Weekly Roundup: Pay as you enter, IBEW settles, police body cams, Greenlee may be a fool, and Previdi definitely is

Another edition brought to you by the World’s Worst Blogger:

  • In the end of an era, SEPTA has announced that, beginning on September 1, pay-as-you-leave will be abolished on the Suburban Transit routes out of 69th Street Terminal where it is currently the rule. This will standardize the entire SEPTA transit system on the more logical and familiar pay-as-you-enter rule, ostensibly in preparation for NPT. One hopes that it will be the precursor to other steps to bring further sanity to SEPTA’s fare system. Dare we suggest abolishing the $1 transfer fee and adjusting the base fare to compensate in 2016? We can recapture the efficiencies of open boarding at 69th Street while retaining the simplicity and sense of pay-as-you-enter by putting bus and trolley boarding areas at 69th Street inside the faregates. Think on it, SEPTA!
  • A SEPTA electrical worker participating in the Trolley Tunnel Blitz apparently misjudged the distance to the adjacent active MFL tracks, and was struck by an El train in the tunnel at 22nd Street Monday afternoon. The worker, who was rushed to Hahnemann University Hopsital with injuries to the head and knee, is expected to recover soon; the Monday evening rush hour, already disrupted by the Trolley Blitz, was snarled by an El shutdown, followed by single tracking around the accident site.
  • Speaking of SEPTA electrical workers, the IBEW local representing Regional Rail workers reached a tentative contract agreement with management yesterday. IBEW was one of the two unions that staged a 24-hour-long strike this past June; the other union, representing Regional Rail’s engineers, is still in talks, and is making pessimistic statements.
  • The eyes of the world are riveted on the absolute failure of policing in Ferguson, MO, where riots and police riots have ensued after the fatal shooting of a unarmed young man by police officer. The body camera that could have told us much about that initial encounter, instead reportedly sat in a box in Ferguson PD headquarters, as North St. Louis County police officers, like many around the country, are resistant to adopting them. Meanwhile, in a display of what policing should look like, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel thinks body cameras are the awesomest thing ever, and cannot wait until all of his officers are wearing one. Kudos, Chief!
  • The #SEPTAWILM petition is still going, having passed the 1,500 signature mark last night. And as petition starter David Curtis notes, the riders and potential riders already know that expanding off-peak Wilmington service is of mutual benefit to both Delaware and Pennsylvania: the ratio of petition signers from DE to petition signers from PA is less than 1.02:1.
  • As if the ongoing ad blitz and the swirling rumors of an imminent naming rights deal with Verizon for Suburban Station weren’t enough, Verizon’s archrival Comcast has found the name of its headquarters scrubbed from SEPTA signage throughout the concourse.
  • An extension of the 22nd Street Bike Lane from Spring Garden to Fairmount is being held up because Councilman Bill Greenlee’s office is afraid of numbers. Actually, maybe not, but that’s one of the more charitable interpretations. The space on the pavement for the bike lane is there, and it’s not taking away a legal car travel lane, just an unmarked, illegal, car travel lane.
  • Bob Previdi needs to shut up forever. The way to bring Amtrak into Suburban Station (and Market East!) already exists, and it’s called the free transfer onto SEPTA Regional Rail (Ctrl+F “Amtrak”). Quit trying to spend scarce money to fix something that isn’t broke, and especially don’t waste money trying to do something in hardware that is best taken care of in software.
Posted in Amtrak, DART First State, Fare policy, Legacy Infrastructure, Organization before Electronics before Concrete, Philadelphia City Council, SEPTA, Service Disruptions, Threats to Life and Safety | 7 Comments

Wednesday Roundup

Things that are happening that I haven’t been able to catch up on yet:

  • If you live or work in West Philly, your trolleys have been diverting to 40th/Market since Friday night, and will continue doing so for the rest of this week, next week, and the weekend after that. Why? SEPTA Media Relations explains what is going on in the trolley tunnel:
  • The SEPTA Night Owl Subway trial has been extended from Labor Day to November 2nd, to see if the spectacular ridership numbers stay high enough to make rail service a permanent feature of our Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Friend of the Blog David Curtis is meeting with the arithmetically-challenged CEO of Dart First State, John Sisson, to discuss the petition Curtis spearheaded to make SEPTA service in the First State not resemble a giant middle finger.
  • Rep. Chaka Fattah wants to rename 30th Street Station after his mentor, Bill Gray. It would be a better tribute to Rep. Gray if he had something named for him that had a snowball’s chance in hell of actually associating with his name; every Philadelphian I’ve talked to has said that they intend to refer to the station as 30th Street in perpetuity, regardless of what Congress thinks. Meanwhile, Bennett Levin eviscerates the idea on the merits, or lack thereof.
Posted in DART First State, Legacy Infrastructure, SEPTA, Service Disruptions, Wilmington/Newark Line | 3 Comments

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 | 2 Comments

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 Change.org 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.

SIGN THE PETITION TO UNSUCK WILMINGTON HERE. DO IT. DO IT NOW.

Posted in Organization before Electronics before Concrete, Wilmington/Newark Line | 3 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