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Passenger Trains > SEPTA Route 15 unfortunate anniversary
Date: 06/10/05 04:53
SEPTA Route 15 unfortunate anniversary
Posted on Wed, Jun. 08, 2005
Urban Warrior email@example.com | POL DERAILS $82M PROJECT
THIS YEAR, amid all the parades and fireworks of the July 4th holiday, Philadelphia will celebrate another, more embarrassing anniversary:
It will be exactly one year since this city's political leaders shelved the Route 15 trolley - an estimated $82 million public works project that was already paid for, and ready to resume its historic route along the Girard Avenue corridor.
Because Carol Campbell, a ward leader who also happens to be an officer in Philadelphia's Democratic City Committee, didn't want to lose parking on one side of a block in her neighborhood.
"I don't think anyone would really have objected to the trolley itself, but when they started talking about taking away the parking, well, that was a different story," said Campbell, who lives on the adjacent block.
Of course, the spots aren't exactly legal.
But residents had grown accustomed to parking on both sides of the 400 block of 59th Street since the trolley stopped running in 1992. This narrow stretch isn't wide enough to accommodate both the parking and the trolley, so something has to give.
A compromise position, which would have made room by turning this block into a one-way street, was also rejected by the neighbors. So City Councilman Michael Nutter, who could have forced the issue by introducing a city ordinance to change the traffic pattern, opted not to do so.
Antique trolley cars, which cost some $24 million to refurbish, sit gathering dust in a SEPTA parking garage.
A year ago, city political leaders shelved the Route 15 trolley an estimated $82 million public works project that was already paid for, and ready to resume its historic route along the Girard Avenue corridor.
Carol Campbell (above), a ward leader, opposed the project. She didnt want to lose parking on one side of a block in her neighborhood.
A compromise position make room by turning the block into a one-way street was rejected by neighbors.
City Councilman Michael Nutter, who could have forced the issue by introducing a city ordinance to change the traffic pattern, opted not to do so.
According to Gov. Rendell, its the citys problem to fix.br> Campbell says she still wont budge.
That was a year ago.
And until last week, it was the last word on the subject. The fleet of antique trolley cars, which cost some $24 million to refurbish, sits gathering dust in a SEPTA parking garage, and millions in city street improvements are being wasted.
Then I called Nutter, to ask him what was up.
I called SEPTA.
I called party chairman U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.
I called Gov. Rendell, who got this project rolling, back when he was still mayor.
And I called Sen. David Brightbill, Republican leader of the state Senate and a key player when it comes to state funding for SEPTA.
"All of a sudden, after you called, out of the clear blue sky, here they are on the phone, telling me they need to talk to me about the Route 15," Campbell told me yesterday.
She still says she won't budge.
"Last year, when this first happened, [SEPTA board chairman] Pat Dion called me and left a message. Well, I returned his call three times, and he never got back to me. So to hell with them. I'm not going to kiss their a----."
"As far as I'm concerned, this is something that has lain dormant for over a year, they really didn't bother with it," she continued. "Now all of a sudden it's an emergency, and everybody's supposed to jump through hoops?"
Roger Kern, director of the Girard Avenue Coalition, says all 50 of his member organizations are frustrated, and disappointed. The trolley line had been the centerpiece of the avenue's revitalization efforts, he said, which stretch from Route 95 to the Philadelphia Zoo, and beyond.
"Other cities, like Houston, are digging up the whole city just to put in a trolley line, and here we already have one," said Kern. "And we know that trolleys, where they've been tried, have brought an immediate improvement in the business community."
Meanwhile, all the responsible parties are pointing fingers.
"We've had innumerable meetings with the people on that street," said SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney.
Nutter, in turn, blamed SEPTA.
"There was some work that should have been done on this that just wasn't," Nutter told me. "There was a need for SEPTA to talk to the neighbors who would also be directly affected by the proposed return of the trolley to Girard Ave, given the fact that the trolley has to get out of the Callowhill barn, and go right down their street."
Kate Philips, spokeswoman for Gov. Rendell, said it was the city's responsibility to fix, adding:
"The governor certainly thinks the trolley should be up and running, and the city should do whatever it can to rectify the situation."
None of this squabbling, and waste, has been lost on the Republican leadership in Harrisburg, which controls state spending for the regional transit agency.
"There needs to be some kind of accounting for this," said Erik Arneson, Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Brightbill.
"The next time mass transit gets discussed in a serious manner, which is likely to be June, this is going to be a big issue," Arneson continued. "This is exactly the kind of thing that people from the middle and western parts of the state think of when they think about SEPTA's waste, bad management and bad decisions."
If it wasn't so sad, it would almost be funny.
Clearly, Campbell is doing her job as ward leader, representing her neighbors' wishes. And they have a right to feel put out by SEPTA. The transit agency hasn't exactly been the perfect neighbor.
But how can our elected officials allow this spat to stymie a major public works project, which was supposed to help revitalize a critical swath of the city's core?
How can they be so cavalier about $82 million wasted dollars?
The shame in this story is not just that one powerful party leader is holding the entire city hostage over a handful of parking spaces.
It's that the rest of our leaders are letting her get away with it.
Date: 06/10/05 04:56
And an even more unfortunate response from Harrisburg
Nothing worse than pissing off the people with all the money
Posted on Thu, Jun. 09, 2005
I'D LIKE TO clarify a statement attributed to me in the June 8 Urban Warrior column ("Pol Derails $82M Project"). It was not my intention to imply that SEPTA management is solely responsible for the problems related to the Route 15 trolley.
I don't know who should shoulder the blame. In fact, it doesn't really matter. Many legislators will rightly focus on this basic fact: $82 million was wasted.
No matter whose fault that is, the current status of the Route 15 trolley project will make developing a long-range solution on mass transit significantly more difficult.
Chief of Staff, Senate Majority Leader
Date: 06/10/05 13:51
Re: And an even more unfortunate response from Harrisbu
I'm not sure why the response from Harrisburg is unfortunate. Wasn't the $ 82M mainly state money ? And if those who constitute the totality of the SEPTA constituancy can't get one ward healer off dead center, one may conclude that the good burghers got what they deserve.
Date: 06/10/05 19:44
Re: And an even more unfortunate response from Harrisbu
Isn't democracy wonderful? And efficient?
In Chicaguh, Mayor Richard J. Daley said to build the subways down the middle of the new expressways and it was done. A benevolent dictatorship.....