Tuesday, February 10, 2009
On an astonishingly warm February afternoon in Fishtown, the neighborhood was awash in activity. As usual, SEPTA patrons stood patiently on the islands that dot the inside lanes of Girard Avenue awaiting the next trolley. Little did the westbound passengers know their ride was about to take a sour turn.
Our group was among those waiting for the trolley as we filmed their approaches and departures for our transportation story. As we shot the trolley pulling away from its stop and continuing through the intersection, we turned our camera off awaiting the next streetcar and scanning the sidewalks for future ideas. After about five minutes, we noticed that the last trolley sat motionless near its next stop.
In what seemed more like a scene from a slapstick comedy rather than a modern public transit system, trolley after trolley began stacking up behind the stalled streetcar. Two trolleys turned into three, then four, five and eventually peaked at seven streetcars in perfect succession. The middle of Girard Avenue was suddenly transformed into an impromptu SEPTA layup.
And while the trolleys sat clogging an entire lane of the busy arterial, cars began to stack up as well. Those trapped in the inner lanes behind the trolleys threw up their hands, craned their necks to peer out their windows or played a dangerous game of cat and mouse looking for the perfect opportunity to make a desperate dart into the other lane.
Some of the passengers stood helpless in the doorways of the streetcars awaiting any kind of explanation. Others passed the time with a smoke. Still others took to the streets and sidewalks yelling at SEPTA officials who had finally arrived on the scene to mitigate the situation.
After about 40 minutes, buses began arriving to pick up the stranded passengers. If you thought traffic was backed up before, you hadn't seen anything yet. As the buses stopped in the right lane with passengers boarding wherever they pleased, not a car could squeeze by as a chorus of car horns and disgruntled riders' complaints rained down upon the streets of Fishtown.
While the streetcars serve as one of the primary means of transportation through the area, the antiquated fixed-rail conveyance clearly has drawbacks. In what was vaguely described as "mechanical difficulties" by a SEPTA representative on the scene, it looked more like a catastrophe from our outside perspective. Our feelings were echoed by the sentiments we heard berating SEPTA for their often-horrible service. While no one in our grou
p rides the trolley on a regular basis, we all use other facets of SEPTA almost daily and agreed with the passengers thrust into a traffic nightmare, which surely put a damper on an otherwise magnificent Sunday afternoon.
By Justin Elson, Connor McCormick and Amanda Geronikos -Group 20
Posted by justin elson at 9:05 PM