Renewing Coalitions: Labor, Community Groups and the PTC

Published in the Philadelphia Public Record, May 2005 Someday—I hope it won’t be long—we will be talking about how, where, and when political activists associated with the Democratic Party revived first themselves and then their party. When we do, I would not be surprised if we point to the victory for advocates of public transit in Pennsylvania last years as one important step towards this revival. Continue reading

We can't afford to flunk transit

The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 2004 As a teacher, I know that review sessions are useful, so the end of an academic semester and calendar year is a good time for a review of public transit 101. A final exam is coming up soon, both for our political leaders and for us citizens. We all are in danger of failing. Our semester’s project has been to put pressure on our political leaders to make sure that there are no service reductions or fare increases at SEPTA. That means all of us should be contacting the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Harrisburg, Gov. Rendell and Speaker of the House John Perzel, as well as our own legislators. It is easy to find excuses for not doing our homework. SEPTA is an unloved course for most of us. It often is unresponsive both to low grades and constructive criticism. … Continue reading

SEPTA is beyond band-aid fixes

Center City Press, October 20, 2004 The crisis in transit funding is real. SEPTA is facing a $62 million deficit for the current year. Without new, dedicated funding for public transportation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, SEPTA will be forced to institute a fare increase of 25% coupled with a gigantic reduction in service of 20%. Weekend service will be eliminated as will much evening service. This, we know, sounds familiar. It seems that SEPTA threatens fare increases and service reductions every year. And every year, at the last moment, SEPTA receives an infusion of funds, its proposed cuts and fare increases are rescinded, and life goes on much as it has before. So why should we believe the threat this year? One answer is that SEPTA was not crying wolf in the past. Other major transit agencies have what is called dedicated funding, tax revenues that automatically go to … Continue reading

Understanding The Johnson Street Dispute

Mt. Airy Times Express and Germantown Courier, September 22, 2004. Also published as On Johnson Street, The Issue is Not Race, Philadelphia Public Record, October 7,2004 The current dispute over the West Johnson Street properties has been among the most complicated and contentious issues WMAN has dealt with in the six years I have been involved in the organization. I would like to explain to the communities of Mt. Airy and Germantown what this issue is about and, also, what it is not about. Continue reading

Put SEPTA on the rails with slots

Reprinted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 28, 2004 The artful compromise is one of the highest accomplishments in politics. Our great politicians are those who can bring opposites together or frame an issue in a way that generates broad support. Right now, politics here is, with one exception, at an impasse. Our mayor and City Council are struggling over budget and tax issues. Transit agencies and commuters are pleading with state officials to provide the new, dedicated funding that would enable them to avoid disastrous cutbacks or equally debilitating fare increases. The governor and General Assembly are divided about education policy. Gov. Rendell’s Growing Greener II environmental program is an anathema to Republicans. It is only on the issue of slot machines that Democrats and Republicans seem to agree. The solution to all our difficulties then is obvious: Put slot machines on SEPTA commuter trains. Continue reading

The transit crisis is not over

The crisis in public transportation funding continues. To continue the present level of service SEPTA needs $70 million more than it can expect from the current level of fares and state support. And that does not include the funds necessary to reach a fair agreement with the Transport Workers Union next year. Without substantial new funding for SEPTA, the agency will be forced to propose drastic cutbacks in service or dramatic increases in our fares, or both. A superior public transportation system is vital to our region. To see this, we just have to imagine what would happen to our metropolitan area if public transportation were dramatically cut back: Our roads will be horribly congested.  More people will die in traffic accidents. Our hopes for economic development will be dashed. New businesses need to draw on skilled workers who live throughout the region. If workers do not have accessible, economical, … Continue reading

Inventing (and un-inventing) West Mt. Airy

Mt. Airy Times Express, January 7, 2004 (WMAN) and East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) have invited members of the community to join the Boards of each organization at our annual joint meeting, which will be held Tuesday, January 13, 2004, 7:30 p.m. in Hagan Hall of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, 7301 Germantown Avenue. The purpose of this meeting is to begin a discussion about the future of the two organizations. Among the topics we will discuss is the possibility of merging the two organizations. In order to encourage the broadest and most inclusive discussion, the meeting will be led by a professional facilitator who does not live in our community. This meeting was prompted by a committee appointed to discuss the ongoing relationship between WMAN and EMAN. Derek Green, the president of EMAN, and I encouraged the two boards to form this committee earlier in the year. Our aim was … Continue reading

R8 preservation depends upon budget deal

Mt. Airy Times-Express and Germantown Courier, August 6, 2003 The R8 Chestnut Hill West Train is still in danger. Although the recently approved SEPTA budget for the current fiscal does not eliminate the R8, further cuts are likely if SEPTA does not receive substantial additional funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Moreover, the new budget calls for severe cuts in services on R8 line, beginning in September. About Half all R8 Chestnut Hill West trains will be eliminated. SEPTA proposes to cut off-peak, weekday service on the line from twice an hour to once an hour. Inbound rains to Center City will run only once an hour beginning at 9:11 am. Outbound trains from Center City will run only once an hour except between 4:17 and 6:33 pm. Moreover, on weekends, trains will run only once every ninety minutes. The Northwest Campaign for Public Transportation believes that these cuts are, … Continue reading

SEPTA and Snidely Whiplash

Published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 2003 The villain in this transit drama could be state officials or the “heroine.” Philadelphia-area residents are watching the theatrical melodrama “Saving SEPTA, 2003,” and Act IV has begun. The scene is set in Harrisburg, with Gov. Rendell, House Speaker John Perzel (R., Phila.), and Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill (R., Lebanon) in starring roles. Perched at the edge of our seats, we are waiting to see whether these three characters will redeem themselves, rescuing our flawed heroine, SEPTA, and saving the communities she serves. Act I began when the trio threatened our heroine by passing a budget that cut appropriations by $11 million. We were left wondering whether Rendell, Perzel and Brightbill were black-caped villains who wanted to force workers, widows and children from jobs and schools accessible only by public transit. Or were they good men who, in a moment reminiscent … Continue reading