Somebody get John Sisson a calculator and show him how to use it

In remarks to Jake Blumgart writing for Next City, John Sisson, CEO of the Delaware Transit Corporation, says as part of the first official response to the #SEPTAWILM petition that doubling service will result in quintupling costs. That is an extraordinary claim, and nobody should take it at face value until they provide extraordinary evidence, including a complete breakdown of those numbers, before and after.

I’m not saying he’s lying. I’m saying that getting the $751,300/year figure of their current contract with SEPTA was like pulling teeth, and included no details. So there’s an airtight case that DTC is too opaque for a government agency, and a building, prima facie case that somebody there doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.

Meanwhile, you should sign the ‪#‎SEPTAWILM‬ petition if you haven’t yet.

Posted in DART First State, Organization before Electronics before Concrete, Wilmington/Newark Line | 1 Comment

Sign the Petition: Unsuck SEPTA Wilmington service

On the subject of Better Living through Higher Frequency: Friend of the Blog David Curtis has posted a petition calling on DelDOT and SEPTA to attack the low-hanging fruit of SEPTA’s Wilmington/Newark Line, and extend all off-peak and weekend Marcus Hook trains to Wilmington. This comes after the bewildering success of the petition to reinstate overnight Subway and El service, which has now led to >50% increases in overnight ridership on the two nights a week the trains run.

As I may have mentioned, repeatedly, at every opportunity, the two-hour Wilmington headways are the bane of my household’s existence. They are also dirt-cheap to fix; I looked over David’s cost estimates and agree that the marginal cost to DelDOT should come in on the low side of the $350K-1M range of estimates, and very probably less than the $751,000/year they already pay to SEPTA, for twice today’s service. By any standards of transportation spending, that is pocket change, even for a small constituency like Delaware.

Today’s SEPTA schedules are well-optimized if you are a Delawarean working in Philadelphia, or if you are a Pennsylvanian working a 9:00-5:00, Monday-Friday, job in Wilmington. If you work in Wilmington and your hours are 8:00-4:00, or 10:00-6:00, or 4:00-11:00, or anything involving weekends? Or if, God forbid, you might want to stay in Downtown Wilmington or Center City Philadelphia after work and do something fun? Today, DelDOT’s message to you is “Fsck You, Drive.” Which might go a very long ways to explain why most New Philadelphians have no interest in even visiting Wilmington, much less living there. If Wilmington wants to be the city its leaders are clearly trying to make it, as opposed to a more upscale version of Camden, then all of its good options start with fixing the woefully unuseful connection to Pennsylvania. And in turn, Philadelphia has strong incentives to connect to a rare concentration of rail-accessible suburban jobs.

And yes, more SEPTA Wilmington service means more Claymont service, which will lead to more time together for me and my wife, and less time spent by either of us driving a car, so I have deeply personal reasons to want this petition to come to fruition.


Posted in Organization before Electronics before Concrete, Wilmington/Newark Line | 2 Comments

America is about Freedom. Freedom comes from Frequency.

Greetings from East Glacier, Montana! I hope everyone back in Greater Philadelphia had a good holiday weekend, and that the weather I hear you’ve been having hasn’t been inconveniencing you too badly. The scenery here is breathtaking, and the weather has been mild and cooperative.

I want to tell a few stories about Frequency Anxiety and its opposite, Transit Freedom. It’s been the theme of this week so far.
Continue reading

Posted in Amtrak, Organization before Electronics before Concrete | 8 Comments

July 4 Holiday notes

Just as a reminder, the Independence Day holiday brings with it a suite of service changes. Four of the five local major transit services (SEPTA, PATCO, NJT, Amtrak) will be operating on Sunday or Major Holiday schedules tomorrow, July 4th. DART First State will be shut down entirely except for Routes 201-208 and Route 305.

Extra SEPTA Regional Rail trains will leave Center City after the fireworks. As July 4th is a Friday, the Subway and El will be running train service all night.

My Independence Day plans involve changing from the Capitol Limited to the Empire Builder in Chicago, and maybe catching some of the fireworks from trackside at St. Paul Union Depot. I hope your holiday is, Arthur willing, as fun as mine will be. Happy Fourth!

Posted in Schedule changes, SEPTA, Service Disruptions | 3 Comments

Home news

It’s been a very busy few weeks in Greater Philadelphia transportation news. The 24 hour Regional Rail strike. The continuing saga of Delaware’s I-495 bridge. The reintroduction of overnight weekend service on the El and Subway, which despite the lack of staffing at most stations, has so far been a smashing success. PATCO’s travails with the Ben Franklin Bridge reconstruction. Proposals for renaming 30th Street Station, and selling naming rights at Suburban Station.

I’ve barely written about any of it.

I’m sorry. I’ve been busy.

(Warning: pictures and self-indulgence after the jump)
Continue reading

Posted in Housekeeping, Market Frankford Subway-Elevated | 2 Comments

SEPTA Regional Rail strikers ordered to return to work tomorrow

And just like that, it was over.

President Obama has created a Presidential Emergency Board to intervene in the strike by engineers and electricians at SEPTA Regional Rail, which forces both sides back to the negotiating table and forces the strike to be called off for the next 240 days. As the order is timestamped at 12:01 AM tonight, that will delay any further strike action until February 10, 2015.

While it is faintly possible that there will be lingering disruption as service resumes, service should be normal tomorrow morning.

Posted in SEPTA, Service Disruptions, Washington | 1 Comment

SEPTA Regional Rail on strike for first time since 1983

Engineers and electricians hit picket lines at the close of the service day last night, marking the first strike against SEPTA Regional Rail since the first year SEPTA operated the service.

Governor Corbett is publicly stating that he will ask President Obama to compel workers back to the negotiating table and back to work, under the terms of the Railway Labor Act.

While it is not clear how long this strike will continue (if Governor Corbett has his ducks in a row, it may not last the day), it’s worth knowing alternatives for service. SEPTA City and Suburban transit is still running: SEPTA has a guide for alternate transit service. DART First State is running express bus shuttles from the four Delaware stations to pAT&Tison Station on South Broad Street, for Monday-Friday traditional-peak service only: the timetable is here. (One would think that DART might want to serve weekend and reverse-commuters as well, especially in light of the I-495 bridge closure, but nobody has accused them lately of outside-the-box thinking.) PATCO is still on a construction schedule, and NJT is running normal service. Amtrak is running normally on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors.

Finally, a safety note: do not assume that just because train service is suspended, that tracks are safe. Inspection trains will run throughout the day so that service can be brought back quickly when engineers return to work. Trespassing on the railroad is still a good way to get yourself killed or traumatically injured. Don’t do that.

Posted in Amtrak, DART First State, PATCO, SEPTA, Service Disruptions | 2 Comments