Striking Thoughts

If you hadn't heard, the Philadelphia region's transit authority went on strike a few hours after the end of Game 5 of the World Series, the last contest the Phillies will host in 2009. A few hours later, all heck broke loose with Tuesday morning's commute.

However you feel about SEPTA management or SEPTA labor, the result of this labor stoppage should give you some indication as to the importance of the SEPTA system on the region's economy. I was fortunate to not have any off-site meetings yesterday, and to be able to walk Aaron to school and walk myself to work. But en route, I noticed vastly more car traffic than usual, and all of my co-workers who normally drive recounted commutes that were four or more times longer than usual. Needless to say, this did not make for happy people; indeed, not only did I notice more cars, I also noticed more stressed faces and I heard more honking.

I could not help but imagine if this would be the norm if Philadelphia lacked a transit system, or if its system wasn't as vast as it is. Of course, that is in fact the norm in some cities; I can hardly fathom it.

My co-workers who usually SEPTA either walked, cabbed, or biked. If the strike continues, I myself will be using my two-wheeler to get to meetings downtown. So here you have the benefits of Philadelphia's denseness and multi-modality: people can still get around, albeit in a clunky, inconvenient way.

But the mass of cars and the general disarray that resulted from this temporary unavailability of our transit system should serve as a vivid reminder of how much our region depends on the SEPTA system. Some may morbidly joke that that doesn't bode well for us. But it should also remind us of the importance of investing in that system, so that it can continue to serve our mobility needs. I'm not sure what the solution is to labor and management squabbles, so we may ever have to hold our breath come contract negotiation time. But it has only taken one full day without SEPTA for me to be thankful that, save for the occasional labor dispute, we have a system like SEPTA to get around.

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