SEPTA’s wheels have been squeaking for the past few years. In need of a serious axel greasing, SEPTA sought temporary relief with Gov. Ed Rendell’s infusion of money borrowed from the highway transportation fund. Although this lent money has appeased SEPTA’s cry for state attention and money, there is a serious threat facing the future of the system: a strike.
Faced with a tentative strike on Oct. 31, Rendell and SEPTA must realize it’s time to stop greasing the squeaky wheels with borrowed money and start working on the engine.
The repercussions of a strike would not only leave close to million commuters stranded on the platforms, it would impact Philadelphia’s already bruised economy. This won’t just cause students and professors to skip school – it will make the trip to work even more daunting than it already is. An increase in commuters reverting to traveling via automobile increases the likelihood of gridlock and accidents. It is also a drain on consumers’ pockets as the high gasoline prices are already hindering tourism.
Another issue with shutting down the city’s only public transportation system is that people will be limited to where they go by how far they can travel on foot. This will inevitably decrease tourism in Center City and will isolate people in the suburbs and further parts ofthe city.
Students will also take a huge hit if transportation is halted. Even though the university plans to have some kind of supplement to the indefinitely discontinued transportation system, it might not be able to absorb the students and professors living arcoss the large city.
Every time money is borrowed to save SEPTA, a brick is taken from the wall of public transportation. And now that angered employees working without contracts are rightfully threatening to jackhammer their way to the system’s infrastructure, the wall is quickly crumbling.
The near-defunct public transportation system is already struggling to operate with a $92 million deficit free-riding in its caboose. Now, workers are seeking a decent wage and healthcare coverage. It is integral that the system responsible for transporting 700,000 commuters a day is flawless. If this means giving the workers what they need; give them the moon.
By temporarily appeasing the transit system with borrowed highway money, the system is increasingly facing a jeopardized future. Without a serious infusion by state legislature and an internal restructuring, including contract negotiations, SEPTA will forever be living paycheck to paycheck, waiting for Rendell to (temporarily) save the day.