[UPDATED] The Real Deal: A SEPTA Bus Driver Speaks Anonymously

real-deal-400x400In our new feature, The Real Deal, we’re talking to people in Philadelphia who will only speak to us with a clear agreement of anonymity. In our controversial first installment, we spoke with a Philly cop. This time around, we sat down for margaritas with a longtime SEPTA employee, who has driven both buses and trolleys, to see what it’s really like out there on the streets.

With 40 hours a week inside of buses and trolleys, you are uniquely positioned to offer some thoughts on Philadelphia as a society. How are we doing?

I love Philly. I’m from here. And it’s a big city that is really a collection of neighborhoods. You see people fighting on the El, playing the “knockout game” on the buses, but there’s also an amazing amount of good. We tend to get marginalized by New York and DC people. But we’re just as passionate and good.

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Increased Ridership Making SEPTA Regional Rail Packed

Septa regional rail train

I rode a 7 a.m. train into town on Monday morning, and it was packed. Every part of it! I don’t often ride the regional rail into Center City at rush hour, so I was surprised by the number of people on the train. I had to stand! The conductor squeezed by me after taking my ticket.

This is apparently the case on lots of lines. The Inquirer reports today regional rail trains are packed because of increased ridership and the frequency which cars go out of service.

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Uniforms Shouldn’t Trigger SEPTA Strike

Septa regional rail train

When I heard last week the reason SEPTA might shut down due to strike this winter — leaving tens of thousands of commuters stuck in the February cold — I was positively Iversonian in my response.

“Uniforms? We talkin’ about uniforms?”

Er, well yes apparently.

SEPTA’s regional rail electrical workers accepted the terms of federal mediation. Engineers want to settle, but are balking at two provisions: The effective date of wage increases, and uniform requirements.

SEPTA engineers want simply to wear a vest. “We feel a shirt and additional outerwear would be appropriate,” SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams told the paper.

That doesn’t sound like an excessive demand — and in reality, it’s not — but it turns out there’s a lot more to this battle than meets the eye. It’s been going on for years.

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Report: Total SEPTA Shutdown Could Come In February

Let’s forget the good news. There is ominous news about SEPTA, and we’ll focus on that.

So, yes: The bad news is that a complete SEPTA shutdown could come in February.

That’s what SEPTA told the Inquirer: While SEPTA will apply for a second 120-day extension of federal mediation with Regional Rail workers, if no deal is reached by February 13th there could be a complete walkout of SEPTA workers.

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Ex-SEPTA Worker: I Was Fired For Observing Jewish Holy Days

A former SEPTA custodian says he was fired for observing the Jewish high holy days. Romel McAlpin, who was hired in May of 2013, will have a one-day hearing before an arbitrator sometime in the future.

McAlpin is a member of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. Although not considered by mainstream Jews to be Jewish, the group observes some Jewish holidays.

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Feds Give SEPTA $87 Million for Infrastructure

The Federal Transit Administration is giving $87 million for infrastrature repair, the agency announced Monday — part of a broader $3.59 billion effort to recover from Hurricane Sandy and prepare for the region’s next big storm.

“While no one can predict the future with certainty, we believe these investments will help to harden transit facilities against future storms that Mother Nature dishes out,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release, “supporting President Obama’s call to address climate change now and reducing the risk of service disruptions and future damage to some of the nation’s busiest rail and bus services.”
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