The SEPTA Trolley Brain Drain

This is the first in­stall­ment of the new Star column, River­ward Rants by loc­al au­thor, Joe Quigley.

The SEPTA 15 trol­ley drives me crazy.

And I don’t mean in a Cuckoo’s Nest chuckin’-wa­ter-foun­tains-for-free­dom type of crazy, either.

But if I get stuck be­hind one of those slowly rolling elec­tric-powered bathtubs one more time when I’m late for work, I just may have to bash it to pieces with a trash bag full of SEPTA’s own crim­in­ally over­priced tokens.

If you’re one of the many people who get trapped driv­ing be­hind this ugly snot-green coffin, you may won­der who in their right mind ac­tu­ally wants a trol­ley clog­ging up Rich­mond Street (one of the busiest streets in the river ward).

Well, I’ll tell you who I think digs the trol­ley on Rich­mond Street: People who either don’t drive on Rich­mond Street or folks who nev­er de­pend on the 15 to get to and from work.

Now, I’ve heard myri­ad reas­ons why it’s so im­port­ant for SEPTA to run trol­leys in­stead of buses.

Some say us­ing the trol­leys is a way of “go­ing green.” I mean, what bet­ter way to show the world Philly wants to cut down on car­bon emis­sions than to run a fleet of pub­lic trans­port­a­tion vehicles that don’t wheeze around town on gas­ol­ine?

Well, it’s great as long as you ig­nore the two-dozen cars spew­ing ex­haust fumes while they idle be­hind the trol­ley.

On the whole, SEPTA’s trol­ley lov­in’ will not really do a thing to com­bat glob­al warm­ing. Right now there are mil­lions of people speed­ing through streets all over the world in gas-guzz­lers. And you’re go­ing to tell me that SEPTA, by run­ning a grand total of eight trol­ley routes, is some­how go­ing to curb cli­mate change?

That’s like passing out a coupon for the nicot­ine patch in a room full of chain-smokers.

An­oth­er reas­on some love the 15 trol­ley is that it’s “pretty.” In win­ter­time they’re strung with Christ­mas lights and stuff like that.

Ex­cept the 15 trol­ley isn’t in any way pretty, hand­some, at­tract­ive or cute when it’s freez­ing out­side and you’ve been wait­ing for the trol­ley for two hours be­cause some jerk with a double-parked pickup truck is block­ing the tracks at 2nd and Gir­ard!

At that point, I wouldn’t care if SEPTA slapped pic­tures of kit­tens and pup­pies on the trol­ley. I just want a vehicle that can swerve around a minor obstacle.

Also, have you ever been on a trol­ley that’s stuck be­hind one of those double-park­ers? Not fun. But what in­furi­ates me about this trol­ley more than any­thing is the claim of pro­ponents that it cuts costs.

SEPTA doesn’t have to pay for gas­ol­ine for trol­leys since they run on elec­tri­city, so, lo­gic­ally, that should save the com­pany money, right? But if that’s the case, then why are fares raised every oth­er year? Do SEPTA drivers now have a Jac­uzzi and mas­sage beds in their break room?

I mean, if the trol­ley is cut­ting costs, SEPTA ob­vi­ously isn’t us­ing the sav­ings to give riders a break.

Hey SEPTA, I have to work a second job to af­ford get­ting to my first job be­cause trans­passes cost eighty bucks! If you’re sav­ing so much by run­ning the gas-free trol­ley, how about throw­ing us a token or two?

But I di­gress.

For now we’re get­ting a re­prieve — be­cause of con­struc­tion pro­jects, SEPTA is tem­por­ar­ily id­ling the trol­leys and run­ning buses.

Already, I can feel my ag­grav­a­tion level start­ing to drop. ••

River­ward Rants re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river­wards while shame­lessly ped­dling his nov­el, “Hol­d­out.”

He can be reached at

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