Philadelphia’s public transportation system came to a halt early November as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) employees went on strike, complicating commutes for many students in and near the Philadelphia area.
Buses, trains and trolleys ceased operations on Tuesday, Nov. 1 as the nearly 5,000 SEPTA employees went on strike over issues like the amount of time off for drivers between shifts and pension benefits. After six days of no public transportation, SEPTA and the Transit Workers’ Union (TWU) 234, the union representing SEPTA employees, reached a tentative agreement just in time for operations to return to normal for Election Day.
Within those six days, however, commuter students from West Chester University, as well as other colleges outside of the city, had to either find alternative means of transportation or wait until the strike was over to return to school.
Alec Kostival, a junior majoring in communication studies, had no trouble getting to class during the SEPTA strike, but had difficulty getting to his internship with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I don’t have a car, so I would always take the subway down to the Novacare Complex for work. During the strike, I was able to catch a ride down with other workers, but it was a big inconvenience to them,” Kostival said.
For the students who had no trouble getting where they needed to be, some were able to see the effect that the strike was having on others.
Sumer Messerschmidt, an art major living in Philadelphia, said that her classes were noticeably empty, if she was able to have class at all.
“On the first day of the strike, about half of my intro to scripting class was missing,” Messerschmidt said. “My physics class was cancelled due to so many people being unable to show.”
Messerschmidt added that the lack of public transportation meant more people driving, and even more city traffic.
“A couple of girls that I work with said they needed to have people drive them to the city, but had to wait through a large amount of traffic,” Messerschmidt said.
However, some were able to benefit from the strike, including other transportation services.
Tyler Harper, a recent graduate now working for the driving service Lyft, said that business was booming during the six days where people had to look for alternatives to SEPTA.
“I know drivers that were making about double the usual amount on most rides, sometimes even more depending on the prime time percentage,” Harper said.
Earning his pay on the roads in the Philadelphia area, Harper also got to experience the increased traffic firsthand.
“With the lack of trains or buses running, the day as a whole got busier, both for business and on the roads. It almost felt like the entire day was rush hour when I had to drive into the city. It was a pain just finding somewhere to park when I was making stops. It was pretty much nonstop gridlock traffic,” Harper said.
Although details are slim, the tentative agreement between SEPTA and the employees in the TWU 234 is a five-year deal. Fares are expected to increase in the coming year as a result of the agreement.
Dylan Messerschmidt is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at DM837837@ wcupa.edu. His Twitter is @DylanMesh.