SEPTA Key gets closer, Growing Uber gets sued and Lynne Abraham doesn’t quite get it: 10 Philly transit stories from 2014

Transit year

UberX launches, gets stopped by horses, gets sued and is still thriving

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It’s always easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, apparently especially when you’re a company valued at $40 billion. Uber, which had been running its luxury, PPA-approved Black service since 2012, launched UberX, a cheaper service that’s in direct competition with cabs. (That’s been its pattern in other cities as well). The PPA responded with the best weapon it had: Horses. The PPA conducted a sting operation that led to the impounding of several cars. Though the rest of the state now allows UberX, the PPA continues to hold firm in its stance that UberX isn’t regulated and shouldn’t be allowed. Uber’s reaction? Sorry, not sorry. We’re still going to do this.

As promising as Uber’s start has been, several local and national blunders have also earned it headlines for the wrong reasons. In Philadelphia, Uber kept its drivers in the cold about its disputed legality when it launched in October. And just last week, 45 taxi companies filed a lawsuit against Uber, comparing the company to bootleggers and asking for an injunction to stop its services.

Taxis strike

Taxicab drivers, pissed off about the growing popularity of ridesharing services, decided the best way to earn support for their side was to stop working and cause a traffic jam. It didn’t go over so well.

SEPTA Key is coming and causing delays while we wait for it


This fall we finally got a hint at what SEPTA’s long-awaited step into the 21st century will look like. The Key, which is a smart card and not actually a key, is set to be ready for subways, trolleys and buses sometime next year if everything goes according to schedule. The end of the token era will no doubt make Philadelphians’ lives easier but not yet. SEPTA is testing out several machines across the city and causing delays in the process, particularly for the Market-Frankford Line at 15th Street Station. With only about 10 percent of Key machines installed, expect the lines to pay for SEPTA subways to get worse before they get better.

City announces a bike share program, asks people to pick locations for stops

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Philadelphia’s bike share program is scheduled to be ready by spring 2015. The city will have 60 stations and throughout the last few months let people nominate locations for them.

In November, Mayor Michael Nutter also created the city’s first Bicycle Advocacy Board. 

SEPTA goes nighttime all the time

This summer, SEPTA replaced its nighttime bus service on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines with regular subway service, and the move was a success. SEPTA saw its ridership between midnight and 5 a.m. increase by 50 percent. In October, SEPTA extended the program indefinitely even though it comes at a greater cost to SEPTA.

New downtown train station?

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There are four plans for the future of the Northeast Corridor, and in one of them Philadelphia would be getting a new downtown train station. The other plans wouldn’t lead to drastic changes around here but would hopefully make travel along the NEC faster. It’ll be a while before we know exactly how the future looks, though. The final proposal won’t be released until late 2016.

Same stations, new names 

Market East Station became no longer as the SEPTA Regional Rail station changed to Jefferson Station in September. The reason SEPTA made the change? A naming rights contract between Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Titan. SEPTA said the $4 million in sponsorship money would go to everyday ridership expenses.

A month before that, 30th Street Station was renamed William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in honor of the late Philadelphia congressman. Gray helped 30th Street Station in the 80s and 90s by securing millions of dollars for its renovation.

SEPTA police test cameras

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In July, SEPTA police began testing out cameras on a few of their officers. The cameras they are testing clip either on the middle of their shirts or on their front pockets and are about the size of a walkie-talkie. SEPTA police chief Thomas Nestel said the cameras had already helped identify suspects, and he hoped the cameras would not only hold officers more accountable for their actions but give the public a taste of what officers deal with on a daily basis.

Of course, the police are being watched, too. SEPTA’s social media team helped catch an officer who was masturbating on a subway.

PPA brags about ride-hailing apps you’ll never use

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Uber, look out. Or don’t. Yeah, probably don’t. With Uber sinking its teeth into Philly’s taxi industry in September, the PPA shared three apps — something called Way2Ride and separate apps from 215 Get A Cab and Freedom Taxi — that it wanted you to use instead of Uber.

Lynne Abraham on Uber: Um, what?

Those aforementioned janky cab apps might be considered cutting edge technology to one person: mayoral candidate Lynne Abraham. When she announced she was running for mayor the final time, she said, “I’m not going to get into an Uber thing, so don’t go there.”   

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