Park­ing hard to find on Day 2 of Philadel­phia tran­sit strike

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Me­gan Trim­ble

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Frus­trated com­muters fought traf­fic jams and strug­gled to find park­ing Wed­nes­day as a tran­sit strike en­tered its sec­ond day with the city’s main tran­sit agency reporting progress at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble.

The walk­out be­gan early Tues­day af­ter the South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity and a union rep­re­sent­ing about 4,700 work­ers failed to reach a con­tract agree­ment, shut­ting down buses, trol­leys and sub­ways that pro­vide about 900,000 rides a day. A cur­rent cap on union pen­sion ben­e­fits and the amount of time off pro­vided to operators be­tween shifts were among the is­sues on the ta­ble.

SEPTA spokesman An­drew Busch said the two sides were making “steady progress.” He said talks re­sumed Tues­day night and were con­tin­u­ing Wed­nes­day.

High­ways around the re­gion ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor back­ups as thou­sands of peo­ple who nor­mally take city tran­sit jumped in their cars in­stead.

Gary Breezer, 62, of Philadel­phia, usu­ally drives to work but found park­ing at a pre­mium Wed­nes­day, even af­ter leav­ing home early to get to the city’s busi­ness dis­trict.

He said he usu­ally parks in a lot, but “ev­ery­body had the same idea as me to­day,” he said. In­stead, he parked on a street where the city had waived its usual park­ing re­stric­tions.

The city’s bike-share pro­gram was do­ing a boom­ing busi­ness. Gabby Richards, 23, said she was re­lieved Wed­nes­day morn­ing to get the last bike avail­able at the stand near her home.

“There’s a pow­er­ful mes­sage com­ing with this strike about how im­por­tant public trans­porta­tion is to the city of Philadel­phia and to peo­ple like me,” Richards said. “I’ve been making my plans each day around Uber surge pric­ing and traf­fic. It’s clear that some­thing needs to hap­pen to get peo­ple mov­ing smoothly again.”

This is the ninth strike since 1975 by the city tran­sit union. The last one, in 2009, lasted six days.

Bus operators walk­ing the picket lines Wed­nes­day said they were strik­ing to pro­tect their ben­e­fits, lift a limit on pen­sion ben­e­fits and se­cure bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions.

“We’re on the front lines ev­ery day, bat­tling out here with these peo­ple get­ting spit on, punched at, get­ting called all kinds of names while they (man­age­ment) sit up in their cushy of­fice do­ing noth­ing,” bus op­er­a­tor An­dre Rhoads said.

Bus op­er­a­tor An­thony Lind­say said the strik­ers un­der­stand the in­con­ve­nience they are caus­ing. “But we also have cousins and mothers and fathers and un­cles and nieces and neph­ews and neigh­bors who are also suf­fer­ing with us. So, it shouldn’t last long, but it is what it is,” he said.

Demo­cratic city leaders were work­ing to help end the con­tract im­passe be­cause of the trans­porta­tion havoc it was cre­at­ing and be­cause of fears of it last­ing through Elec­tion Day. The leaders said they feared the has­sles of com­mut­ing might leave some Philadel­phi­ans with lit­tle time to vote Nov. 8.

The tran­sit agency has said if no agree­ment is reached be­fore Elec­tion Day, it would seek an in­junc­tion to force the restora­tion of ser­vice that day. The union has said it would op­pose any ef­fort to force its em­ploy­ees back to work with­out a new con­tract in hand.

The strike wasn’t sup­posed to have a ma­jor ef­fect on re­gional rail lines. But at the start of Tues­day’s evening rush hour, strik­ing work­ers pre­vented some re­gional train crews from reporting to work. SEPTA got an in­junc­tion against the union but not soon enough to pre­vent long de­lays in trains leav­ing the city and the can­cel­la­tion of some ser­vice.

The strike is also af­fect­ing the Philadel­phia school dis­trict. SEPTA pro­vides rides for nearly 60,000 public, pri­vate and char­ter school stu­dents.

JAC­QUE­LINE LARMA - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mar­ket-Frank­ford line trains re­main idle at a South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity (SEPTA) sta­tion Tues­day, in Up­per Darby. Com­muters scram­bled Tues­day to find al­ter­nate ways to travel as tran­sit work­ers in Philadel­phia and around hit the picket lines af­ter the city’s main tran­sit agency and a union rep­re­sent­ing about 4,700 work­ers failed to reach a con­tract agree­ment. The union went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Tues­day, shut­ting down South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity buses, trol­leys and sub­ways that pro­vide about 900,000 rides a day.

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