April Fools: Transit Hoax Highlights Campaign for Overnight SEPTA Service

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Conrad Benner
    A photo showing Wash Cycle Laundry offering a new pedicab service was an April Fool's Day joke.

    A door-to-door laundry service that picks up soiled socks by bike announced it would be offering pedicabs as a transportation option during SEPTA's off-hours. But the new service was a hoax meant to draw attention to the #SEPTA247 campaign, while highlighting Wash Cycle Laundry's latest upgrade.

    The company teamed up with 28-year-old Conrad Benner, the photographer behind the popular Streets Dept blog, which first announced the ruse.

    "I'm really just looking for ways to keep people interested in the [SEPTA247] campaign and keep pressure on SEPTA," said Benner, who has more than 2,400 signatures on the petition he launched in early March calling for overnight service on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines.

    The light-hearted take on the transit issue is "just another way to keep the conversation going about how ridiculous our transportation options are in this city," he said.

    SEPTA is continuing to work on a pilot program that would offer overnight subway service on weekends, according to Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman.

    "We still have work to do to figure out what the costs will be and the logistics in terms of how employees will be deployed," said Busch, who added SEPTA officials began investigating the pilot program about six months ago.

    This past winter several storms led the agency to replace the Market-Frankford NiteOwl Express bus lines, which run from midnight to 5 a.m., with train service.

    The switch, a safety decision to keep buses off icy roads, sparked a  conversation among the public to reinstate the 24/7 subway service that was cancelled in 1991.

    When asked if reinstating overnight train service was a talking point in contract negotiation meetings, Busch declined to comment except to say he anticipates research and planning of the pilot program to operate independently of the union talks as they have so far.

    Initially transit authorities expected to have a full report and a timeline for overnight weekend service on the subway and El by mid-April, but the end of the month is more likely, Busch said.

    Around that same time, Wash Cycle Laundry employees will be navigating new electronic-assist tricycles -- capable of holding and hauling 600 pounds of laundry -- through Philadelphia streets, said Leigh Goldenberg, Wash Cycle Laundry Inc.'s director of marketing.

    "With the electric assist, if it gets slightly beyond the capacity a human can do on their own, then a motor kicks in," Goldenberg said.

    Currently a Wash Cycle Laundry employee will tow about 300 pounds of laundry in a trailer attached to their bike, which is powered solely by their legs, she said.

    "This expands the reach of where we can go, getting up and down hills is going to be a lot better," she added. "It increases the efficiency of what we can do in a single route."

    Goldenberg admits the staged photo, which shows an employee carting around two people in Wash Cycle Laundry's current trailer-equipped bicycle setup, was a markteting opportunity.

    The company has no plans to add a pedicab fleet, but the April Fool's joke gave the "all-green" laundry service a chance to lend its support to an alternative transportation issue, Goldenberg said.

    "Wash Cycle supports anything that helps find sustainable solutions for mass transit," she said. 

    Benner appreciates the nod, writing on his blog: "So pumped that Wash Cycle Laundry is helping out in such a huge way! If only SEPTA took our city’s [transporation] needs so seriously."

    Although Benner is willing to fork over the fare for a pedicab, he says he would prefer the overnight train service.

    "I know it takes time to make this decision," he said. "But it would make a low-cost option available to a lot of people."


    Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.