Fed-Up SEPTA Riders Carry Rowdy Passenger Off Bus

NBC 10′s David Chang reports of an incident on the 20 bus in the Far Northeast on Friday: A passenger was acting out in the back, and the bus driver stopped the bus to ask him to get off.

The man wouldn’t, and the driver says the man then spit on him. While the driver waited for police, two passengers took matters into their own hands and lifted the dude up and out of the bus. Police arrested him a short time later.

“The big message here is that we’re not gonna take this crap against our operators,” [SEPTA Police Chief Thomas] Nestel said. “If somebody acts like that against an operator or a fellow rider, they’re getting arrested. We’re gonna hook them up with a cheese sandwich.”

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SEPTA Driver Gives Trolley Rides Poetic Touch

The City Paper’s Daniel Denvir rides the trolley with SEPTA’s unofficial resident poet in this week’s edition, and the results are pretty entertaining: Mike Fuller says one spot in the West Philly tunnels is “a space as dark as a stack of black cats” and “a trolley nap is a nice thing, but we hope no one misses their stop on this ride, like a sleeping shrimp washed away by a tide.”

Since this is Philadelphia, of course, not everyone is happy with him:

On three recent trolley rides across the city, a City Paper reporter watched as some passengers zoned out, one woman got angry (yelling “shut up and drive the train”) and many riders were very amused.

I like this driver — I’ve only had him once, so he must have been pretty memorable — but I like that someone yelled at him even more.

[City Paper]

Willie Brown Is a Changed Man

An observation: The Willie Brown of 2014 is not the Willie Brown of 2009.

Don’t misunderstand: They’re similar enough that it won’t really be a surprise if Brown eventually leads his union, TWU 234, on a strike that ends up shutting down SEPTA and inconveniencing tens of thousands of commuters sometime in the next couple of weeks.

But whereas the Willie Brown of 2009 seemed like he couldn’t strike fast enough — remember, TWU waited only until the World Series was over, then went on strike without any notice to the commuting public — the Willie Brown of 2014 genuinely seems like he’d like to avoid a work stoppage.

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Union: No Talks With SEPTA Until Financial Disclosures

The head of the union representing 5,000 SEPTA employees says there will be no more talks until the transit agency provides critical financial information affecting the negotiations.

“We haven’t taken a strike authorization vote – yet,” said Willie Brown, president of Transit Workers Union 234, at a 2 p.m. conference call with reporters. “But we can — and we can do so on very short notice.” (See the full prepared statement below.)

“We will notify you before we go on strike,” he said. “A strike is not in our immediate future. … If we go out on strike, it will be absolutely, positively our last option.”

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SEPTA Still Operating As Union Mulls “Final Offer”

SEPTA is still operating this morning, and AP says the agency is still waiting the union’s response to its so-called “final offer”:

No bargaining was scheduled for today, said Jerri Williams, a SEPTA spokeswoman.

Thousands of members of the Transport Workers Union are working without a contract. After negotiations broke off Sunday night, union president Willie Brown said employees would stay on the job “for a while.”

Yesterday, the union sent a letter to SEPTA negotiators reiterating previous requests for data on employee demographics, pension costs and medical claims.

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Thanks to New Funding, City Hall Station Renovation Is Back on Track [UPDATED]

Photo: Liz Spikol

Photo: Liz Spikol

All SEPTA riders know that City Hall/15th Street Station is, at best, unappetizing. According to Sandy Smith, it is the only station on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines that has gone untouched for at least 30 years. Some SEPTA riders may also know that for a while now, the agency has been promising to redo the whole thing.

Well, according to SEPTA, that’ll actually start to happen in the coming years thanks to the November passage of Act 89, the state’s transportation funding bill. Last week SEPTA quietly released its proposed capital budget and program for the coming years, and it includes $146 million between 2015 and 2026 for the project, which had previously been deferred due to lack of funding. The promised improvements: elevators throughout, more open space on the Broad Street Line platforms, new ventilation in re-opened air shafts, new architectural finishes and signage, new fare lines, platforms raised to car door height, redone inter-station corridors, and public art.

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No SEPTA Strike … Yet

Good news, commuters! NBC 10 reports: “SEPTA is running on its normal schedule Monday because the Transit Workers Union (TWU) decided not to strike Sunday night. TWU president Willie Brown made the announcement after the union and SEPTA officials postponed negotiates Sunday evening.  ’We don’t foresee a strike necessary. SEPTA is a career for me. It’s a career for my people. We are a part of the community. So if we go on strike, we harm our own families. So that is something we don’t want to do,’ said Brown. ”

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Race and the Roots
of Philly Transit Strikes

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

In this Aug. 6, 1944 file photo an armed soldier stands guard in the back of a trolley in Philadelphia. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent troops to break up a strike by transit workers who were protesting the hiring and promotion of African-Americans. (AP Photo/John Lindsay, File)

As this is being typed, the news reports about contract negotiations between SEPTA and Transport Workers Union Local 234 sound increasingly optimistic. One of the main sticking points, pensions, has been resolved, and both the transit agency and TWU Local 234 head Willie Brown have issued statements saying that they hope a strike can be averted.

Yet some issues, including health care and worker surveillance, remain unresolved, and the union still stands ready to take a vote to strike when contracts for two TWU 234 suburban bargaining units expire on April 7th.

You may recall that initial strike threat was announced with incendiary language from Brown. Many, including this writer, found that rhetoric off-putting, or worse. But, as with so much else in this city, if you dig down far enough, you might just hear the ghosts of the past raising their voices through the mouth of Brown.

In this case, the ghosts are those of a racially motivated walkout that brought the TWU onto the local labor scene — and Federal troops onto the city’s streetcars.

The two events are connected: The TWU had just won the right to represent Philadelphia’s transit workers in 1944 — right in the middle of a three-year fight to get the Philadelphia Transportation Company (which ran buses and trolleys in the city) to end discrimination against black workers.

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SEPTA, Union Report Progress on Talks

6ABC reports: “Talks continue between SEPTA and union officials and both sides are optimistic that a strike will be adverted. The executive board of local 234 met Thursday night to discuss logistics for a possible strike Monday – if a deal with SEPTA can’t get done. Union president Willie Brown emerged from secretive talks around 8:30 p.m., saying a deal is imminent.”

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