The SMART Transportation Division was among the 36 signatories in a letter sent Aug. 4 calling on leaders in Congress to provide $36 billion in emergency aid to public transportation agencies as the economy continues to be staggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter delivered a stark warning to lawmakers: without at least $32 billion in emergency funding, transit systems in both urban and rural areas face irreversible harm. In the letter, the organizations explained that physical distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders, have taken a serious toll on demand for public transportation services. This, in turn, has placed a major strain on funding sources public transportation agencies traditionally rely on, including farebox revenue and sales tax receipts.
The text of the letter appears below:
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:
On behalf of the millions of Americans who rely on public transportation every day, the 435,000 frontline workers who operate and maintain those systems, and the public transportation agencies that serve communities across America, we urge you to include at least $32 billion in funding for public transportation in the next COVID-19 emergency response bill.
As you know, physical distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders, have taken a serious toll on overall demand for public transportation services. This has placed a major strain on the revenue sources public transportation agencies count on for continued operations, including farebox revenue and sales taxes. Nonetheless, throughout this crisis, millions of Americans have continued to depend on reliable and safe public transportation to get to and from work and for other essential services.
Without robust public transit systems in our urban and rural communities alike, the national economy will not be able to recover. As recently reported in The New York Times, some public transit systems are in danger of heading into a “transit death spiral” where evaporating revenues lead to cuts in services, which in turn cause riders to find alternative means of transportation if they can, further incapacitating transit systems to the point where they become insolvent and inoperable. Communities and transit agencies of all sizes are hurting, and critical emergency funding must be made available immediately to avoid a worsening crisis.
Millions of essential workers bravely fighting on the front lines of this pandemic have no other means of transportation. Healthcare, grocery, and other workers will be put at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods. And families who rely on transit for transportation to pick up food, get to work, and meet their health care needs will be left stranded. Likewise, Americans who depend on paratransit service and Medicaid recipients who receive medical transportation for critical care services will lose their only transportation lifeline. Seniors, communities of color, and other groups who disproportionately rely on transit will be particularly hard-hit, further weakening our country at the worst possible time.
Unfortunately, if Congress does not provide the necessary funding for public transportation in the immediate future, the traveling public will suffer. Allowing vital transportation services to lapse in the middle of a global pandemic will guarantee more harm to our communities and place the economic well-being of the American public in jeopardy.
Our communities across the country are depending on you to act swiftly and decisively to save public transit. This will require an immediate investment of at least $32 billion in our transit systems. We urge you to include this funding in the next aid package.
Amalgamated Transit Union Active Transit Alliance (Chicago, IL) American Public Transportation Association American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Better Bus Coalition (Cincinnati, OH) Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Central Ohio Transit Authority (Columbus, OH) Center for Disability Rights (Rochester, NY / Washington, DC) Central Maryland Transportation Alliance Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago, IL) Circulate San Diego Coalition for Smarter Growth (Washington, DC) International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International Brotherhood of Teamsters Investing in Place (Los Angeles, CA) Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) (Los Angeles, CA) Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston, Texas) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (New York, NY) National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU Pittsburghers for Public Transit Riders Alliance (New York, NY) San Francisco Transit Riders Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Sound Transit (Seattle, WA) The Street Trust (Portland, OR) Transit Forward Philadelphia Transit Matters (Boston, MA) Transportation for America Transportation Communications Union/IAM Transport Workers Union Tri-State Transportation Campaign (NY, NJ, CT) Transportation Choices Coalition (Seattle, WA) Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Washington, D.C.)
SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) has experienced the loss of a second member from the novel coronavirus.
Brother Stephen McFadden, 51, of Philadelphia, and a SEPTA conductor, died April 30 from COVID-19. He had been a member of the union since September 1991.
“I saw him at every union meeting we had – and sometimes he was the only person there,” said Bernard Norwood, general chairperson of GO-STA. “Stephen was very committed to the union. He was a really nice guy.”
Using money out of his own pocket, Brother McFadden donated to the local’s annual holiday party without fail, Norwood said.
McFadden was a very passionate Phillies fan – sometimes catching part of the game during the down time he had during a shift and filling in his union brothers and sisters on what was going on – and making sure the game was on the TV in the crew room. He also was a very particular lottery player, schooling people to scratch from the bottom up and letting them know the range of numbers they should snag when considering a scratch-off ticket purchase.
Another tradition he was known for was on pay weeks – when the system processed the payroll and employees knew they were going to get their deposits, he’d greet his brothers and sisters with a cheery “Happy Wednesday!”
“That’s going to be missed a lot, especially today,” Norwood said. (He was interviewed on May 6 — a Wednesday morning.)
On April 14, McFadden’s Local 61 brother Michael A. Hill, 58, of Glassboro, N.J., died of COVID-19. Norwood says he’s received reports of 35 positive coronavirus cases and 135 SEPTA workers have been in quarantine. Seventy-two are back on the job.
Norwood said it’s been an uphill fight to get the carrier to mirror some of the sanitizing practices being adopted in New York and in New Jersey, to provide personal protective equipment and to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measures.
“We’re still fighting for temperature checks and to get marks on the floors for social distancing,” Norwood said, although he said he’s seeing some progress.
To date, SMART-TD nationally has lost at least eight members and retirees to the pandemic, according to reports submitted to the union.
Forty-two people, including the train engineer, were injured when their SEPTA train crashed into an empty, stopped train inside the 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby, Pa., shortly after midnight, Tuesday, Aug. 22.
In a statement, SEPTA said that none of the injuries appeared to be life threatening. The train was carrying 41 passengers and the train operator when the crash occurred.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has dispatched personnel to the scene to investigate the cause of the accident.
According to 6abc.com, a SEPTA commuter train collision in Upper Darby, Penn. resulted in four injuries, including the train engineer, who was reported to be in critical condition. Names of the injured have not been released; NTSB investigators are on site. Read the complete story here.
In a press release, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) with SMART TD Local 61, BLET and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). Below is SEPTA’s press release:
PHILADELPHIA (December 12, 2016) – SEPTA, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), SMART United Transportation Union-Local 61 (SMART-UTU) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).
As a C3RS site, SEPTA’s railroad conductors and engineers will be able to anonymously report near misses and unsafe conditions without fear of repercussion. SEPTA joins Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metra (Chicago), MBTA/Keolis (Boston), Long Island Railroad, Metro North and Strasburg Railroad (Strasburg, Pa) as carriers with C3RS IMOUs.
“Building a strong safety culture is a key organizational goal for SEPTA. We are always exploring ways to expand and enhance our programs,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel. “As a C3RS site, we will be made aware of situations that we might not have been previously alerted to so that we can take action to prevent accidents and protect our employees and passengers.”
Under the C3RS system, SEPTA’s engineers and conductors will be able to submit a safety problem or close call online or through U.S. mail to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA, acting as an independent third party federal agency, gathers and analyzes all data for C3RS, removes employees’ names and contact information (these are required for the NASA portion of the investigation) and then returns the reports to a peer review team comprised of SEPTA managers, the unions and FRA for review and action.
“We are looking for conditions or close calls other than accidents or injuries that might not otherwise be reported to the FRA,” said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of System Safety Scott Sauer. “We are asking employees to report events that we might not otherwise know about, the warning signs and precursors that could lead to major safety risks and accidents.”
“C3RS, along with PTC [Positive Train Control] implementation, which is nearly complete on SEPTA territory, will greatly improve the safety of our system,” Knueppel said.
“Previously, employees may have been hesitant to report a close call, fearing disciplinary action for themselves or colleagues,” said Sauer. “When NASA returns the report to the peer review team, it is completely scrubbed of any employee information. We never know who submitted the information to NASA.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Amtrak activated its Positive Train Control system (PTC) this past weekend from Philadelphia to Washington. SEPTA has reported they are not far behind and will have PTC online sometime in the new year.
Since the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandated in 2008 that all railroads operating in the U.S.install PTC by Dec. 31, 2015, Amtrak, SEPTA and a few other railroads have been working to install the system by the original deadline. However, Amtrak and SEPTA are in the minority. Most railroads have delayed the installation of this long-overdue safety technology.
When it became clear that most railroads would not meet the 2015 deadline, congress was forced to extend the deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, or face massive railroad shutdowns across the country.
PTC technology is designed to stop or slow-down a speeding train and is expected to bring an element of safety to the railroads previously unheard of. It is speculated that if the technology had been operational during the Amtrak crash near Philadelphia earlier this year, then the derailment possibly would not have happened.
Despite this accident and others, the railroads have drug their feet in having the technology installed, claiming they have not had enough time to install the system, make it operational and that the cost of the technology is too high. The Northeast Corridor is now one of the few areas where PTC is operational in the United States.
With public transportation usage growing around the nation, many agencies are looking at ways to attract millennials, who are looking for more options and driving less and less, according to respondents of METRO’s Top 100 Bus Fleets survey.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit/MTA Bus Co. tops this year’s list with 5,759 total vehicles. Showing some movement this year, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2,378), New Jersey Transit (2,233), Seattle’s King County Metro Transit (1,882) and the Toronto Transit Commission (1,869) round out this year’s top five, which collectively totals 14,121 vehicles, or 21 percent of this year’s overall 66,056 total vehicles — down slightly compared to 2014, although last year’s list ranked the Top 110 bus fleets.
Click here to read the full results of the survey.
Philadelphia officials estimate 1.5 million to 2 million visitors will descend on the city for the pope’s Sept. 26-27 visit, which will coincide with the World Meeting of Families, a conference organized every three years by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family.
Although the city and its affiliated agencies have prepared for many major public-gatherings in the past — Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention in 2000 and will host the Democratic National Convention in 2016, for example — SEPTA’s planning for the papal visit is unprecedented, says Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel.
PHILADELPHIA — Of the 41 railroads required to meet a federal mandate for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), SEPTA and Amtrak are among the 11 expected to complete the project by the end of this year.
“Positive Train Control is the most significant advancement in rail safety technology in more than a century,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the report. “Simply put: it prevents accidents and saves lives, which is exactly what we seek to do at The Department of Transportation every single day. We will continue to do everything in our power to help railroads install this technology.”
Twenty two months ago, SMART Transportation Division Local 61 (Philadelphia, Pa.) train service members working at SEPTA ratified their contract from the previous round. Now, for the first time in recent memory, these same members have ratified a new agreement governing the rates of pay and working conditions of conductors and assistant conductors on that property prior to their next scheduled wage increase. A vast majority of those voting, 87 percent, voted to ratify the agreement. The short-term pact runs through June 4, 2017 and includes general wage increases, increased instructor allowance, increased uniform allowance and same sex spousal benefits amongst its provisions.
Transportation Division Vice President John Lesniewski, who assisted with negotiations, expressed his gratitude to General Chairperson Bernard Norwood, as well as his negotiating committee consisting of Vice General Chairpersons A. J. Bright, Michael Stevens, Raymond Boyer and General Secretary Nelson Pagan for their professionalism, tenacity and commitment to finding an equitable agreement in a timely manner for the benefit of our Local 61 members.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is a metropolitan transportation authority that operates various forms of public transit—bus, subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail, and electric trolley bus—that serves 3.9 million people in and around Philadelphia. General Chairperson Norwood and his committee represent approximately 350 active rail members on this property.
Members of the SMART Transportation Division employed by Southeastern Pennsylvania Metropolitan Transportation Authority ratified Jan. 11 a 2.5-year agreement with the carrier.
The contract, which is retroactive to April 1, 2014, and extends until Nov. 18, 2016, covers bus operators, trolley operators and conductors and operators on the Norristown High Speed Line. They are members of Transportation Division Local 1594 at Upper Darby, Pa.
The deal affects more than 350 members and was ratified by 61 percent of eligible voters who participated in the balloting process, said Transportation Division Bus Vice President Calvin Studivant, who assisted with the negotiations.
Wage adjustments include a two-percent increase following ratification of the agreement and a three-percent increase effective Jan. 10, 2016.
A side letter to the agreement also calls for the authority to establish a “work zone committee” to address work safety issues as they pertain to the transportation department.
Studivant congratulates General Chairperson and Local President Waverly Harris, former Vice Local Chairperson Brian Caldwell, and Vice Local Chairpersons Curtis Fulmore, Dave Stinsman, Eric Goodwin and Anthony Petty for their arduous efforts in obtaining this agreement.
“A lot of hours were dedicated to finalizing this collective bargaining agreement. I commend the local officers for their diligence and preparation and the membership that participated in the ratification vote,” Studivant said.