SEPTA Strike Is More Than Just a Philadelphia Problem

Philadelphia from the Ben Franklin Bridge. Photo: Garen M. | Flickr

Today marks the fourth day of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) workers strike, which has shut down Philadelphia’s buses, trolleys and subways, affecting 400,000 daily passengers.  The strike only affects SEPTA’s City Transit Division, but its effects are surely being felt beyond Philadelphia limits and across the Delaware River in South Jersey.

A significant number of New Jersey residents in Camden County commute to jobs in Philadelphia. Census data from 2010 to 2014 found that nearly 11,000 of those commuters used transit (either the Delaware River Port Authority’s PATCO line or NJ Transit buses) to reach Philadelphia, while more than 20,000 drove. Without data on PATCO or NJ Transit transfers onto SEPTA, it’s hard to say how many New Jersey commuters are affected by the strike, but it is quite likely that many are.

Without available transfers to SEPTA, potentially thousands of New Jersey commuters must scramble to find alternative transportation to reach work or school, unless they skip the trip entirely. The strike’s effect on car traffic may be an inconvenience to some, but for car-free households–specifically for the 35 percent of car-free households in the City of Camden, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia–finding alternatives to SEPTA may be difficult and even unaffordable.

PATCO has been actively running into Philadelphia, but people are stranded once they get there, unable to reach their final destinations. Some commuters are able to walk or bike, but others aren’t so lucky. The city’s bike-share program, Indego, increased the number of available bikes and the city installed extra bike parking following the strike’s announcement. For reverse commuters who ride SEPTA and then transfer to PATCO to reach New Jersey, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is promoting PATCO’s indoor bike parking as part of their Bike the Strike campaign.

As with the last SEPTA strike in 2009, workers are striking due to unsettled labor disputes between the agency and the Transportation Workers Union Local 234. Hopefully, SEPTA and TWU come to an agreement soon, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of workers, students, visitors and residents traveling throughout the region.

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