Life on SEPTA, and Monday Philly and Harrisburg ralliesThe Sunday Inquirer has an article about a variety of people and their dependence on SEPTA.
Facing a $49 million deficit this year - and a projected $92 million hole next year - officials of the nation's fifth-largest public transportation system have threatened route cuts and fare increases that would make Philadelphia the most expensive ride in the nation.The article talks about a variety of SEPTA routes, from the R5 shepherding Main Liners to and from Philly jobs to the 26 Bus taking Central and Girls high kids to Germantown and Mt Airy.
Gov. Rendell will seek approval later this month to divert federal highway funds and avoid a fare increase. But, Rendell says, there are no guarantees. Next year's deficit looms, and a long-term fix remains elusive.
What can't be forgotten is that SEPTA is more than its infrastructure or its bleeding budget; more than a giant web linking distant and disparate neighborhoods.
It is the people - roughly 365,000 a day; more than 133 million a year - who depend on it to get to jobs, schools, hospitals, libraries, business centers, churches, shopping, the airport.
People such as wheelchair user Damon Banks, who needs his independence.
People such as Nitza DeJesus, for whom it's "better than walking."
Even people such as James Smoyer, a retiree who simply believes in public transportation and takes the bus every day from Elkins Park to Chestnut Hill for coffee or shopping.
In his budget address to the Pa legislature, Gov. Rendell did not really talk about mass transit. In fact, rather than a permanent fix, he is floating the idea of again transferring highways funds to make up next year's gap- another stopgap solution. The thought now seems to be that everything will have to wait until after the 2006 election, which would be ridiculous. Hopefully it does not come down to this.
(The other, notable and potentially awful thing that came out of SEPTA lobbying this week was that legislatures may try and require some part of the SEPTA solution to be raising fares anyway. Lets be clear: the fares are plenty high. SEPTA provides huge benefits to the entire region. Mass transit keeps cars off the roads, delivers workers to jobs, keeps the air cleaner, and gives a huge economic boost to the region and State. It is ridiculous to make riders, so many of them low-income, pay even more.)
To that end, there are two rallies in support of SEPTA on Monday, one in Philly and one in Harrisburg. The Harrisburg rally, sponsored by the PA Transit Coalition, has busses leaving from Philly at 9AM, or, likely before you have read this. I know one or two people going, who said they may write about it, so hopefully we can get a good update by Tuesday or so. And, if anyone else out there wants to write about it, email me.
The Philly rally takes place on the west side of City Hall, at 5PM. That one, I will try and make it to.