SEPTA once again could be sick transit
It may be one of the few times when words spoke louder than actions.
Yesterday morning, SEPTA and the union representing 5,000 employees who operate the city division buses, trolleys and subways were headed back to the bargaining table in a prolonged effort to stop still another work stoppage for the transit giant.
Their contract was due to expire at midnight?
If they do not agree on a new deal, this morning’s commute will become something SEPTA riders have gotten all to use to, something akin to a nightmare.
All buses, trolleys and subways in the city will shut down.
Perhaps the key for the suburbs will be the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, where every day thousands board the Market Frankford El as their preferred way to get into the city. But a strike will idle the El, providing a hell of a problem for commuters trying to get into the city.
Luckily, the regional rail lines will continue to operate. So will buses and trolleys in the suburbs.
But be advised. Without city service and in the absence of a main artery in the Market Frankford El, the regional rails will be jammed. That means cars will fill up early, with many riders heading to the western-most stations to be sure they can get on a train. In past work stoppages, many riders standing at their normal stops farther east were dismayed to see trains already packed to the gills simply whisk by them on their way into the city.
Thinking of driving into the city? Good luck. At least you won’t be alone. The already overcrowded arteries such as the Schuylkill Expressway and I-95 will be even more crowded. Once you get to your destination in the city, good luck finding a parking spot.
Bottom line is this: Getting around is not going to be easy, and it will clearly reverberate out into the suburbs. SEPTA’s city division, in particular the Market Frankford El and Broad Street Line, ferry more than 311,000 people into and around the city every day. Anyone heading into the city who does not utilize the regional rail lines banks on the El. Take that out of the equation, and you have the potential for gridlock. Trolleys in the city carry another 83,000 people around the city.
Sick Transit? These guys wrote the book.
In the city, nothing will be running. Meaning kids won’t be getting to jobs, and people will be unable to get to jobs, including those doing a reverse commute, heading to 69th Street in Upper Darby for a job elsewhere in the suburbs.
You have to wonder just how much SEPTA riders can take.
This would mark only the latest in a series of setbacks for the transit agency.
Their regional rails would turned topsy-turvy all summer when their fleet of Silverliner V cars were found to include a serious structural defect. All the cars were taken out of service for the bulk of the summer, meaning a constant struggle to maintain on-time schedules. Instead, riders were too often left late, either out of luck getting into the city, or with interminable waits trying to get back home at night.
Here in Delaware County, riders on the Media-Elwyn line had their own summer of discontent. A much-needed capital improvement project to replace the Crum Creek bridge meant the line stopped and started at Swarthmore. If you wanted to go west of that point, you had to utilize a shuttle bus./
The transit agency continues to struggle to implement its smart card technology, something that puts it light years behind other major metropolitan transit agencies.
We hope for success at the bargaining table, where officials on both sides say large gaps remain. A marathon session Sunday failed to deliver an accord, nor east the minds of SEPTA’s much-maligned riders.
One rider after another we talked to at 69th Street Terminal threw up their hands when talking about the exasperation of dealing with SEPTA and its seemingly constant state of problems. They deserve better. We hope both sides can reach a deal.
As usual, it is precisely those residents who can least afford it who will be hurt the most in a strike by city division workers.
And don’t think we won’t feel it in the suburbs as well. SEPTA is a key cog in the region’s economy. A strike will hurt us all. Keep your fingers crossed.