Strike Looms for Philadelphia Area Transit

by | October 31, 2016

By Jason Laughlin

 
Pennsylvania House transportation committee chairman John Taylor (R., Phila.) implored union representatives and SEPTA negotiators to talk all night Sunday into Monday, if necessary, to avoid a strike that could bring subways, buses, and trolleys in Philadelphia to a halt Tuesday.
 
"This would be a terrible thing for the city of Philadelphia at any time but particularly as we move toward Election Day," he said.
 
As of 10 p.m. Sunday negotiations continued between SEPTA and the Transportation Workers Union Local 234, which represents about 5,000 employees, including operators of the major mass transit modes in the city, excepting Regional Rail.
 
If a new contract isn't reached by 12:01 a.m. Tuesday the strike will happen and Regional Rail will be the only major public transportation option in Philadelphia. Tuesday morning could see transit riders, about 576,000 people a day, scrambling to get to work. Combined, the Market Frankford and Broad Street Lines move more than 311,000 people daily and trolleys carry about 83,000. While the region's suburban bus lines will continue to operate, essentially any route with a number lower than 90 will not. SEPTA's website, septa.org, has a list of services affected if there is a strike.
 
On Saturday negotiators discussed union concerns about vehicle operators down time between shifts and the lengths of breaks. Sunday included conversations about pension changes and health-care coverage, a union representative said.
 
Both sides told Taylor they would pull an all-nighter to resolve the contract issues, but it wasn't clear Sunday night if that would happen.
 
"The idea is to stick with it until we get something done," said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch.
 
Taylor said it may be SEPTA's responsibility to make concessions.
 
"Usually the people holding the money have a better chance of solving it," he said. Meanwhile, the city prepared for a transit shutdown. The Philadelphia Parking Authority has provided alternative parking plans, a PPA spokesman said. Uber, which is expected to be formally legalized in Philadelphia when the governor signs a recently passed regulatory bill, said it may adjust service to accommodate stranded transit riders. Cabdrivers, meanwhile, expressed solidarity with SEPTA workers, although past strikes have been a boon to cabbies.
 
"It's a lot more fares and a lot of times they're longer fares," said Ron Blount, president of the Philadelphia Taxi Drivers Alliance. "More trips out to Lansdale or King of Prussia, those kinds of areas."
 
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