Commuters worry about SEPTA’s threatened rail strike

Listen
 (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

(Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

Unless there’s a last-minute agreement, engineers and operators of SEPTA’s regional rail lines have pledged to walk off the job at midnight over stalled contract negotiations.

Commuters who depend on the trains say they are nervous about a potential strike that could last into next week.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Liz Thompson, who commutes to her job at a nonprofit in the city from Lansdale.  Waiting for a train at the Market East station, she said that trip normally takes an hour and a half door to door.

“If I was driving with the traffic, it would probably take about two and a half hours,” she said. “And I drive a Jeep, so it’s like I’d be filling up my gas tank almost every day, which is 60 bucks.”

Approximately 60,000 passengers ride the regional rails on a typical week day. They include Kathy Myers, who said she’s prepared to drive to work Monday. Her shift starts at  6:45 a.m., so she’s not expecting a lot of traffic.

“But I will probably get lost,” she said. “Very stressful.”

The strike has been looming as long as Dave Beausang has been commuting. He moved to the suburbs a week ago and now takes the train from Glenside to his job in Philadelphia.

On Friday afternoon, Beausang said he was still optimistic that the negotiations would avert a strike.

“Hopefully that’s the case,” he said. “If not, I’ll be probably one of a lot of people who will be late for work on Monday.”

With the strike deadline advancing, SEPTA and union representatives were in talks Friday evening with a federal mediator.

The last SEPTA strike in 1983 lasted more than three months.

If a strike does occur, SEPTA buses, trolleys and subways would still operate.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.