Mass transit faces massive crisis

PHILADELPHIA — The Republican-led state Legislature left Harrisburg last month without addressing the massive budget crisis faced by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Agency (SEPTA). As a result, SEPTA’s board proposed to increase fares 50 percent, to $3 a ride, lay off workers and cut service by 20 percent, all of which will have serious consequences for the region’s economy, environment and quality of life.

Currently, SEPTA provides over 10,000 jobs and gives over 1 million residents of the Delaware Valley a ride to and from work, school, church, shopping and elsewhere. The mass public transit system reduces air pollution and alleviates congestion on crowded streets and highways. Protecting and strengthening SEPTA makes the region more competitive for businesses, attracts young people and allows residents from any part of the region to travel to jobs.

These items came before the SEPTA board at its Dec. 16 meeting. Many activists, unions, organizations and politicians came forward to urge the board to press the Pennsylvania Legislature to solve its $63 million funding crisis. Hundreds demonstrated outside shouting, “No transit, no peace!”

Philadelphia Mayor John Street said there are many elected officials who don’t perform their job and are not doing what is expected of them. He charged that thousands of senior citizens and workers would be affected by this slash in service and raise in fares. “If these things are passed, a lawsuit is probable,” Street concluded.

SEPTA board Chairman Pasquale Deon Sr. responded that SEPTA must do what they must do.

Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, called the board members “cowards” for not standing on their own, but being controlled by Republicans in the Legislature.

The SEPTA board members refused to go to Harrisburg and seek assistance from the state’s lawmakers. This is a local, regional issue and not a state issue, they claimed.

Protests will continue. To contact the SEPTA board, send all correspondence to Elizabeth M. Nuding, Secretary to the Board, 10th Floor, 1234 Market Street, Philadelphia PA 19107, or telephone (215) 580-4000.