Friday, December 29, 2006
* Shortly before 08:00, a westbound trolley derailed in the tunnel just east of 33 St Station, resulting in the evacuation of at least 5 trolleys. Suffice to say that the morning commute on the Subway-Surface lines was a mess.
* At the tail end of the PM Peak, a robbery was reported at the Margaret-Orthodox El Station. The incident occured at around 17:55, when a heavy set, light complected black male reportedly robbed his victim near the cashier's booth; it's unknown whether the victim was an employee or a passenger. Several police units responded to Tioga Station to search for the actor, but were unable to locate him (surprise, surprise). The actor fled with approximately $100.
* At around 20:00, Philadelphia PD officers were involved in a foot pursuit of a subject under unknown circumstances in the area of Broad and Lehigh. The actor fled onto the system at the North Philadelphia subway station and was reportedly apprehended at Susquehanna-Dauphin.
* At around 22:30, a report of a suspicious package at the North Terminal at 69 St came in to police. The situation was cleared a short time later, however details are very sketchy.
* At around 02:50 this morning, a SEPTA "Transit Police" car was involved in an accident at 11-Market. One officer was transported to Jefferson Hospital with non life threatening injuries (this was initially reported as a bus accident; we apologize for the incorrect report).
But, other than that, it was a safe and secure day on the SEPTA system...
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Once the holidays are over, I hope to post more frequently than I have been over the past 2 years, but rest assured, I will continue to be as blunt and honest as I've always been as far as SEPTA is concerned.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
* Some of the 1996 NABIs - which were slated for retirement as early as 2008 - may be forced to remain in service for another year. These buses are clearly starting show their age, not that they were particularly good buses to begin with...
* Stations along the Broad Street Line which were planned to get rehabbed - Girard among them - will remain dumps...
* SEPTA's fare collection system and policies - which were considered state-of-the-art when delpoyed in the 1990's - will continue to remain obsolete compared to peer agencies across the country, and quite possibly even within the state.
Now, apparently, the ball is in Harrisburg's court. Assuming they can find time to draw attention away from Rendell's attempts to override the will of school districts across the state who soundly rejected his "Act 72" schemes to force property tax relief by mandating the same flawed program that same school boards rejected.
Friday, November 17, 2006
In a CBS 3 I-Team Exclusive , how safe are you riding SEPTA's regional rail lines? It is a question that is being asked following an I-Team investigation into last summer's train crash.
Every day, 100,000 riders depend on SEPTA's regional rail to deliver them safely to their destination. But 30 people were injured on the Warminster line when two trains collided head-on.
Our exclusive investigation found that SEPTA’s safety system, designed to prevent just a crash, didn’t."Lots of broken noses, broken faces, horrible shock, massive confusion," said eyewitness, Judy Grove.
Those who were there the afternoon of Saturday, July 1st remember the frightening scene as two SEPTA trains collided head on."
Most were in total shock, they didn’t know what really happened," said Grove.
Two weeks after the crash, SEPTA fired the engineer of the southbound train, claiming he went through a red signal onto a single track, colliding head-on with a second train.
However, confidential documents obtained by the CBS 3 I-Team, indicate much deeper safety problems. In fact, testimony connected to SEPTA’s own crash investigation shows that the systems designed to prevent crashes did not work. A train breeching a red signal should have immediately set off three alarms inside SEPTA’s main control center including one with a loud shriek.
Yet at a closed door hearing into the crash - two different employees on duty that day testified they never saw or heard any warnings.
Union Official Question: "At the time it is alleged the engineer passed the signal did you witness an audible or visual alarm?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "No"
Whether the alarms actually went off is in dispute. Another control room worker reported that ‘phantom alarms’ indicating trains are going through red signals when in fact they are not, are so common that controllers may ignore them.
Union Official Question: "Does this mean that you routinely click off, on, or ignore certain alerts because the system gives you phantom warnings?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "Yes, we call them hiccups, burps or whatever."
Union Official Question: "Does this happen frequently?"
SEPTA Employee Answer: "In certain areas, yes mainly on a Main Line, Center City"
The Union is appealing the train engineer's dismissal. At the time, SEPTA said all of the train signals were working properly.
On Wednesday, SEPTA officials would not comment because the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash. However, SEPTA reiterated that its regional rail system has an excellent safety record.
Stop me if you're shocked by these findings... This is on top of the lack of adequate security at SEPTA's rail yards, the decision by the SEPTA "Transit Police" to discontinue it's plainclothes patrols, and the Powelton Yard fiasco where a suspicious device (later found to be harmless) was stored in a locker at the rail yard for nearly a week.
Feel safer now?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Within a 15 hour period on Sunday, SEPTA "Transit Police" were involved in a shooting of a robbery suspect and responded to a shooting near City Hall station. The first incident occurred at around 00:30 when the suspect allegedly robbed his victim at an ATM at 44-Market in West Philadelphia. The suspect then fled from officers, firing at police before being shot three times. The suspect was transported to HUP in critical condition. Later on Sunday, at around 15:45, a man was shot in the back by an unknown subject as he exited the Broad Street Line's City Hall station at Dilworth Plaza. No further information was available.
Of course, it would be nice if SEPTA would at least make it's crime statistics available for public review. The Port Authority of Allegheny County does so through the State Police web site; WMATA posts a crime blotter on its web site. SEPTA, for reasons that make no sense, apparently wants to keep this data a secret, just like everything else about this agency...
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Currently, in the event of a major catastrophy - or for that matter, a BS call - underground, neither Philadelphia Police nor Fire can communicate within the subway or regional rail tunnels due to an obsolete radio system. So, while SEPTA spends money on James Bond-like bomb detection equipment, the underground radio system's shortcomings are glaringly ignored, or, in typical fashion under "Safety Czar" James B. Jordan, pushed to the back burner, as pointed out in today's Ink-waster:
Five years after 9/11, the Philadelphia region has a good grasp of what it must do to make itself safer:
Secure its international airport, patrol its port, guard its power grid, protect its refineries, safeguard its subway and trains, stockpile food and medicine, plan a large-scale evacuation, even prepare for mass cremations.
Knowing all of that is one thing. Doing it is another matter entirely.
Take the problem with SEPTA and its tunnels.
After commuters died in attacks on Madrid and London trains, the danger here is well understood.
If terrorists set off subterranean bombs, responding police and firefighters face a huge problem: Their communications don't work underground.
But rigging the tunnels for communications would cost millions. And SEPTA's security chief says that any fix would likely be obsolete by the time it was installed.
SEPTA's problem is a metaphor for disaster readiness in the region: Key problems have been identified, but solutions remain expensive and elusive.
With the terrorist threat ever-morphing and money tight, the region struggles to prioritize risk and make smart choices for an attack that might never come.
In June, a mayoral task force identified SEPTA's tunnel dilemma as one in a host of regional shortcomings. Should catastrophe strike, its report warned, Philadelphia might be "quickly overwhelmed."
Or, Philadelphia could be overwhelmed by thousands of concert-goers trying to get home after a major event on the Parkway. Oh, wait, I forgot about Live 8...
The task force's report zeroed in on SEPTA's communications troubles as an egregious failing. The FBI, too, has studied mass transit in a classified report shared with local police.
James B. Jordan, SEPTA's security chief, called the issue the agency's "highest threat area."
His explanation why is chilling because it is so matter-of-fact: "The use of an explosion has the greatest impact in an underground environment."
Jordan said it would cost $18 million or more to solve the communication problem, a sum almost as great as the entire regional Homeland Security federal grant for the coming fiscal year.
"Nobody has that kind of money," he said. "Our fear is that it would be obsolete by the time it took to install it."
SEPTA does. Problem is, it's just tied up in garbage projects such as the Cross-County and $chuylkill Valley rail corridors/boondoggles, or for other ridiculous projects requested by the political hacks across the region.
SEPTA has made stopgap fixes. In the last year, it bought a relatively inexpensive transmitter that police or firefighters could lug to an explosion or accident site to permit communication. But it might take up to 30 minutes to deliver and set up, Jordan said.
Here's a concept. How about just purchasing more SEPTA-issued portable radios as reserve and issue them to officers or fire-fighters when responding underground? Or would that make too much sense?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Merged with Route 133, now a one-seat ride between West Chester and King of Prussia
New peak hour express service between King of Prussia and PA 252/Chesterbrook Blvd
Weekday peak headways 60 minutes, off-peak and Saturday headways 90 minutes
Run times increased 5-7 minutes due to new routing at Montgomery County Community College/Whitpain campus
Weekdays to Chestnut Hill: Trips from Montgomery Mall between 08:35 through 17:35 depart 5 minutes later
All trips now routed to directly serve Conshohocken Rail Station (R6 Norristown)
Peak hour short-turns now originate at Swedeland Rd/River Rd, Upper Merion
AM and PM "Reverse-peak" short-turns between Conshohocken and Gulph Mills eliminated
Run time adjustments across the board
Weekdays to Gulph Mills: 06:00 from Conshohocken extended to Plymouth Meeting Mall, departing at 05:40, 06:38 departs Plymouth Meeting Mall 2 minutes later, 07:23 through 08:55 depart Plymouth Meeting 15 minutes later, mid-day service between 09:45 and 14:45 depart 20 minutes earlier, 18:25 departs Plymouth Meeting 10 minutes later, 20:20 departs Plymouth Metting at 20:00, 22:20 departs Plymouth Meeting 10 minutes later
Weekdays to Plymouth Meeting Mall: 06:10 departs Gulph Mills 5 minutes later, AM peak trips from 06:25 through 08:50 depart 5 minutes earlier, 09:35 trip eliminated, mid-day service from 10:30 to 14:30 departs 20 minutes earlier, 20:12 departs at 20:35, 21:12 departs at 21:55
Saturdays to Gulph Mills: 07:45 through 09:45 and 11:41 depart 3 minutes earlier, 15:40 through 17:40 depart 2 minutes earlier, 19:47 and 20:47 depart 7 minutes earlier, 21:45 and 22:45 depart 5 minutes earlier
Run time adjustments northbound north of MCCC and southbound south of MCCC due to new routing
Weekdays to Willow Grove: New 10:06, 11:05, 12:05 and 14:05 short-turns from Jolly Rd/Union Meeting Rd, Whitpain to Plymouth Meeting Mall
Weekdays to Norristown: New 09:55, 10:55, 11:55, and 13:55 short-turns from Plymouth Meeting Mall to Jolly Rd/Union Meeting Rd, Whitpain, 15:30 and 16:30 depart Willow Grove 5 minutes earlier, 16:29 depart Ambler 1 minute earlier, 17:30 departs Ambler 3 minutes later, 18:40 departs Willow Grove 10 minutes earlier, 19:40 departs Willow Grove 5 minutes earlier
Saturdays to Norristown: 11:20 departs Willow Grove 10 minutes earlier
New routing via Trooper Rd, Shannondell Blvd, and Egypt Rd; all run-times adjusted accordingly
New routing via Swedesford Rd, eliminating Chesterbrook Blvd service; all run-times adjusted accordingly
ROUTES 127 and 128
Minor weekday run-time adjustments
Weekday and Saturday run-time adjustments; seasonal service to Sesame Place ended
Weekday and Saturday run-time adjustments
Saturdays to Franklin Mills: 08:45 departs Newtown 5 minutes earlier, 09:50, 10:50, 13:55 through 17:55, and 18:50 depart Newtown 10 minutes earlier, 11:52 and 12:52 departs 12 minutes earlier
Weekdays to Montgomery Mall: Run time adjustments with no changes to departure times
Weekdays to Chestnut Hill: 16:30 and 17:50 departs 5 minutes later
18:05 departs Fort Washington Rail Station 5 minutes later, 18:16 departs 601 Office Center Dr, Upper Dublin, 4 minutes later
Weekdays to Norristown: New 09:15 Bryn Mawr local, 18:48 Norristown local departs 3 minutes later, new 18:55 Hughes Park local
Weekdays to 69 St: New 09:40 local from Bryn Mawr, new 19:23 express from Hughes Park, 19:22 departs Norristown 1 minute later, 19:38 departs Norristown 2 minutes later
Weekdays to Media: 07:00, 07:20, and 07:40 locals now express, 07:43 local to Springfield departs 1 minute earlier, new 08:00 Media local, 08:13 Media local departs 7 minutes later, 08:43 Media local departs 3 minutes earlier, mid-day service (pre-construction) restored, departing 69 St at :00 and :30 between 09:00 and 13:00 and every 20 minutes between 13:00 and 15:40
Weekdays to 69 St: 08:06 departs Woodland Av 1 minute earlier, 08:28 departs Scenic Rd 2 minutes earlier, new 08:40 Media local, 09:02 departs Media 2 minutes earlier, new 09:20 from Media, mid-day service departs 5 minutes later between 09:32 and 13:02; 20 minute headways between 13:40 and 16:20
Weekdays to Sharon Hill: 07:10 and 07:25 Sharon Hill locals now Express, 07:45 departs 2 minutes later, new 08:30 Sharon Hill local, mid-day service restored to depart at :15 and :45 mid-days 08:45 to 12:45 and 20 minutes from 13:10 to 15:50, add 14:15 Aldan local (school tripper)
Weekdays to 69 St: 07:59 departs Sharon Hill 1 minute earlier, 08:22 departs Sharon Hill 2 minutes later, 08:35 departs Sharon Hill 5 minutes later, new 09:00 Sharon Hill local, mid-day service 30 minutes between 09:29 and 13:23 and 20 minutes from 13:42 to 16:20
Weekdays to Ardmore: Minor run-time adjustments
Weekdays to 69 St: 07:18 and 14:20 depart Ardmore 2 minutes later, 16:26 departs 2 minutes earlier, 18:52 departs 3 minutes later, 19:22 departs 8 minutes later
Weekdays to Newtown Square/West Chester: Overall run-time adjustments all day
Weekdays to 69 St: 06:16 departs Newtown Square 2 minutes earlier, new 06:48 from Springfield Rd, 07:17 departs Newtown Square 4 minutes earlier, new 08:00 local from Newtown Square, 08:25 departs Newtown Square 2 minutes later, new 09:19 local from Newtown Square, 08:55 departs West Chester University 10 minutes later, 09:25 departs WCU 5 minutes later, 10:20 through 13:50 from West Chester depart 5 minutes earlier, 13:15 Friday only non-stop express from WCU restored for the school year, 14:20 local departs Newtown Square 3 minutes earlier, 14:45 and 14:55 depart Newtown Square 2 minutes earlier, 14:20 local from WCU departs 2 minutes earlier, 15:20 express from WCU departs 5 minutes earlier, 15:50 express from WCU departs 3 minutes later, 16:11 departs Newtown Square Corp Campus 1 minute earlier, 16:20 express from WCU departs 8 minutes later, 16:50 express departs WCU 3 minutes later, 18:00 and 18:28 depart Newtown Square Corp Campus 5 minutes earlier, 17:20 express departs WCU 3 minutes later, 17:50 and 18:20 locals depart WCU 5 minutes later, new 18:49 local from Newtown Square , 20:05 and 21:05 depart Newtown Square 1 minute earlier, 22:06 departs Newtown Square 1 minute later
Sunday: 17:35 to Newtown Square and 18:14 return trip eliminated
Weekdays to Ardmore/Paoli: 05:20 departs 5 minutes earlier, overall run-time adjustments
Weekdays to 69 St: 06:40 departs 63- Malvern 2 minutes later, 08:35 departs City Line/Haverford Av 2 minutes later, all trips between 08:10 and 19:15 depart Paoli 5 minutes later, 09:05 from Ardmore eliminated, 10:17 departs Ardmore 6 minutes later, 11:18, 12:18, and 13:18 depart Ardmore 5 minutes later, 14:09 departs Radnor 4 minutes later, 16:16 departs Radnor 2 minutes later, 17:15 departs Radnor 5 minutes later, 18:27 departs Ardmore 6 minutes later
Saturday to Paoli: Run-time adjustments
Saturday to 69 St: All trips between 07:50 and 11:50 depart Paoli 10 minutes later, all trips between 13:00 and 16:00 depart Paoli 5 minutes later
Service merged with former Route 122, operating over the 122 segment between Clifton Heights and Springfield Mall with an extension to Lawrence Park via Sproul Rd, late evening round-trips added
All runs now assigned to Red Arrow; school trippers in service for school year
Weekdays to Philadelphia International Airport: 15 minute mid-day service to 84-Crane between 08:55 and 13:55, service to Airport Business Center reduced to one trip per hour, 20:25 to ABC departs 5 minutes earlier, 21:00 to UPS departs 10 minutes earlier, new 21:10 to UPS, 21:25 to UPS departs 5 minutes later, 21:40 to UPS departs 10 minutes later, new 22:15 to 67-Elmwood, overall run time adjustments
Weekdays to 69 St: 06:37 from Airport Business Center departs 3 minutes later, 07:20 departs 67-Elmwood 5 minutes later, major departure time adjustments entire day
Weekdays to 69 St: 06:30 and 07:30 from Springfield Mall cut back and originate at Pilgrim Gardens, 20:00 from Springfield Mall eliminated
Weekdays to Penn State/Chadds Ford: 22:22 to Chadds Ford cut back to State Rd/Township Line Rd, overall run-time adjustments
Weekdays to 69 St: 06:25 departs Chadds Ford 15 minutes later, 07:30 from State Rd/Township Line Rd departs 12 minutes later, 07:10 and 07:45 express from Chadds Ford depart 5 minutes later, 14;10 and 15:10 depart Chadds Ford 5 minutes later, new 14:30 from PSU/DelCo, 15:05 departs PSU/DelCo 15 minutes later, 17:00 and 18:00 depart Chadds Ford 5 minutes later, 17:30 from Chadds Ford departs 5 minutes earlier, 20:31 from Franklin Mint cut back to PSU/DelCo, 21:35 from PSU/DelCo cut with service replaced by 21:05 express from Chadds Ford
Two additional express trips to Delaware County Community College in both directions, departing 69 St at 10:10 and 11:10 and departing DCCC at 13:05 and 16:05
Overall run-time and inbound departure time adjustments to accomodate new routing to Harrah's Chester Downs complex
Weekdays to Brookline: 19:35, 20:10 and 22:05 depart MacDade Mall at 19:05, 19:50, and 21:35
Weekdays to MacDade Mall: 20:50 departs Brookline at 20:30
Weekdays to Chester: 07:05 from Boothwyn now originates at Cheyney, departing at 06:45
Sunday to Chester: Run-time adjustments
Full school-year service restored, all weekday trips with the exception of one early evening short-turn trip, to provide one-seat ride to Cheyney
Weekday, Saturday, and Sunday run-time adjustments
Saturday to 69 St: 11:05 departs King of Prussia 5 minutes earlier, trips departing King of Prussia from 11:40 through 19:40 depart 10 minutes earlier, 20:20 departs King of Prussia 5 minutes earlier
R5 Paoli-Thorndale service was suspended during the morning due to unknown issues that have yet to be identified (possibly a tree down along the tracks, but there's be absolutely nothing about it in any media outlet). Unfortunately, your fearless blogger found out the hard way, after wasting an hour at Downingtown station, only to have a fellow passenger inform everyone else at the station that KYW had reported that service was suspended. Bear in mind there are speakers at the Downingtown station. Gee, it would've been nice if someone from SEPTA could've made an announcement to that effect, but I guess the moron responsible for that was probably on vacation. Barring that, it would've been at least common decency to send a white-shirt out to the stations along the line and post signs indicating that service was suspended. Wait, that would've made too much sense...
Meanwhile, a downed tree along Phoenixville Pike near Saunders Ln in West Goshen forced the detour of the 92 via US 322, Pottstown Pike, and Green Hill Rd. The incident was initially reported at around 05:00, yet at 17:45, the road was still closed. Way to go, West Goshen Twp/PennDOT!
The weekend wouldn't have been such a disaster, except for the tiny little matter of the 15:10 104 bus from West Chester that for reasons unknown, never made it to West Chester, which of course caused a bit of an overflow on the 16:10 departure out of West Chester. A call to SEPTA's Customer Dis-services proved fruitless as the operator was unable/unwilling to explain why the bus never made it.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your SEPTA fare dollars at work...
Friday, September 01, 2006
First, SEPTA began plasterning ads on the tops of its buses, which are about aesthetically appealing as vomit on the stairways of City Hall station. Then, SEPTA dropped it's policy prohibiting alcohol advertising, against the loud protests from Philadelphia officials. Now, comes the latest ad blitz - a single company/product purchasing all the advertising at a particular transit hub.
The transit hub in question is 69 Street Terminal. And, in a move that should really make those who were less than enthusiastic about alcohol ads even less so, the company that has pulled this off - by not only buying every available ad spot but also hanging at least two very visible banners of the barrier of the upper level of the main hall and brand new hanging ads in the main waiting area - is none other than that great, wholesome, family friendly beverage...
Yes, that's right, SEPTA has all but sold out 69 St Terminal to a beer company.
Perhaps SEPTA could put some of that suds money to use by making the restrooms inside the terminal, well, less of a bio-hazard. The restrooms at 69 St are so bad, that if Upper Darby's L&I officers saw the same conditions at a privately owned building, restaurant, or bar, I guarantee you those places would be padlocked.
Despite a small dip in crude oil costs since the cease-fire in Lebanon, rising demand in India and China and ongoing violence in the Middle East have pushed per barrel costs to $70 and above, meaning biodiesel — a mixture of vegetable oil or grease and diesel — is now no more expensive than regular diesel. So earlier this month, the state started accepting applications from transit authorities, government agencies and nonprofits for Alternative Fuels Incentive Grants (AFIGs), which would offset extra costs associated with switching to biodiesel. Since 1992, the program has allocated nearly $30 million for the production and use of clean-burning fuels; there is no cap on individual grants.
So, SEPTA, why not give biodiesel a try?
SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney hadn't heard of the grant until a reporter told him, but even after reviewing the specifics, he declared that no one can provide the five-county agency the 15 million gallons of diesel fuel a year it needs.
Sounds like it took our beloved Minister of Mis-Information and Shadow GM about 10 minutes to review the specifics, naturally with very little research.
But a few calls to providers proved the opposite is true. Massachusetts-based World Energy sends more biofuel to Philadelphia by rail car than anywhere else in the country. An official at a biodiesel company in Pennsylvania (who asked to remain anonymous in case the company applies for a city contract) says it could easily fill an order SEPTA's size. In fact, within a year, Pennsylvania could be the nation's leading producer of biodiesel, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Still, since SEPTA gets its fuel via pipeline directly from the Sunoco refinery in South Philly, Maloney says, it has no place to mix the "bio" parts with the diesel.
"We will not be applying for the fundamental reason that it is at the moment logistically impossible for us to mix the fuels at the capacity we need," he says.
That may be the case now, but Sunoco spokesperson Gerald Davis said the company would consider carrying biodiesel if customers like SEPTA requested it. (SEPTA says it hasn't asked for it because Sunoco doesn't offer it.)
While buses could run on biodiesel with no equipment changes, a preliminary report released last week by the state Transportation Funding and Reform Commission confirms Maloney's assertion that the cash-strapped agency couldn't ask taxpayers to pay for upgrades needed for fuel mixing.
"For us to retool a huge infrastructure for 1,300 buses is something we can't turn on a dime," he says, adding that SEPTA would be open to a biodiesel plan that is "economically and environmentally practical."
Considering that SEPTA has already phased in a different type of diesel fuel (Ultra Low Sulfer Diesel) aleady at Southern Depot with plans to convert all depots to that type in the near future, there's no reason why one of the depots - possibly Allegheny or Frankford, which have relatively small fleets compared to the rest of the system - couldn't be the test depots for biodiesel.
But the real problem isn't biodiesel, says Lance Haver, the city's director of consumer affairs. It's SEPTA.
Although SEPTA's service planning and purchasing departments are supposed to research the best fueling options, Haver would like to see an environmental officer dedicated to these solutions.
"There is no one at SEPTA who is in charge of greening SEPTA and that is an indication of how little they care," he says. "If they were really concerned about these issues, you wouldn't have to talk to the same person who tells you why the trains are late."
You'd probably also have to talk to the same person in charge of everything else at SEPTA, from lying about crime stats to whining about a lack of support for dedicated funding from Harrisburg. That, of course, would be Maloney.
SEPTA has made some attempts to go green. Of its 1,300 buses, 32 are diesel-electric hybrids, which use less fuel than traditional diesel buses. Maloney, however, cautions that the hybrids are not as fuel efficient as expected, cost about twice as much as conventional buses and, because they are in high demand, take time to procure.
Cost and availability are some of the reasons public transit authorities, large and small, have embraced biodiesel.
In Seattle, King County Metro, which runs as many buses as SEPTA, put half its fleet, or 675 buses, on B20 (a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent regular diesel fuel). While maintenance manager Jim Boon wasn't quick to make the change, he says the fuel has proved reliable.
Small systems such as RabbitTransit, York County's public transit authority, which runs just 74 vehicles, have phased in biodiesel concentrations. In February, executive director Richard Farr put the whole fleet on B5. Six months later, 20 vehicles were running on B20, and by year's end, he wants to upgrade all vehicles to B20 to reduce diesel usage.
Farr noted that the alternative fuel lubricates engines, making them more efficient, which could help SEPTA use its buses beyond their typical 12-year life.
The switchover has also given RabbitTransit a shot of positive PR. (Think SEPTA's "Genuine Philly" marketing campaign minus the cheese factor.) "The more cars we can get off the road and the cleaner our vehicles run," says Farr, "the better it is for everyone."
Cheese factor? How about the "pointless" factor? Or the "irrelevant" factor? Or the "what specific services do we offer" factor?
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Valley Forge Park use biodiesel, too, proving that the fuel is available locally. SEPTA riders already save on fuel by leaving their cars at home, but Bob Grey, a World Energy vice president of business development, says environmentalists need not feel twinges of fuel guilt when buses run on biodiesel.
Well, since the Turnpike is using biodiesel, perhaps Maloney and Don Pasquale - who last time I checked was a Turnpike Commissioner - should have a little chat before SEPTA closes it's doors to biodiesel.
"You can't deny that putting the farmer back in the field is a good thing," he says, "or that reducing foreign dependency on oil is a good thing."
SEPTA's Maloney remains skeptical.
"Many, many times when these proposals are really studied through," he says, "their benefits do not meet their initial promise."
Yeah, like the way you thoroughly studied this proposal?
But if a local company succeeds, SEPTA could one day run on grease discarded from city eateries. Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel plans to make fuel from trap grease, which, unlike used fryer oil, is the slime leftover when restaurants wash dishes. Having just garnered the mayor's support for a state grant, the company expects to produce the fuel in 2008.
For now, the city plans to apply for the AFIG grant SEPTA rejected. Fleet manager James Muller says the biodiesel would fuel the 3,000 diesel vehicles used by the city, the School District, the Parking Authority and the Housing Authority.
"Anything that comes down the pike, we're interested," he says. "We need to start doing something, with the condition of the world today."
What does it tell you that the City of Philadelphia, which is not known for it's ability to think ahead of the curve, is actually light years ahead of SEPTA on anything? And how does SEPTA, which whines about a lack of money to do anything while at the same time pushes a $2 billion boondoggle down the collective throats of this region pass up an opportunity to investigate alternative fuels?
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Meanwhile, in the Great Valley area, several services will be initiated to expand transit services in from the Great Valley and Paoli areas to the Coatesville and West Chester areas. The TMA of Chester County will sponsor a new "B" route between Coatesville, Downingtown, and Exton to Great Valley, which is expected to begin sometime this fall. The service, along with two new SEPTA routes, are part of the US 202 Congestion Mitigation Strategy for the Section 300 construction between PA 29 and US 30.
The two new SEPTA routes will be the 205, which will cover some portions of the existing 206, but will be extended to office parks further up PA 29 and into Charlestown Twp. The 306 will connect Great Valley with West Chester and the Brandywine Town Center in Delaware, operating via Frazer, US 202, West Chester, Chadds Ford, and Wilmington Pike. The two SEPTA routes, however, will not be started until December at the earliest due to issues in awarding contracts to a third-party (read: Krap(f)'s). This raises a very troubling issue...
When SEPTA added two new routes "from scratch" in Lower Bucks - the late 203 between Woodbourne and Oxford Valley and the 304 between Torresdale and Bristol - SEPTA kept those routes in house. When the 305 between the Airport and Darby was created, that too was kept in house. However, with every new SEPTA service in Chester County (the original 202, 314, 204, 208, 207/WHIRL) came a contract with Krap(f)'s to operate the service as opposed to keeping the service in house.
Why SEPTA repeatedly opts to contract out new services in Chester County but not the other counties is beyond any rational logic, unless Krap(f)'s -which can't even run a halfway decent transit service between Coatesville and West Chester (including using school buses on several occasions) - is greasing the palms in West Chester and at 1234 Market.
Meanwhile, back to Bucks. From what I've been able to gather, the new Bensalem RUSH will honor SEPTA fare instruments (at least SEPTA passes) as it does on all their other RUSH routes and the Doylestown DART. As best as I can tell, SEPTA does not have a similar arrangement in place with the other TMAs in the region. This is yet another double standard that SEPTA is not really in a hurry to correct in the forseeable future. This is a relevant point, because there's been nothing to indicate that the TMACC's new "B" route will honor SEPTA fare instruments.
ROUTE 3 - One boarding berth on Pratt St is eliminated except during peak hours
ROUTE 5 - Buses will move up one berth on Pratt St, taking over one of the existing 3 berths; existing 5 berth will become a discharge-only berth for the 3 and 5
ROUTE 8 - Will continue to board inside the Bridge-Pratt complex along the Bridge St side (adjacent to Frankford Depot)
ROUTE 14 - Existing berths will become discharge-only for the 8, 24, and R; new berths will be moved to the current 20 berths
ROUTE 19 - Will be relocated to the current 24 berth
ROUTE 20 - Will be relocated to the current 19/67 berths
ROUTE 24 - Will be relocated to the current 88 berth on near the corner of Frankford Av/Pratt St (near the newsstand)
ROUTE 25, 73, and 84 - Will be relocated off of Bridge St to the south side of the new Bridge St Terminal building (parallel to Bustleton Av)
ROUTE 26 - Will continue to board inside the Bridge-Pratt complex along the Bridge St side (adjacent to Frankford Depot)
ROUTE 58 - NO CHANGE; will continue to board in the bus lane on the south side of the main terminal building
ROUTE 66 - Will be relocated off of Bridge St to the north side of the new terminal building
ROUTE 67 - Will be relocated to one of the current R berths
ROUTE 88 - Will be relocated off the terminal property and board on Bridge St at the current 66 bus berths
ROUTE R - One of the two berths will be eliminated
The new parking deck will officially open for business on Tuesday. The facility will be a "self-park" facility with no cashiers at the exit gate, however there will also be no free parking on the weekend ($3.25 daily rate weekdays, $2.00 on weekends).
101/102 - Pre-construction service has been restored; mid-day 101 trolleys depart for Media at :00 and :30 after the hour; mid-day 102 trolleys depart for Sharon Hill at :15 and :45 after the hour
108 - Additional early evening service added between 19:00 and 22:00
110/111/117 - The bus stop at Penn State/Delaware County has been relocated to the new driveway to the front of the Commons Building
111 - Trip time adjustments to/from Chadds Ford
113 - Now service the new Chester Downs racetrack/slots parlor* at 4 St/Morton Av; additionally, the SEPTA web site now indicates that buses will terminate/originate in Marcus Hook at 4 St/Green St instead of Delaware Av/Green St
119 - New trip between Chester and Cheyney University added
120 - All weekday trips, with the exception of one early evening trip, are one-seat rides between 69 St and Cheyney (which was long overdue; the shuttles that were initiated a few years ago should never have seen the light of day)
Meanwhile, on Monday, the day of the schedule change, there were no new timetables available at 1234 Market, Suburban Station, or Market East. On Tuesday, new timetables were available at 1234 Market, however, not all of the new timetables were printed out at any location. As of yesterday, timetables for the 100, 104, 105, 108, 110, 114, and 118 were photocopied as opposed to the printed timetables for all other routes. To not have the new timetables available to the public on the day they take effect is just staggering.
And, to top it all off, yesterday, there were still timetables available for the old 122 route at 1234 Market. Brilliant...
* - Slots parlor subject to Harrisburg figuring out what the hell they're doing...
Thursday, August 24, 2006
According to an AP article, at least three SEPTA Board members are among the many investors, albeit small, in two groups vying for slots licenses in different parts of the state:
Two board members of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Pasquale Deon and James Schwartzman, joined Las Vegas Sands Inc. in its pursuit of a Bethlehem slots parlor by virtue of their long-standing personal and professional ties to company executives, a Sands spokesman said.
Another SEPTA board member and Philadelphia labor leader, Herman Wooden, joined a sprawling group of business people in the city in search of a company to run the casino. They eventually found Robert Earl, the founder of Planet Hollywood, said the group's spokesman, Jay Devine.
Many of the stakes owned by local partners will be tiny.
Great. Politics as usual at 1234 Market...
"Schuylkill Valley Metro -- gone -- that isn’t going to happen."
This according to the Daily Local News in today's editions. While gracious enough to interrupt his very busy schedule as an Iggles commentator to play the role that the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania elected him to do - you know, that rather minor position known as Governor which requires the person to competently run the state government. Rendell told the editorial board of the Norristown Times-Herald (a sister paper to the Daily Local) that exact quote in describing the current status of the controversial project.
"We’ll never get the (necessary) funding."
The sad part is that anyone with half a brain (which automatically disqualifies 90 percent of teh Rotating Resumes at 1234 Market) could've figured that out.
The state’s share for the rail project is $300 million. The rest would have to come from the federal government or private investors. Rendell said cost-cutting measures had been discussed.
"In light of the new construction costs, it’s untenable," he said.The cost of highway construction has gotten so expensive the state is considering toll roads in the future to pay for building and maintaining the Commonwealth’s roadways, said the governor.
Obviously, Rendell seems to have bigger priorities in mind, such as, the Iggles pre-season and getting re-elected.
The Ink-waster reports in today's edition that the super-secret task force established by state Transportation czar Allen Biehler was in the process of pulling the plug on said task force, a group so secret, even SEPTA officials were left out of the loop (which, to an extent, may not have been such a bad idea at the time).
Biehler conceded yesterday that those discussions proved futile. No option that the group discussed, he said, would meet the stringent cost per passenger formulas needed to qualify for federal funding.
The task foce has not met since last fall, and Biehler said it will soon disband.
I think I speak for a majority of the riding public when I ask, "Who the hell knew you guys were meeting in the first place?"
Not surprsingly, many elected officals in the western suburbs, still recovering from the freshly placed wounds in their collective backs were less than thrilled with King Eddie's "no can do" addy-tude. Leading off, U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-6th/West Pikeland):
"It was unfortunate and premature for the governor to make that statement ... But there are still a lot of things to look at yet before someone says it's dead.
"Thirty million dollars, that’s a significant investment by taxpayers, which tells me that we still have a significant amount of work that should" be done to justify that expenditure...
"You can run with a diesel train, you can run with ground-level platforms, you can run with less frequent service ... you don't necessarily need the Cadilac version in order to reestablish service."
Next up, State Sen. James Refferty (R-44th/Collegeville):
"We’re all in agreement there’s a need for a line in the area."
Commissioner Thomas Jay Ellis (R-Montgomery County/Anger Management Class):
"The county’s definitely committed to this for a number of reasons." ... Ellis referenced the need for revitalizing local areas in cities like Pottstown and Reading where there is already development.
"We don’t want to see any more sprawl in this area," he said.
Barry Cassidy, executive director of Phoenixville’s Main Street program, said he was not sure of the status of the project.
"But if the Schuylkill Valley Metro is dead, then we will try to push for an (SEPTA) R-6 extension from Norristown," he said Wednesday.
Which is exactly what should've been done in the first place! DUH!
State Rep. Carole Rubley, R-157th, of Tredyffrin,called Rendell’s comments "discouraging." "It is discouraging to hear him say that because we will need his support to free up those funds," she said Wednesday, referring to the state’s $300 million share of the project. "It’s a terrific project. Whether its doable remains to be seen."
Rubley emphasized that there is still a lot of interest in the project and stakeholders were working to find creative solutions to pare down costs.
Whether or not the geniuses at 1234 Market get the message remains to be seen...
(NOTE: As of the time of this posting - 03:04 hours - the Inky had yet to update it's web site to accomodate posting of it's article.)
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Part of the commission's work has been to audit the efficiency of SEPTA and other state transit agencies. That report is not yet available, but SEPTA's efficiency "stacked up quite well among transit organizations of similar size," [PennDOT czar Allen] Biehler said.
You're kidding, right? Either this audit was yet another rubber stamp of the status quo at 1234 Market, or mass transit in this country is poorly managed across the board (the article does note that the article should be available on the commission's web site as early as today)...
The preliminary report reveals little of the commission's preferences but does affirm that SEPTA has not been exaggerating budget woes, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said.
"It confirms and validates the scope of the financial crisis that we have been struggling with for years," Maloney said. "For us, that is a great step forward... . It isn't an answer, but it's a good starting point."
A really good starting point would be for the Minister of Mis-Information to get served his walking papers, but that's been a long standing position of this blog for quite some time...
The audit did note SEPTA's "unusually large" 15-member board. It noted that 80 percent of the SEPTA board, but only 20 percent of SEPTA's riders and local funding, come from outside Philadelphia, creating friction between the city and its suburban counties.
Friction between the city and suburbs? Really, you don't say... Even the most veteran of SEPTA observers could've said that the friction has existed.
Once the report is available on the state's web site, I'll review it and offer more comments...
The 101/102 will revert back to it's standard scheduling as opposed to the same departure/arrival times that had been in place due to construction on the MSHL main line between Drexel Hill Jct and 69 St. The 108 will now be operated entirely out of Red Arrow as opposed to the current Red Arrow/Southern split, presumably as a cost saving measure. Will try to post more information as it becomes available...
Monday, July 24, 2006
The first interesting observation is that SEPTA "Transit Police" are putting new patrol cars on the street. The new cars are Chevy Impala's, which are (1) less expensive than the current fleet of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor models and (2) get better fuel mileage (approx. 3 mpg) than the Ford CVPI. I guess all those years imploring SEPTA to become more fuel efficient are slowly starting to pay off. Now, if they could start to phase out those SUV's for the white-shirts and replace them with vehicles that don't guzzle as much gas, then I'd believe there's a committment to cutting costs.
Meanwhile, on the operations front, there's talk that all Southern's portion of the 108 could be moved to Red Arrow by the fall picking. Whether or not that means that all 108 trips would originate and terminate at 69 St instead of seeing buses deadhead from Upper Darby to the Airport or Southwest Philadelphia remains to be seen. There's also no word on how this will affect the school trippers that operate to and from the Pepper Middle School or Bartram High that are based off of the 108.
Of course, there's no limited access highway connecting West Philly with Upper Darby, but traffic flow during most hours along Walnut and Chestnut isn't too bad, so there's no reason why non-stop service couldn't be implemented.
And, of course, SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information Richard Maloney made an appearance on Monday. After a stop at 69 St, Maloney made his way over to 40 St to "assist" with the operation of the shuttle. So, of course, being a good SEPTA hack, Maloney did ride with the people on the shuttle buses from 69 St to 40 St, right? Ummm, no...
Apparently using status that would nominally be reserved for Fearless Leader or some other high ranking Rotating Resume, Maloney and an unidentified female Hack were given a non-stop ride from 69 St to 40 St ... in the back of a SEPTA "Transit Police" cruiser driven by a high ranking "Transit Police" Lieutenant.
Well, at least someone was able to secure a SEPTA-operated non-stop ride between the two endpoints...
The running of the shuttles also allowed for the largest gathering of SEPTA "Transit Police" seen in Upper Darby since ... well, let me get back to you on that. No fewer than 8 "Transit Police" officers were observed going what they tend to do best - stand around, do very little, and wait for the next call to come in. Now, if only SEPTA's "Transit Police" were only half as vigilant at NJ Transit Police, then perhaps the quote marks around "Transit Police" will be removed. Until then, nothing's going to change...
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The mess started at around 07:00, when two teenage girls were struck by a SEPTA bus at 29-Allegheny in North Philadelphia. The injuries were non-life threatening.
Shortly after that incident, a 23 bus was involved in an accident involving 3 other vehicles on the 7500 block of Germantown Av in Chestnut Hill. At least two passengers on the bus were taken to local hospitals.
Later in the afternoon, police and EMS were dispatched at around 13:30 to Glenolden, where a tresspasser was struck and killed by a train along the NEC/R2 Marcus Hook line in the area of Ashland Av bridge. Service was delayed by about 20 minutes in both directions until around 17:00, when service slowly returned to normal (my R2 from Delaware - scheduled to depart Claymont at 16:51 - was delayed by less than 10 minutes; arrived in Chester only 7 minutes down, but missed my connection to the 118).
Two hours later, in Bucks County, a 24-year-old male was struck and killed by a train near Chalfont Station on the R5 Lansdale line. The victim was discovered at around 15:30 by a northbound train crew. It is believed that the victim may have been struck by an earlier train; the matter is still under investigation.
Finally, a 73-year-old woman was struck and seriously injured in South Philadelphia. The incident occured shortly before 21:00 last night on the 400 block of Oregon in South Philadelphia as the victim was struck by a 57 bus. The victim was taken to Jefferson Hospital with severe leg injuries.
That's 7 people confirmed to have been killed or injured on the SEPTA system in a nearly 14 hour period due to accidents. Yipes...
Saturday, March 25, 2006
On a related note, Inky reporter Stephanie L Arnold must not be from around here. According to her article in today's editions, there are a couple of errors:
A 25-year-old man was stabbed twice in the ribs on the El last night at the Girard Street stop, according to police.
Police said the man, whose name was not released, was attacked about 7 p.m. by several men. The victim was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Witnesses said the attackers ran from the station.
SEPTA police held the train until East Detectives could respond to investigate. Inquirer
For starters, I've never heard of Girard Street - I have heard of Girard Avenue. Secondly, there were other reports from other reliable sources that place the incident at Spring Garden rather than Girard.
In any case, there hadn't been too many violent incidents on the system lately, but that's the way it goes... Perhaps we were due...
Thursday, January 12, 2006
During a ride into Center City on I-76, two passengers on a SEPTA bus got into a heated confrontation, police said.
Almost a dozen passengers were on the bus during the altercation.
“I’m glad I’m alive, that’s all I got to say,” said Mark Martin. “I heard two guys arguing, then I looked up and this guy had a 9mm in his hand asking him whether this guy had a problem with him. That’s when I ran up to the front.”
According to passengers, the suspect with the handgun approached the driver and asked to be let off.
“That’s when the guy with the gun ran up to the front and asked the bus driver to let him off the bus, he asked him like two or three times because the guy with the gun was trying to avoid the confrontation,” said Martin.
The operator of the 124 bus then pulled over near the Gladwynne on-ramp and waited for State Police/Belmont to arrive. Two Philadelphia men, Sidney Clayton and Sherman Jerome Bush-Knox, were arrested and charged with making terroristic threats.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Now, if only Fearless Leader would resolve to resign as SEPTA boss, "Brooksie" would resolve to keep his yap shut for the next 4 years, and the SEPTA "Tranist Police" could resolve to operate like a real police department instead of as glorified rent-a-cops who can't get a job with the Philadelphia Police, then all will be well in SEPTA land...
SEPTA's chief spokesman resolves to remember that his agency's job is to move people. All of them. And his boss, Pat Deon, vows to consider leasing equipment from New Jersey Transit when facing a holiday crunch.
The crush of people heading home from the July 2 Live8 concert turned Suburban Station into a transit nightmare. Thousands waited for hours in stifling heat for trains because SEPTA didn't have enough cars to handle the load. "This was our best day in SEPTA rail history," Maloney declared in grand "Baghdad Bob" style. "It could not have gone better."