Midnight in the garden of tokens and transfers

As midnight strikes, and the 2013 fare hikes take effect across Southeast Pennsylvania, my worldly possessions sit in storage after a month of a gruelling move process (which is why I’ve been so silent here of late, for which I’m truly sorry), and I sit in a convention hotel in Orlando, the most artificial tourist hellhole I’ve ever experienced (I say after having lived in Las Vegas for two years).

To recap the changes taking effect:

Some of the more egregious elements of the original fare hike proposal have been eliminated, like the proposed increase in CCT/Paratransit fares, or postponed, like the revocation of weekday Airport line privileges for Transpass holders. Some of the most egregious elements were retained, like the continuance of the $1.00 transfer fare. And the looming prospect of NPT looms like a fortress wall for the transit divisions, and like Banquo’s ghost at RRD’s dinner.

Harrisburg seems unable to agree on anything, much less a transportation funding bill. The capital crisis will claim the Bridgeport Viaduct as a casualty in eight days, and no solution seems within reach.

Good night, and good luck, Philadelphia. I’ll raise a glass in your honor tonight. And assuming I survive the next few days, I’ll be back in town (albeit officially as a guest, not a resident, for a month) later this week. I’ll have a lot to catch up on. Playing catchup is, to our shame, very Philadelphian.


NewsWorks throws the lede down a mine shaft in story about speeding

I have to say, when it comes to consistently high-quality local news, WHYY’s NewsWorks is the reigning king of the mountain. That’s why they sit in the Philadelphia section of the blogroll, over on the right column of this page. But even they sometimes make an odd editorial choice, and the one in last week’s article in their ongoing series on speeding was rather mind-boggling.

Here is the 35th graf of the story:

[Philadelphia Police Traffic Division Sgt. William] Stermel said that since his lieutenant reached out to request their [State Police] assistance — by law, State Police are the only law-enforcement entity permitted to use radar — cooperation between the agencies has been optimal and that “people have been slowing down” since there are few places to hide marked units along those roadways [Kelly, Lincoln and MLK Drives].

Wait, what was that?

by law, State Police are the only law-enforcement entity permitted to use radar


OK, maybe this is my New Philadelphianism showing through, but around where I grew up, every postage-stamp jurisdiction with the funds to hire an officer and buy a Crown Vic for her to drive, would then send her out with a radar gun, ticketing whatever leadfoot drivers happened to chance across their boundaries. Restricting the radar guns to the State Highway Patrol might have caused the locals to raise their banners in rebellion. And well they should have; in addition to the revenue generated (because speed laws are the only laws more commonly broken than either marijuana prohibition or buying hooch in Delaware), speed enforcement does provide a safety benefit to the public that can be measured in lives. Lives of drivers, lives of passengers, and lives of other users of the road.

Radar and LiDAR are now mature technologies, and it makes no sense to restrict them to the hands of the State Police. If you’re worried about uniformity across the state, then create a state certification program for the officers who would use them. But radar and LiDAR guns are lifesaving devices that need to be gotten into the hands of our local police officers as soon as possible.

And Brian Hickey and NewsWorks could stand to bang this drum a little louder than the 35th graf. They did much better than that in the first report they did on the subject in September, but not everyone has a long memory, and clearly nobody in Harrisburg has put two and two together yet on the need to take this up. I would rather not wait, while more people die, for this problem to be fixed.

The US Open is in town, and so is a lot of water

The big to-do in Philadelphia this week is the 2013 US Open, back at the Merion Golf Club for the first time since 1981. The Main Line neighborhoods are thoroughly disrupted, with Ardmore Ave., Haverford Road, and College Ave. all completely closed to traffic, and hordes of spectators descending on any real estate available for hire (including, for the official hospitality and media structures, much of the Haverford College campus). SEPTA is expecting crowding on the NHSL and Paoli lines usually only seen during the Flower Show or similar events, only instead of having the throughput of Market East Station and Center City to work with, the destinations are Ardmore Ave. on the NHSL, and Rosemont on the Paoli Line. Ardmore Ave., the preferred alternative right on the doorstep of the Merion Golf Club, has seen a major renovation in preparation for the expected crowds, including a platform lengthening to accommodate two two-car trains in the station at the same time. Rosemont station is a staging point for shuttle buses connecting Paoli Line riders, and extra trains will be added to the schedule later this week.

Unfortunately, this big party has already hit a snag in its first day: the weather. We’ve seen a lot of rain in the last four days, and the ground is saturated. Not only are the US Open officials preparing backup plans in case the 11th, 12th, and 4th greens get flooded out, SEPTA is having stormwater management problems of its own, diverting passengers from Ardmore Ave. to Haverford stations due to flooding. Not exactly the best foot forward, but the rain is not under the control of either SEPTA or the USPGA. I’ll be keeping an eye out for further rainouts, both SEPTA- and golf-related, but for real-time updates, the best bet is still SEPTA’s Twitter stream.