SEPTA Wants Smartcards; PATCO Wants Philadelphia Expansion

This should have been done a long time ago, but still, this is good news:

SEPTA took its first tentative step today out of the era of tokens and paper tickets, announcing its plan to award a contract for a "smart card" by the end of next year.

Of course, its not exactly around the corner:

But it is likely to be three years or longer and to cost at least $100 million - based on other cities' experiences - before SEPTA riders can wave a card at a turnstile and be on their way.

Given their technology history (like the token machines) I think three years might be a little quick. But, hey, you have to start somewhere. However, assuming that the transfer is automated and maintained with these smart cards, then SEPTA really needs to just drop any pretense over the next three years of getting rid of them in the interim, once and for all.

The article also mentions that there will be a need for less ticket takers when this all comes. I feel very safe in saying that SEPTA could use a few more customer service representatives.

Transit is an issue where a popular regional Mayor, as we assume Nutter will be, should theoretically really make a difference. Rendell, however, was not really able to do much. Nutter's ability to get the suburbs on board where Rendell could not might center around whether suburbanites themselves are in a different place than they were ten years ago.

And, its not like regional transit expansion is exactly off the table in Philly either. Our local mass transit agency is actualy starting to push for lines in NJ and PA... it just is not coming from SEPTA::

If Philadelphia and its South Jersey suburbs each have just one new transit line to build, where should it go?

What might have once been a fanciful parlor game was transformed this week into an urgent policy debate by PATCO, the smaller of the region's two transit systems. The agency, which has long harbored expansionist dreams, launched a series of town meetings aimed at selling an ambitious extension of its bistate system to the public. Those meetings will continue next week in South Jersey, then resume in late January in Philadelphia.

I know I am pretty nerdy, but there is something fascinating to me about a feud or competition or whatever between the two agencies. (I prefer a feud, with the image of some sort of monster truck rally showdown between the Broad St Line and the PATCO high speed line.) Either way, if PATCO trying to expand will start to make SEPTA actually think about real expansion, I am all for it.

Turning the Suburbs Blue

The suburbs surrounding Philadelphia have long been regarded as a Republican stronghold. Moderate Republicanism, perhaps best personified by Sen. Arlen Specter, has ruled the day. This has begun to change as the Pennsylvania GOP has moved farther and farther to the right. Democrats have a good shot at winning the majority on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners as more suburbanites turn away from the Republican Party.

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