driver’s window frame, creating even more of a visual obstruction.

For the record, it appears that the pictures were actually taken at Ogontz Loop, though I sure someone will correct me if I'm mistaken. That said, in tribute to Yogi Berra's 80th birthday (celebrated last week), it's living proof that "You can learn a lot by just observing."

“I’ve driven all kinds of SEPTA buses,” said union vice president Allison Cooper, who is representing the fired bus driver in upcoming arbitration. “The New Flyer blind spot is not like anything else on any other SEPTA bus.

“SEPTA says the driver was trained to deal with that blind spot. Not true. I took the training. They only teach you to deal with blind spots on the right side, where people board the bus,” Cooper said.

“There’s no training to deal with that huge blind spot caused by that left side mirror. I’m almost six feet tall, and I had to raise up out of my seat to see over it during a left turn. That’s not what we are trained to do.”

Which, sadly and tragically, seems to be SEPTA's SOP as it pertains to training, at least in some cases...

Willie Brown, Local 234’s executive vice president, said, “All those complaints about that driver’s-side mirror before the fatal accidents came from near-misses that scare a bus operator to death.”

“SEPTA ignored those complaints,” Brown said. “Then there’s two fatal accidents, and SEPTA blames the driver, not the mirror that drivers have been complaining about for months.”

“That,” Cooper said, “is crap.”

That, is an accurate assessment.

With all of that out of the way, it certainly seems odd that this story would come out not too long after SEPTA filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the union, accusing TWU leadership of not negotiating in good faith.

Meanwhile, it may not be such a bad idea for SEPTA to get a refresher on one of the most embarassing legal fiascos (and there've been a lot of those in the past several years) since I've lived in the area...

Escalators ... Cecil B. Moore station ... Sharif Hall ... SEPTA's mis-handling of the case ... lawsuit ... heads rolling (but not the right ones)...

Ring any bells, Jordan?


This was not the best of nights for riders of both the 36 or the Market-Frankford Night Owl...

At around 02:45, a tractor-trailer broke down on the tracks at 49 St near Paschall, blocking the 36 in both directions for nearly an hour, affecting the 8250 and 8251 blocks (car numbers unknown). The 8250 block was backed-out by a white-shirt onto Woodland Av, where it presumably went back in the tunnel and operated between Center City and 49-Woodland. The 8251 block was pretty much stuck on 49 St.

After nearly 35 minutes of trying to reach 3 different 52 buses - all of which were unavailable - the Control Center pulled 5811 off of Market-Frankford Owl/9904 block at City Hall and 5447 off of 42/9101 block at Penns Landing. Both buses were sent to 49-Woodland to run a shuttle from there to Elmwood Carhouse.

At 4:04, Control Center declared the 36 line reopened for trolley service, allowing 5447 and 5811 to return to their normal assignments. The impromtu bus-bridge wasn't the only problem encountered on the Market-Frankford Owl this morning...

Frankford 2781 block endured two separate bus swaps, delaying service. The operator was originally given 5338 at the start of his shift, but non-operating interior lights forced him to swap out with 5339, which didn't have a working horn, before finally giving him 5286, which presumably had no major defects.

But, other than that, it was a quite night in SEPTA-land...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The Bucks County Planning Commission is seeking proposals for a study to consider Bus Rapid Transit and a pedestrial trail (file in MS Word format) along the all-but-abandoned Newtown branch right-of-way between Fox Chase and Newtown Boro. SEPTA rail service was discontinued in the early 1980s north of Fox Chase; repeated attempts - mainly pushed by Bucks County officials - to restore rail service on this branch have been met with strong opposition from certain factions in Montgomery County (read: the Pitcairn's of Bryn Athyn). The study is expected to be complete by June 2006.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


As of 17:45, there is a bus-bridge in effect on the R8 Fox Chase line, reasons unknown at this time. Thus far, 5194, 5736, and 7214 have been dispatched from Midvale to Wayne Junction; the control center is in the process of trying to get a bus sent to Fox Chase, most likely from Comly.

18:00 - Control center has confirmed that wires are down on the R8 just north of Wayne Jct. In addition to the three buses sent to Wayne Jct, three buses are being sent to Fox Chase, numbers have not been confirmed. It appears that the train involved was either the #852 (17:08 Suburban to Fox Chase) or the #849 (17:15 Fox Chase to Chestnut Hill West).

18:34 - Control center has relayed orders from RRD that service between Wayne Jct and Glenside is single-track operation and the bus bridge has ended. 5559 was the bus sent from Comly to Fox Chase loop. Additionally, 5746 was dispatched to Fern Rock for reasons unknown. Based on the new information, it appears that the wires were on the RDG Main as opposed to the Fox Chase branch.