Commuters braced for a third day of traffic gridlock in and around Philadelphia as the city's transit agency urged the union representing about 4,700 striking workers to engage in good-faith negotiations to bring an end to the walkout.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said late Wednesday that a strike should be "an option of last resort," and when you have one, there needs to be added urgency to get a deal done.
SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. says on several occasions this week, SEPTA negotiators believed progress was being made, but Deon says the union "brought a halt to negotiations."
"Pat Deon must have dusted off a news release from some other contract negotiation if he claims SEPTA 'has bargained in good faith with the union, presented fair offers, and quickly and thoughtfully responded to all proposals,'" said TWU 234 president Willie Brown in a statement to the media later Thursday morning.
"Really. Who is he kidding? Where has he been? SEPTA’s bargaining team and high-priced outside lawyers stonewalled contract talks for months prior to the strike. When the strike was called they didn’t utter a word for the first 16 hours.
"Make no mistake, if we had accepted their terms prior to the strike deadline our members would have taken home less in their paychecks next year than they earn today."
The strike began at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, shutting down buses, trolleys and subways that provide about 900,000 rides a day. A current cap on union pension benefits and the amount of time off provided to operators between shifts were among the issues on the table.
Frustrated motorists fought traffic gridlock at morning and evening rush hours Wednesday during the second day of the strike.
Highways around the region experienced major backups as thousands of people who normally take city transit used their cars instead.
Regional rail lines experienced delays as a result of increased demand caused by the idling of city buses, trolleys and subways.
The city's bike-share program was doing a booming business.
Gabby Richards, 23, said she was relieved Wednesday morning to get the last bike available at the stand near her home.
"I've been making my plans each day around Uber surge pricing and traffic," Richards said. "It's clear that something needs to happen to get people moving smoothly again."
Uber said it had 41 percent more unique riders during rush hours Tuesday compared with the same day the previous week.
Schools have also been affected, since SEPTA provides rides for nearly 60,000 public, private and charter school students.
The walkout, the ninth since 1975 by the city transit union, is the first since a 2009 strike that lasted six days.
Democratic city leaders working to help end the contract impasse expressed fears of it lasting through Election Day, leaving some residents with little time to vote Nov. 8.
In its statement Wednesday night, SEPTA asked the union to assure residents that, if necessary, they will suspend the strike on Election day if no agreement is reached.
SEPTA SERVICES THAT ARE STILL RUNNING DURING STRIKE
- Regional Rail
- Norristown High Speed Line
- Suburban Bus, Trolley Routes 101 & 102
- LUCY (Loop through University City), Route 310 (Horsham Breeze), Routes 204, 205 and Cornwells Heights Parking Shuttle
- CCT Connect: Regular Service will operate for registered ADA and Shared Ride customers. There may be some delays due to increased demand and local street traffic.
SEPTA SERVICES THAT ARE NOT RUNNING DURING STRIKE
- City Bus Routes (Including Route 78, Cornwells Heights to Center City Express)
- Market Frankford Line
- Broad Street & Broad Ridge Spur Lines
- Trolley Routes 10, 11, 13, 15, 34, and 36
NON-SEPTA SERVICES FOR STUDENTS AND VISITORS
Temple University student Victor Lourng created a map of bus routes that will run and provide services for students, hotel guests and some workers during the strike.
UPENN'S SEPTA STRIKE CONTINGENCY PLAN
The University of Pennsylvania partnered with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to provide complimentary transit services to all employees of these institutions and organizations at Penn. CLICK HERE for more information.
TEMPLE UNIVERSITY'S SEPTA STRIKE CONTINGENCY PLAN
Temple University released contingency plans to help members of the university community during the strike. CLICK HERE to learn more.
UBER EXPANDS UBERPOOL COVERAGE
Uber announced they would expand its uberPOOL coverage throughout the greater Philadelphia area during the strike. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Lyft announced prices will remain low for passengers during the strike. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Zipcar announced they would discount its cars in Philadelphia with $5 hourly reservations available on more than 100 zipcars near SEPTA stops for those who are without transportation. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Indego increased the amount of bikes available at some key pickup and drop-off stations to deal with more bikers. CLICK HERE to learn more.
PPA DISCOUNTS, RELAXED ENFORCEMENT