Mt. Airy residents want stalling paratransit vans to go

 Town Watch members met last week to discuss the stalling paratransit vans. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

Town Watch members met last week to discuss the stalling paratransit vans. (Queen Muse/for NewsWorks)

Neighbors of W. Mt. Airy Avenue and members of the Mt. Airy-Nippon-Bryan-Cresheim Town Watch say they’re fed up with one of their business neighbors — an adult daycare center called HomeLink.

According to neighbors, Homelinl dispatches nearly a dozen SEPTA Customized Community Transportation (CCT) paratransit service vans daily from its center. In the process of dispatching their vans, neighbors say the drivers create a nuisance by continuously idling their vehicles and causing congestion at the corner of W. Mt. Airy and Bryan streets.

One neighbor referred to it as a “pop-up bus depot.” Another described it as a “disaster waiting to happen” because it makes it difficult for pedestrians and drivers alike to pass through the intersection.

Neighbors and members of the town watch group gathered for a meeting to discuss potential solutions last week. Kyasha Tyson from State representative Cherelle Parker’s office, Parker’s chief-of-staff, Tonyelle Cook-Artis, and CCT Operations Manager for SEPTA Robert Shirley also attended the meeting.

Town Watch member Eileen Cooper hosted the meeting at her W. Mt. Airy Avenue home. She said she’s been one of the most vocal about the issue because she isn’t employed. Being home during the day, she says she bears the brunt of the disturbance.

“I’m really pissed off. If I moved, it would be because of this,” Cooper said. “We really have to come up with some ways that we can resolve this for the community as a community.”

Cooper says the conflict with Homelink has been going on for several years. One big point of confusion for the neighbors is they haven’t been quite sure of who should be responsible for finding a new place for the drivers to park their vans. While Homelink has a local owner, the CCT vans are owned by SEPTA and the drivers of those vans are managed by a third party contractor.

Because the drivers are not SEPTA employees, Shirley said there is really nothing that SEPTA can do.

“If I lived here, I’d feel exactly the same way, but our patron is the person on the vehicle, not Homelink,” Shirley said.

Homelink’s owner, Lori Shmuckler, said she wants to be a good neighbor but there’s not much that she can do; she simply has nowhere else for her drivers to park.

“I want to be the best neighbor possible,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s just a bad spot. My number one goal is to make it as safe as possible for our consumers, which are predominantly nursing home eligible or working poor. I have no real control over the situation.”

Tyson agreed to reach out to leadership at the nearby Lutheran Theological Seminary to see if they would allow Homelink to parks its vans there.

Some neighbors called for a petition to be launched against the business. Mt. Airy-Nippon-Bryan-Cresheim Town Watch coordinator Steve Stroiman said a petition “would only slow things down.”

Stroiman instead volunteered to gather all of his neighbor’s suggestions and put them in a letter to Shmuckler. He plans to present the letter of suggested remedies to Shmuckler by December 10.

The Town Watch group will meet again in January. 

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