How to get around if SEPTA goes on strike — mutual aid for rides, bikes, and more

A pedestrian threads his way through snarled traffic

A pedestrian threads his way through snarled traffic at Broad and Chestnut streets. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

More than 5,000 transit workers represented by Transport Workers Union Local 234, have voted to strike if the union and SEPTA don’t reach a deal on a new contract before their current agreement expires on Nov. 1.

SEPTA workers have gone on strike 10 times since 1975. The strikes have ranged from four days to 108 days. This time around, the union, which represents a range of workers from drivers to cashiers, is asking for increased wages, “pandemic payment,” and paid parental leave.

Though SEPTA and other local government agencies say they hope to avoid a strike, the transit agency has released a guide for riders to use, in case negotiations break down. The online resource shares which routes will be closed, altered, and which will remain running. We’ve compiled other resources to guide Philadelphians who rely on SEPTA as they seek alternate means of getting around.

Bikes

If you need bike repairs, drop your bike off as soon as possible. Many shops in Philadelphia, and across the country, are experiencing issues due to supply chain shortages.

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Kayuh Bikes in North Philadelphia will offer a 10% discount on all bikes, with proof of a SEPTA Key Card.

“Because without public transportation, the next best thing is bicycles,” said Adam K., manager of Kayuh Bikes.

South Philly Bikes offers a year-long warranty on all bikes, which means free tune-ups and repairs for all customers.

Other bike stores, like Via Bikes in Washington Square West, are waiting to see how negotiations go before making any moves. They plan to order more bikes if the strike happens. Via Bikes repairs, and sells reconditioned and used bikes, they also buy used bikes if you’re looking to swap.

Mutual aid

Philly Transit Riders Union will be reaching out to riders on their contact list to see if they are in need of support during any striking action. They also plan to work with Philadelphia mutual aid groups and connect riders to those groups for transportation needs.

Call PTRU at 267-313-6060 to connect with those mutual aid groups.

Mutual Aid Philly offers a wide range of services, including transportation. Community members can make a request for rides to get to appointments. You can also sign up to provide rides for others in need.

Driving apps

Some Uber and Lyft drivers are preparing for a surge in ridership, but many are waiting to act until TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown declares a strike, said Angela Vogel, Philadelphia Drivers Union General Secretary.

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“Drivers have been conditioned to not really plan their work ahead of time and only to react to whatever bonuses etc. happen,” said Vogel. She added, “Often events that should lead to much higher pay don’t end up resulting in higher pay.”

In the midst of a price surge on Uber or Lyft, riders can also use Curb, a phone application that allows customers to request for rides from local taxi services. Download the app through the App Store or Google Play Store.

Going virtual

The pandemic taught us we can work and learn remotely. It’s likely that many schools and workplaces will return to remote operations if a strike breaks out. The Philadelphia School district is poised to announce their plans if a SEPTA strike occurs.

In the meantime, Superintendent William Hite advised families on Monday, “to plan for the possibility of a return to virtual learning.”

In preparation for a virtual school option, district leaders are telling families who use district Chromebooks to have them repaired or replaced now if needed. To do so, they said to contact your individual school.

The City of Philadelphia has not yet said whether city facilities and courts will remain open if a strike occurs.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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