Saturday, November 1, 2008

SEPTA, Part 1

In what is sure to be an ongoing series of posts, I'm writing about the inadequacy of SEPTA. For those of you who might not know what SEPTA is, it stands for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority. Authority is the right word, because they are the authority when it comes to transportation to and from Philadelphia. For most people, there is no other mass transportation option if you live in the 'burbs.

The problem with SEPTA is that they are horribly inefficient. Years ago, the Live Eight concert came to Philly. There were over 1 million people at the concert and a lot of them had to use SEPTA to get into the city. Let's just say, things didn't end well. We ended up in Villanova instead of Ambler because we took the wrong train. The stations were all a mess. It was run terribly.

Well this past week, the Phillies won the World Series. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for the city. But I knew that either the city of Philadelphia, SEPTA, or both would screw things up with the victory parade. Unfortunately, I work in Center City at the moment. It was cool, because I was able to watch the victory parade and get pictures. The bad part was that everyone started funneling out of the city around 4:00, when I, along with loads of other people, leave to come home. In hindsight, I probably should have just left work after the parade passed my building.

Anyway, the parade started at "noon" (12:30) and was pretty cool, even though the whole parade went by in about 10 minutes flat. I got some nice pictures and saw Pat the Bat riding up front in the Budweiser wagon. After the final float went by, the madness ensued. I fought my way through the crowds to my favorite sandwich place, the "Sandwich Nazi" as it is affectionately known in my work circle. After waiting about 20 mins for my sandwich, I went back to work. I thought I would try to leave a little early to hopefully beat some of the crowd back. I left work at around 3:50 and headed to Suburban Station. What I saw when I got there was complete and utter chaos. The line for every train was overflowing into the concourse and wrapping around pillars in every direction. The estimates said there were around 3 million people in Philly for the parade and when I saw those lines, I started to believe that figure.

I wasn't sure what to do. I called Sarah and asked her to come get me. Then I had an idea. I told her I would walk to Market East Station a few blocks away and check the lines there. What I saw when I got there was, arguably, worse. The line for my train looked to be about 2 hours long. It wasn't moving. I checked the train grid to see if I could take any other trains that had smaller lines. What I ended up doing was hopping in line for the R5 train going the opposite direction. The plan was to take that train to the Villanova Station and have Sarah pick me up there. I called her and she left right away. I waited another half hour or so for the next R5 train while all the other lines came and went. As I stood there, at least two R2s, two R3s, two R8, and two R7s went by. The R5 just happened to be running about 35 mins late.

I finally boarded the train around 5:30 and was on my way. Or so I thought. We went about 100 feet and stopped in the tunnel. And waited. Ten minutes later, we moved about another 500 feet. And stopped. Ten minutes later, we finally started going again and went all the way to Suburban Station. At this point, the train is packed full. There was room for maybe 10 more people in the train car that I was in. When we pull up to the platform, there are about 500 people crammed onto the platform trying to get on the train. After 10 more minutes of people shoving and cramming themselves in the train, we took off, leaving about 400 of the 500 people behind. Finally we were on our way. About 45 minutes later, the train pulled into Villanova Station. It was about 7:00 when I finally got off the train. I normally get home between 5:30 and 6:00. We are in Villanova, 45 minutes from home.

So we decide to go out to dinner on the way home. We hop on the turnpike and head towards home. We get to talking and I look up Texas Roadhouse on Sarah's BlackBerry so I can call ahead for seating. When I hang up, we see a sign for the Allentown Service Plaza. Somehow, we both missed the Lansdale exit. So we get off at Quakertown and turn around and come back the other way. We finally get to Texas Roadhouse around 7:45. We eat, head to the train station and the supermarket and get home around 9:45. The plan for the night was to watch some scary movies, but all we can think about is sleep. So, we turn in early and head to bed around 10:45.

The point of the story is... never trust SEPTA. Every major event that happens in Philly, they find a way to fuck it up. The news outlets were reporting that the city was telling people to take public transportation. SEPTA was telling people they were over capacity and that it wasn't a good idea to take public transportation. But the truth is, SEPTA had no plan. They added no extra trains to their tracks and expected close to 3 million people to just wait and fight for a spot in line for their trains. Some people waited 3 hours or more for a train to go home. Some waited 3-4 hours for a train to come into the city in the morning before they left and went home. SEPTA actually stopped inbound service to the city at a certain point earlier in the day. I had no other option because I work down there, and it was most frustrating for people like me. I think I've learned my lesson, and I won't be taking SEPTA during the next major event in Philly. I think I'll probably just stay home.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to also add that it is nearly impossible to find the addresses of any local train stations, making them difficult to get directions to. I think it's a conspiracy.

    Also, I hate the northeast extension.

    At least our steak was cooked correctly!