This morning, Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's regional rail system went on strike shutting down 13 train lines that carry commuters to the suburbs and Philadelphia International Airport. The strike began at 12:01 a.m. after negotiations between SEPTA and two unions failed to reach a new contract deal. Subways, trolleys and buses operated by SEPTA will continue to run. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) walked out when talks broke down after negotiations between the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and two unions failed to reach a new contract deal.
Stephen Bruno, vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, stated that "Asking for extension in time, without any movement toward closure is really pointless. It would be an extension for the sake of extension.” He said they are seeking raises of at least 14.5 percent over five years — or about 3 percentage points more than SEPTA has offered. "Asking for extension in time, without any movement toward closure is really pointless. It would be an extension for the sake of extension."
This strike comes at a time when commuters already have difficulty getting around. The commuter lines that carry PATCO commuter trains between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey are being replaced over the Ben Franklin Bridge, affecting not only the train schedule but also car traffic on the busy bridge. To make matters even worse, Interstate 495 in Delaware is undergoing emergency repair work throughout the summer due to the shifting of the foundation and now work is being done to temporarily shore up the leaning bridge supports, before tackling permanent repairs to the foundation and replacing two sets of piers.
The strike shut down 13 Regional Rail lines that provide 60,000 passengers with 126,000 rides on a typical weekday. That promised to snarl already clogged highways with additional cars and to hamper commuters and their employers throughout the region. Workers, employers and travelers will have to make contingency plans to deal with the rail strike. The full effect would not be felt until Monday's rush hour. The strike will affect hospital, airport and retail workers. Philadelphia International Airport was trying to help employees and travelers make contingency plans, including bus options and carpools. Airport spokesperson, Victoria Lupica stated that “"We can't foresee who needs what assistance, but we certainly have reached out to people.”
Governor Corbett is seeking help from to President Obama to quickly appoint a presidential emergency board to mediate the rail labor dispute. Under federal railroad law, the creation of such a board would compel the workers to return to the job for 240 days.
For more information regarding substitute methods of public transportation see SEPTA.org.