Thursday, July 07, 2005


Once again, there's more controversy flaring up over the 15 fiasco...

Today's Daily News (a fully paid subsidiary of Michael Moore, Inc.) reports friction between a TWU representative and SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney over the re-start date for trolleys to return to the 15:

"If they really wanted to do this? It shouldn't take any more than two weeks, tops," said Willie Brown, executive vice president of Transit Worker's Union Local 234.

Of course, SEPTA doesn't seem to want to restart trolley service along Girard Av...

This is lucky, since one of the 18 antique cars, which cost $1.3 million each to rebuild, is due to go off its two-year maintenance warranty in August. And a second warranty is due to expire three months later.

But it's also strange, since SEPTA has insisted the cars can't be launched until September.

No, it's par for the course for these clowns...

Last month, when City Councilman Michael Nutter helped end the yearlong political standoff that had stalled this $84 million public works project, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said union work rules would force another delay of at least three months. He also said there weren't enough trained operators to get the trolleys moving right away.

"Of the 30 operators who were trained and qualified last year, most have been dispersed," Maloney told me.

Turns out both those statements are false.

What a shock...

In fact, Brown said that at least 29 of the operators who were trained for the Route 15 line last year are still assigned to that route, and have been driving the Route 15 bus. All they need is a four-hour refresher course and they're ready to get the trolleys rolling.

And the contract rules that Maloney said would cause the delay?

They simply don't apply, Brown said. And even if they did, the transit agency could easily speed them up, and does so all the time.

Of, Maloney is just making it up. That might work well if this were "Calvin-ball" but not a major capital project...

All of this would be inside baseball, except for the alarming and potentially expensive matter of the two-year warranties that came with these cars when they were delivered.

At first, SEPTA told me all the cars would be under warranty until late 2006.

But later, after I'd seen a roster that showed the first car coming off warranty this summer, Maloney admitted his "error."

"We must have overlooked that," Maloney said.

Of course you did, you stupid f**k! What other possible explaination can there be other than the fact that this is the most incompetent transit agency this side of Boston?

Frankly, warranties on expensive equipment like this ought to be a little harder to miss.

Not if you work for SEPTA...

As any good mechanic knows, the kinds found on new machines can get expensive, particularly on complicated electrical machines like these rebuilt trolley cars.

San Francisco, for instance, has been using refurbished Philadelphia trolley cars on its wildly successful streetcar lines, and officials there say the first six months are critical.

"The more you can use a warranty, the better off you are, especially since SEPTA's using all new propulsion components in their cars, and this is brand-new technology that hasn't been tested," said Karl Johnson, assistant supervisor at the San Francisco Municipal Railway.

Johnson said San Francisco's cars had numerous problems, all of which were fixed under warranty.

"We had some breakdowns, due to problems we didn't find out about until they'd been running," Johnson said. "We had some nickel-and-dime stuff, like roof leaks, but then we also had some wiring problems.

Luckily, all this happened while the cars were still under warranty.

"They were lucky to hire this one guy who really worked hard to find the problem, and fix it, because he dug them out of a hole and saved them a lot of money, " Johnson said.

In Philadelphia, it looks like we won't be so lucky.

Between the Live 8 meltdown on the railroad (and I'll be commenting on that within the next few days) and the latest chapter in the Girard Av fiasco, what legislator in Harrisburg in his or her right mind is going to stick their collective necks out on a limb to provide dedicated funding for SEPTA?

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