SEPTA train
Credit: Kurt Raschke / Flickr

SEPTA’s 4,700 TWU Local 234 workers are on strike.

The contract for these bus drivers and subway and trolley operators ended Monday; they promised to strike if a deal was not reached by midnight. And that’s what happened. Despite indications from SEPTA earlier Monday night the sides were coming close to reach a deal, nothing happened by midnight.

Just after the strike became official, TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown said “We’re pretty far apart. We are going to stay here and go upstairs and keep exchanging demands. I’m not optimistic we can (agree).”

He said he did not know how long the strike might last. The main reasons for the strike he mentioned were pensions and health benefits, as well as more seemingly mundane reasons like bathroom breaks and operating fatigue.

“We could not come to agreement on simple things,” Brown said.

Asked what he had to say to Philly commuters who will be affected, Brown said, “Sorry, that’s the only tool we have available to us.”

SEPTA countered in a statement that TWU Local 234 walked away from a deal “that would have provided his members pay raises, enhanced pension benefits, maintained health care coverage levels and continued job security, while also remaining fair and affordable for the taxpayers and riders who fund SEPTA.”

According to the statement, SEPTA would consider seeking a way to halt the strike for Election Day if a deal has not been reached by next Tuesday.

The effects of a strike are comprehensive for a city that absolutely relies on mass transit for daily commuting — some 400,000 people ride the service daily:

  • The Market-Frankford Line — which sees 52 million passengers per year — will be closed down.
  • The Broad Street Line — 31 million riders annually — will be closed down.
  • Buses, trolleys and trackless trolleys — thousands more people — will be closed down.

In a statement, Mayor Jim Kenney said, “I urge residents to have patience during this period.  We expect that traffic will be greatly impacted, so make alternate travel arrangements as soon you are able, including carpooling, walking and biking.”

The good news? You’ll still be able to take Regional Rail, as well as the Norristown High Speed Line in the ‘burbs, suburban buses, CCT (SEPTA’s service for ADA passengers) and LUCY (the bus loop through University City). Those drivers are represented by other unions.

The bad news? SEPTA notes, “as our daily Regional Rail riders know, service is already operating at near capacity.” To alleviate the crowds on Regional Rail, the transit service is recommending individuals and businesses “consider adjusting their work/business hours.”

Uber is extending its UberPOOL service out farther into the suburbs near Regional Rail stations to encourage prospective Regional Rail riders to use ride-sharing. Lyft is offering first-time riders $50 in ride credits. Zipcar Philly members can reserve a car for five days for the price of three.

For biking, Indego will offer more bikes at the 18th and JFK, 23rd and South, 36th and Sansom and 23rd and Fairmount stations.

You can see our survival guide for tips on the open transit lines, as well as possibilities for alternative plans for transportation and what students at colleges and in the Philadelphia School District can do.

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...