Return to Sender: SEPTA and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Parade



You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Last Friday, on the way to work, Operator 55 told us that there might be a few delays on the El because of the increased volume that would be experienced due to the Phillies' victory parade, but he also told us that you would be running trains every 4-6 minutes to help alleviate that. And I have to say I wasn't surprised when, two hours later, I got back on the El to head to Center City and had to squeeze myself in like a sardine. (My co-worker, who is new to the city and had never taken the El before, was surprised. I had to assure her that it's not usually like that.)

What I was surprised by was the chaos Operator 55 hadn't warned us about (although I'm sure he would have if he'd anticipated what was to come). SEPTA was obviously not ready for the more than two million people who turned out for the celebrations. The south-bound Broad Street Line stopped running beyond Vine hours before the parade finally reached its final destination, leaving stranded thousands of people who planned on watching the parade south of City Hall, not to mention the people who live and work in South Philly. (Vine Street to Pattison Avenue isn't exactly walking distance when there are huge crowds on the street.) Bus schedules weren't adjusted accordingly, as I understand it, so unless people wanted to invest in a cab, there was no way to get south. Nevermind the people who had tickets for the rally at the ballpark.

None of this really affected me. I heard about it on KYW, because after the parade, my coworker and I got into her car to head out to the Main Line, where we had a meeting. We were moving mostly against traffic, so it didn't take us too long. And I figured that on the way back, when I'd planned on taking a train into the city, things would be smooth sailing. KYW told us that there were delays on trains leaving the city, but that everything going into the city would be fine.

Two hours later, when our meeting was over and it was time for me to board the R5, though? Things had apparently changed. An announcement came over the loudspeaker warning passengers to expect minor delays. Minor. I watched at least three trains pass me over the next two hours: they were going express to Center City, not stopping anywhere along the way, because the rally was over and hundreds of thousands of people were trying to get home. Didn't matter that there were people who needed to get to the city, too: a hospital orderly who ended up two hours late for his shift and a Jewish woman who needed to be home before sunset (I think she made it, but only because Daylight Savings Time didn't end for another two days), and a young mother whose seven-year-old son had come home from school to an empty house all joined me on the platform. Those two hours were a minor, and kind of chilly, inconvenience for me, but they were having a serious impact on the lives of others, and you were so under-prepared for the day that you managed to negatively affect the lives of millions of people.

Millions, SEPTA.

But here's the thing. There are almost six million people living in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. You run ad campaigns telling people to choose SEPTA instead of other means of transit (specifically, driving). You insinuate that if every one of those six million people needed to, they could use your services. And yet somehow, two million people—a third of our area's population—managed to screw things up for you. Does this mean you're going to change your ad campaigns? "Go Green. Go SEPTA. (Unless everyone else is.)"? "Perks that beat our getting you to that party on time perk"?

We are a major city. We deserve a competent transit system. And unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Operator 55 (who yesterday told his passengers to "have fun at work"), you're not it.

The curse has been reversed, SEPTA. We might win again. We might have another parade. Will you be ready next time?

Image cropped from larger photo by Flickr user jpe118.

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