One more trip around the sun

Happy New Year! Time to ring in 2014 with a whole palletload of service changes!

One final reminder: with all this extra transit service tonight, you’d have to be very stupid to drive while intoxicated, and you’d have to be very foolish to drive tonight with all the very stupid people who will inevitably find their way onto the roads. Stay safe!

My own New Year’s plans involve radio silence through to the 2nd of January, so best wishes to everyone for a better 2014.


Ruminations on Long Distance

I’m currently on an Amtrak train, headed back south from upstate New York, where I have been far away from exciting happenings in Greater Philadelphia. But I thought I’d take some time, while I’m in an appropriate spot, to think aloud about Amtrak, specifically about long-distance trains.

2013, to borrow phraseology from trite year-in-review articles, was the year in which I turned 30. The significance of which, as far as I can tell, is that I’m reaching the phase of life where overnight trips in coach are no longer worth the monetary savings. There are a few I might still do, if I was in a pinch and by myself, but this ship has, for the most part, sailed. It’s sleeper or bust.

I have a developing theory of sleeper trains, which is that they are essentially a point-to-point service. A sleeper passenger who is willing to pay a fare that is going to pay for most, or all, of her costs, wants a train that is leaving in the evening and arriving in the morning. Perhaps a short ride in daylight can cover more another market or two with the same departure, but the basic form is evening-morning. It requires two trainsets to operate the entire service. No sleeper service in the entire Amtrak system looks like this. The Auto Train, which is sui generis, comes closest, and doesn’t quite manage the late evening departure. This is largely not Amtrak’s fault, because the endpoints of trains in the National System are just so obnoxiously far apart. But the point stands that any stops made between 11:00pm and 6:00am are basically economically meaningless, and should be covered by another train that runs in daylight. Continue reading Ruminations on Long Distance

Simple Answers to Silly Questions

One of the odd “perks” of owning a WordPress blog is getting to see some of the search terms that cause people to find your blog. For instance:

  • how much does a parking permit cost in philadelphia

$35 per year for one car. More for additional cars.

  • manayunk/norristown line safe

Yes. (Assuming that’s a question with “Is the” in front.) Much safer than driving, certainly.

During the snow last week, we had,

  • is septa closed today

SEPTA does not close for weather short of an actual hurricane. Maybe a 25-year blizzard. Snow and ice can shut down individual rail lines, or cause buses to detour around specific problem spots, but SEPTA will keep running through fairly serious weather. It is generally safe to assume that SEPTA is harder than you.

And last night’s inspiration for this post:

  • does the government own septa


Specifically, SEPTA is a wholly-owned arm of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, so if you care about SEPTA, it’s your State Rep, State Senator, and Governor you need to put pressure on. And by “put pressure on”, I mean tell them to work harder to fund SEPTA, or else you will vote for someone else. And then, if they don’t, follow through on that threat, in a primary if your conscience prevents you from voting for another party in a general election. State politicians get away with things because they assume that nobody knows who they are, and nobody cares. Sadly, they’re right too often. I don’t like that, and neither should you. This stuff matters.

All I want for Christmas is for the R-numbers to stay dead

Sandy Smith may be the most awesome man in Philadelphia. I tend to refer to Sandy as “the man who’s forgotten more about Philadelphia transit than I’ll ever know”, which is illustrative but slanderous: I’ve never known him to forget anything. I am reminded of his awesomeness frequently, given his prolific writing as editor-in-chief at Philadelphia Real Estate Blog, contributor to Philadelphia Magazine, and being generally ubiquitous in any place online where Philadelphians gather, where he’s identifiable by his usual sobriquet “MarketStEl”. I got to reconnect with Sandy last month, at the Urban Geek Happy Hour at Frankford Hall in Fishtown, the next edition of which is tonight at 6:00. (I won’t make it tonight due to other holiday commitments, but if “Urban Geek Happy Hour” sounds like your thing at all, you should totally drop by.) Talking with Sandy in meatspace is always pleasant, but I was reminded that there is one topic on which he and I are on opposite sides.

Background: On July 25th, 2010, SEPTA renamed its Regional Rail lines, removing the R1-R8 numerical designations they had borne since the opening of the Commuter Tunnel in 1984. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. Including, rather publicly, by Sandy Smith. Continue reading All I want for Christmas is for the R-numbers to stay dead

Why It (Probably) Couldn’t Happen Here

I’ve been wrestling with the recent Spuyten Duyvil derailment on Metro North; other people have covered what we know about it much better than I could, and honestly there’s very little more to say in the face of a human tragedy such as this. I’ve been swinging wildly between despair and vitriolic anger, and had no desire to inflict any of that on you. But it does merit a few words here.

If you are looking for a good summary of the crash itself, I would commend you to The LIRR Today’s writeup, which is the best I’ve seen. I will not attempt to duplicate that work. Continue reading Why It (Probably) Couldn’t Happen Here