An Open Letter to SEPTA

This is an actual email/comment I just sent to SEPTA, the transportation “authority” in Philadelphia. I know that all public transportation systems in every city have their flaws, but this is what’s personal to me, and what I know.

____________________________________________

Dear SEPTA,

I just can’t take it anymore. This morning, September 12, the Norristown line (among many others) was experiencing serious delays, and you failed to take any action whatsoever to communicate with your passengers regarding the situation.

I arrived at the Wissahickon station at 8:25 to catch the 8:32 inbound to Center City, train #6221. The train finally arrived at 9:05, with no intercom announcement made during that time informing anyone of what was going on. When I entered the train, it was already full, and passengers were forced to stand uncomfortably in a tightly packed area – and we still had one more VERY FULL station to get to. You should also know that there weren’t any conductors out – in the 25 minutes I was on the train, not one conductor came through the car, probably because they were hiding from customers and couldn’t give an explanation as to why we were late.

During this time, I sent multiple tweets to the @SEPTA account inquiring of the whereabouts of the train. Isn’t this what you use the account for? There were no updates at all regarding the Norristown line, although there was CLEARLY something going on. An acquaintance traveling outbound on the same line told me that her train had been canceled earlier, and the next train she could catch was delayed almost 30 minutes, and yet there was nothing said to passengers. Shouldn’t you at least update your Twitter feed or post an alert on your website informing people about this? We know by now that when one train is late or canceled, it creates a domino effect that lasts for hours on the schedule. If people had at least known about this, we could have made alternate plans for getting into work. Additionally, the useless TrainView page was not up to date, so we were left in the dark about when the train would actually arrive.

This is not the first time this has happened. I have been on trains where people are standing on the platforms in between the train cars in the dead of winter with the doors wide open. I’ve also been on a train that flew by 3 stations with no warning because it was too full to pick up anyone else. These were not special situations of weather or parades as you have listed – just normal weekdays when the system royally screwed up, and screwed customers over in the process, with no warning or effort of apology.

I understand that you are dealing with thousands of passengers daily, but is it really too much to ask for a little communication? Did you know that Southwest Airlines has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, and they have a full time person dedicated to customer service through that page, answering questions and directing customers to places for more information. They actually use their page for good, and they are one of the best examples of customer service in the travel industry.

Your Twitter page is almost stagnant, with only the occasional update of bad news, and never any interaction with customers. Do you even read your replies? Have you ever done a search on Twitter for SEPTA and seen the frustration from so many of your customers? Maybe if you could get someone on your Twitter account for even a few hours every day, it would help with customer relations. I honestly wouldn’t be as angry if there had just been some semblance of EFFORT made on your part to keep us in the loop. Do you need someone to take over your social media strategies? Because I know plenty of people who would be interested. As such a massive public serving industry, you really can’t commit to something like social media and then pick and choose how you want to use it, and ignore your customers.

While I have your attention, let’s also address some other recent happenings on my line. Last week we had the Silverliner – the “crown jewel” of the SEPTA system. Guess what? If you’re going to tout how awesome this train is, maybe you should make it be on time! On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Thursday the line was suspended), the train was at the very least 10 minutes late. No explanation was given. Every other time I’ve had the Silverliner, it has been late. Why? On Thursday the 8th, I was on the 62 bus for almost 3 hours. I understand that the traffic was not in your control, but when the bus approached the flooded Wissahickon creek near the transfer center, the bus sat there for another HOUR AND A HALF with no direction of what to do. You had at least 5 buses awaiting instruction, and yet there was nothing done. I ended up getting off and walking home and never made it into work that day, so thanks for that.

I have been on many other public transportation systems in large cities throughout the United States (and Canada) and can assure you that SEPTA is the worst by far (and one of the most expensive). I am actually embarrassed for you sometimes. You can be SURE I will be taking your survey about new fare systems and the transportation centers.

Unlovingly yours,

Tara

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2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to SEPTA

  1. On September 9th, 2011 I boarded a regional rail train in the Philadelphia area with the top three buttons of my shirt undone. As I boarded I greeted the conductor with “Hey man, how’s it going?” To which he replied, “Button your shirt.” I took my seat, placed the ticket in the appropriate holder and began reading the paper. When the conductor came by to punch the ticket he again told me to button my shirt, I said no. We went back and forth three or four times, “button your shirt”, “no.” He then got on his radio to dispatch and asked for police assistance because he had an unruly and belligerent passenger who was refusing to button his shirt. We get to the next station and waited for the police to show up. Fifteen minutes into what would turn out to be a thirty minute wait I decide to get off the train because passengers were beginning to get pissed off that they were going to be late, miss their connections, etc., etc. So I tell the conductor that they really should continue on and that I would wait for the police to show up. I was really curious to see if in this post 9/11 world was it possible that I would be arrested for refusing to button up my shirt? Mind you it was the top three buttons and the conductor had a problem with the third one, not the other two.

    So the police show up while I’m on the phone with my lawyer. The police tell me to get off the phone, the lawyer is telling me to let him talk to the police. The police refuse to talk to the lawyer and warn me that they already asked me twice to get off the phone. I get off the phone. They ask me for my ID and pat me down. While we’re waiting for ID verification, and that I have no outstanding warrants, or am a wanted criminal I ask them what right does the conductor have to order me to button my shirt. The one cop replies that the conductor “owns” the train and can tell me what to do. He adds that riding the train is a privilege, not a right, and that not all women and children want to look at my chest. I found that to be quite disturbing. Was he insinuating that I was a pedophile trying to corrupt children by showing them my chest? Why did he not include men in his statement? Does that mean that it is ok for men to look at my chest? Incidentally all seats face one way and to look at my chest people would have to turn around.

    Was this a racially motivated episode, the conductor is black I’m white. Did he somehow take offense to my greeting, “Hey man how’s it going?” Is the controller a closet homosexual and was aroused by my bare chest and got mad at me for having awakened his latent homosexuality? Can this be construed as sexual harassment? Racial harassment? Who does this conductor think he is? King Shit of Turd Island? Did he watch the movie Emperor of the North Pole and proclaimed himself Emperor of South East Pennsylvania?

    Anyway the verification check comes back clean and I board the next train with my shirt still unbuttoned. This time the conductor is white and ignores my chest.

    Moral of the story? There is a psychologically deranged conductor who is abusing his power, reminiscent of Capos in Nazi concentration camps who will one day board the train with a gun and proceed to blow away all men with the top three buttons of their shirts undone.

    In order to avoid the violent extinction of three buttons down homo sapiens in South East Pennsylvania I urge you all to forward this missive to SEPTA’s Director of Public Affairs rmaloney@septa.org and possibly involve your friends too. The more emails he gets, the greater the chances something will be done about it.

    Incident Details:

    Train # 754
    Trenton Line to 30th St. Station
    Date and time 9/9/2011 4:09 PM
    Conductor description: Short black male, bushy beard, eyeglasses.

  2. Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess
    I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am ann aspiring blog writer but I’m still
    new to the whole thing. Do you have any suggestions
    for rookie blog writers? I’d defdinitely appreciate
    it.

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