SEPTA strike doesn’t stop Del. regional rail service
When Anthony Frassetta and Phil Ford heard news of the SEPTA strike early Tuesday morning, they quickly made other plans. The Delaware men, who became friends while riding the R2 commuter rail line to their Philadelphia jobs, decided to take Frassetta’s car to work instead of enduring late and overcrowded trains. The trip wasn’t too bad, they said, but they plan to be back on the train today because it still beats the cost and hassle of driving.
“The worst thing for us is delays,” said Ford, an insurance consultant. “If it keeps running, we’ll be OK.”
The sudden strike by Transport Workers Union Local 234 stalled Philadelphia’s bus, subway and trolley operations and surprised morning commuters. But it did not stop the regional rail lines that thousands of commuters in Delaware, New Jersey and the city’s suburbs use because its workers work under a different contract.
Commuters from Delaware logged nearly 1.14 million rides on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s R2 line last year, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation. The line has stations in Claymont, Wilmington and Newark.
The union went on strike about 3 a.m. Tuesday, just hours after the Philadelphia Phillies won Game 5 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park. The system averages more than 928,000 trips each weekday, and the union represents more than 5,000 SEPTA drivers, operators and mechanics.
The union had threatened to go on strike during the World Series. But over the weekend Gov. Ed Rendell ordered the union and SEPTA to remain at the bargaining table or risk consequences. There had been no talk of an imminent walkout as recently as Monday evening.
But Willie Brown, the local’s president, said workers decided to strike after both sides agreed that they had gone as far as they could in negotiations over salary, pension and health care issues.
“We’re very anxious to get back to the bargaining table ASAP,” SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said.
Delaware commuters returning to the Claymont station Tuesday evening said the trains were crowded and often late, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from riding.
“I’m from New York, so this is nothing for me,” said Katrina Robinson, of Claymont. “The best thing is to stay calm. Being all irate just makes it worse.”
Robinson, who takes the train daily to her job as a case manager for a Philadelphia nonprofit organization, called the scene at the city’s 30th Street station “controlled chaos” because so many people were crowded onto the trains.
Helene Weinberg, who lives in Brandywine Hundred and works at University of Pennsylvania, said she hopes SEPTA’s rail workers don’t go on strike, too. She grimaces at the thought.
“I’d have to go back to driving,” she said. “Ugh.”
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