Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Tao of Septa

Everyone in Philadelphia has a Septa story - I know that. But I feel that I have a story a day. Every Septa trip is an epic, but an epic in its own way. This is today's version.

7:31 a.m. Teenage daughter is dressed and ready for school, uncharacteristically early. I push her out the door and command, "Take the 7!" Failing that, I instruct, wait for the 12 on 22nd Street. The 12 is one Septa bus you can set your watch to. Of course, she ignores her mother and stumbles foggy-headed to 20th Street to catch the 17.

8:00 a.m. Teenager telephones from 16th Street to report that two, very full 17 buses have passed her by without stopping. Now she's gone to 16th Street to try to catch the 2, another of our options. But the bus flew past just as she reached the corner. Mother's response: "Grrrrrr." She curses Septa bus drivers and tries to think up suitable means of revenge.

8:20 a.m. I decide to commute the reliable way, by foot. Crossing 23rd, I spot the 12, heading south. The driver toots the horn. It's Smitty, the sweetest, most gentlemanly bus driver on the planet. He's just completing the circuit of the bus we usually take, and recognizes me. Now there's a weird symmetry to a bad morning.

8:21 a.m. A thought coaleses: What kind of city is big enough to support a transit system so dysfunctional and impersonal that alienated drivers cruise blithely past school children - yet is also small enough to have bus drivers who know your name and wave hello? Only in Philadelphia.

15 Comments:

Blogger rasphila said...

Happens all the time, unfortunately. We live in Germantown and do pretty well on SEPTA—but you have to know the ropes and you have to have a bit of luck sometimes. The H and XH go right by the corner of our street, but in many instances their arrivals bear no relation to the schedule.

This sounds like a brief for driving everywhere, but it isn't. The H and XH are late primarily because of the traffic on Greene St, which neither the drivers nor SEPTA management can control. There aren't enough buses on many routes because SEPTA always has to struggle with funding—which leads to crowding and to incidents like the teenage daughter being passed by two overcrowded buses.

But we need and will continue to need SEPTA (or preferably a better setup than SEPTA). Think of the chaos that ensues from even a short transit strike. And every time I rent a car and drive downtown at rush hour, as I do occasionally, I wonder whether all the drivers around me are out of their minds. They do this every day, and every day the radio reports five or ten mile backups on half a dozen major roads.

SEPTA is not good. Driving to work is seldom better, and often worse and more stressful.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boston's the same...though the drivers in Philly are much nicer.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Sarah in University City said...

The drivers are mostly very nice on the 21 and the 42, but it's impossible to catch a bus! No less than four buses ignored me before I could finally get one to stop! arrgh

10:05 AM  
Anonymous fante said...

"The Tao of Ingra Saffron"

Exaggerate daily routines that most people deal with much more honor and dignity. Endlessly bitch, whine and moan.

SEPTA was the only reliable form of transportation I took today on my way to New York. The 48 bus came right on time this morning. I had a seat. The driver was nice as she dropped me off at 21st and Market. Normally I walk to 30th Street Station but it was cold. No problem. The 31 bus came up Market. I hopped on, found a seat up front with no problem. The driver was nice. Dropped me off at the station. Went to take my train to New York which turned out to be an hour late. Once it arrived, the ride most of the way was slow.

I still don't understand why the architecture critic is writing about daily gripes that have nothing to do with the subject of architecture.

At least you could call for more funding of public transportation. Instead, you whine.

The residents of this city deserve better from its papers.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous fante said...

"The Tao of Ingra Saffron"

Exaggerate daily routines that most people deal with much more honor and dignity. Endlessly bitch, whine and moan.

SEPTA was the only reliable form of transportation I took today on my way to New York. The 48 bus came right on time this morning. I had a seat. The driver was nice as she dropped me off at 21st and Market. Normally I walk to 30th Street Station but it was cold. No problem. The 31 bus came up Market. I hopped on, found a seat up front with no problem. The driver was nice. Dropped me off at the station. Went to take my train to New York which turned out to be an hour late. Once it arrived, the ride most of the way was slow.

I still don't understand why the architecture critic is writing about daily gripes that have nothing to do with the subject of architecture.

At least you could call for more funding of public transportation. Instead, you whine, publicly.

The residents of this city deserve better from its papers.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shut-up Fante, you moron, if you knew anything you would have taken the Chinatown bus to New York which is quicker, costs way less, and is always on time. Duhhhh!

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I routinely go from Philly to NYC via Septa, NJ Transit, and MTA. Septa is always the least reliable of the bunch. Not to mention, Septa is the only transit agency I have used that doesn't accept credit cards.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

I took the 7 bus home tonight. Waited five minutes. The bus driver didn't know my name but he still wished me a goodnight.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Verity Kindle said...

Fante, you've got the monopoly on bitchy so far and you probably don't even live here! Tell everybody in Secaucus I said hi and to kick you square in your large shins, you poser.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Jay Blossom said...

Hey, everyone, would you please lighten up? This is Inga's blog! She can right about whatever she wants!

If you'll please notice, in her "Changing Skyline" column in the newspaper, she writes about architecture. But can't she write about SEPTA in her blog?

Jay

9:50 AM  
Blogger Gabriel said...

anonymous, you can use credit cards to buy septa passes and tokens three ways: online here (scroll down), at one of the center city stations' regional rail ticket offices, or at 1234 Market in the lobby sales office.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great, septa takes credit cards. if only they would install token machines in every subway stop or let the people in the booth sell tokens.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

Everyone has a SEPTA story, according to Inga Saffron. Here's my story.

With my monthly pass in hand (paid for with my debit card) I waited approximately three minutes for the 48 bus to arrive. I got on with other passengers. I walked toward the back of the bus. I saw one of my neighbors. We chatted. I got off on Market Street. From there I took the 41 bus to 30th Street Station.

On the way home I walked from 30th Street to 22nd Arch. Waited about eight minutes for the 48 bus. I got on with other passengers. I saw another neighbor on the bus. We chatted. We continued our conversation as we walked home together.

The End

9:24 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

This morning I arrived at my bus stop the same time as the 7 bus. Took it to 22nd and Market streets. From there, because of the cold, I took the trolley to 30th Street station, which arrived immediately.

Arrived at the Amtrak station with time to spare. My train to New York was 30 minutes late, was even later when it finally arrived at Penn Station.

Best Regards,

Fante

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Fante said...

I walked from 30th Street Station to 22nd and Arch streets. The 48 bus came at the same time. I made it home in time to watch "Globe Trekker."

All the Best,

Fante

10:28 PM  

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