The Student Labor Action Plan constructed a mock dating game on Monday – after all, it was Valentine’s Day – between a SEPTA and a Washington Metro bus, in order to find out who the better half of the relationship is.
SEPTA, which currently faces a $49 million deficit and a projected $92 million shortfall next year, would inevitably lose the contest, according to SLAP member Alison Huxta, because of its funding crisis and lack of after-hours service.
The group’s hopes of a massive protest and pseudo dating game were dashed once rain cloaked the city and no one showed up at City Hall. About 10 students decided to bear the rain and huddle next to one another – 15 minutes later, they shared apologies and disbanded, vowing to reschedule and fight another day.
“We expected students from Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr, but they’re not coming,” Huxta said. “We hope to reschedule with groups [near] Philadelphia to make it bigger next time.”
Huxta, a junior, was contacted by workers’ rights advocacy group Jobs with Justice to organize the event. She said it was a “solidarity protest” in conjunction with a much larger afternoon gathering in Harrisburg on Monday. Organizers there hoped to draw thousands, but Huxta said she heard turnout and energy levels were also low at the state capitol.
Philadelphia resident Robert Acheson, 22, was in Harrisburg for the protest earlier and caught a bus back to Philadelphia in order to make the meeting at City Hall. He attended Harrisburg’s protest with environmental group Clean Air Council, and lobbied Temple graduate Rep. Harold James (D., Phila.).
“[James,] being from South Philadelphia, was naturally all about it,” Acheson said of the representative’s support of saving mass transit. “But his assistant said [supporters of increasing SEPTA’s subsidies] will have to trade favors with Republicans to get SEPTA saved for the long term.”
Gov. Ed Rendell has pressured legislators to redirect highway and bridge funding to save SEPTA from having to raise fares and cut jobs. In his recent budget address he pledged $5 million in increased aid to the ailing program, dubbing it a “top priority.” But lawmakers from the middle of the state do not want to see their share of financial backing cut, especially for a service of no use to them. Therefore, Acheson said, lawmakers will have to bargain with those who oppose increased funding in order to avoid layoffs for more than a thousand SEPTA employees.
“This [issue] also affects the 300,000 people who ride SEPTA every day to work,” Acheson said. “It’s a flawed system, and not efficient in the way it’s run … they [legislators] should try to make it better to mirror other systems.”
Jason Schoen, a 22-year-old junior, agrees. He said it is more cost effective to drive than take mass transit, and though he is concerned about traffic congestion and the environment, the fear of fare hikes that could make SEPTA the most expensive transit company in the country keeps him behind the wheel.
Brandon Lausch can be reached at email@example.com.