BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Midnight Deadline Looms for SEPTA Strike as Talks Continue

By David Cruz
Correspondent

With just a week to go before Election Day, a potential strike by 5,700 Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority [SEPTA] workers threatens to gnarl travel into, out of and around Philadelphia. At issue? As always, money. Management wants workers to pay more to keep their current health care, and the rank and file says they want parity with management when it comes to pensions. Union sources say they’re not optimistic that a settlement is going to be reached before the midnight deadline because negotiations on what were supposed to be lesser items — like bathroom breaks and driver schedules — have proven to be tough to settle.

If the two sides can’t come to an agreement about 400,000 commuters will have to find a new way to get around starting tomorrow.

Here’s what SEPTA is telling riders to expect:

What’s not running:
– City bus routes
– The Market Frankford line
– The Broad Street and Broad Ridge spur lines
– Trolley routes 10, 11, 13, 15, 34 and 36

Here’s what will be running:
– Regional Rail is your only option for travel in and around Philadelphia.
– Norristown High Speed Line
– Suburban bus
– Trolley routes 101 and 102
– LUCY (the Loop through University City)

SEPTA says be prepared for crowded trains and travel inconveniences, consider adjusting work and business hours and check SEPTA website and local media outlets for news updates.

Negotiations resumed this morning in Philadelphia with both sides promising to talk all the way up to the deadline. Commuters can only wait and hope and try to figure out how they’re going to get around tomorrow.

How much is it going to mess with people in Philly?

“I live in Center City Philadelphia, I’ll be able to manage, but I have family that won’t,” said one resident

“It affects everybody because we all need to get places, you know what I mean, and it’s not fair. Everybody does their fair share, does their job good. It’s a shame; some people should get paid more. You know minimum wage is nothing now. Nobody can live off of that,” said another commuter.

“I don’t do it everyday but I still use the SEPTA line very frequently because my father has had a heart attack so I have to go back and forth and this is my only way. I’m just getting to Philly, so I don’t know any other way,” said another commuter. The impact if there’s a strike? “Really horrible for the people that are not driving,” she said.

The 53-year-old SEPTA — which serves 3.5 million riders a year out of Trenton — is the nation’s fifth largest overall transit system and labor strife is nothing new here. They’ve had more strikes — nine since 1977 — than any other transit agency in the country, and from the sound of things in Philadelphia today, number 10 is just hours away.