SEPTA approves new contract; pilot study on sleep loss

The SEPTA Board finally put last month’s transit strike behind it on Dec. 10, when it approved, without discussion, a new contract with Transport Workers Union Local 234.

The five-year contract will provide wage increases of 11.5 percent to covered employees over five years and will provide pension enhancements totaling about 11 percent for a 30-year employee.

The TWU membership ratified the contract Nov. 20.

The board’s administration and operating committees also reviewed a series of contracts, including one regarding a pilot study on sleep apnea.

The $19,960 contract with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology will allow 250 bus and rail operators to enroll in an 18-month treatment study, which will diagnose and provide treatment to workers suffering from sleep apnea.

The study was prompted by several accidents in other transit systems that have been linked to workers being drowsy or falling asleep on the job. Sleep apnea can cause daytime drowsiness, and the authority wants to get ahead of pending federal regulation regarding treatment of the disorder.

SEPTA is also hoping that the program will be an important educational tool in convincing more workers to get cases of sleep apnea diagnosed and treated. The contract will provide confidentiality to workers who participate and $51,000 to reimburse study participants’ copays for renting continuous positive airway pressure devices to treat the disorder.

In choosing Penn, SEPTA turned down an offer by Drexel University to perform the study at no cost. SEPTA administrators said they chose Penn because of the prestige of its sleep center and the greater flexibility it provided — the university has offered to perform the inpatient portion of the study at satellite facilities throughout the region.

Other agreements the committees reviewed included:

    * A $2.8 million contract to GE Security and Transit Marketing Group for the supply and installation of video surveillance systems on SEPTA buses and subways.
    * A one-year, $1.5 million contract extension to Edens Corp., which sells SEPTA tickets. The contract will also support the expansion of service to the Temple University regional rail station.
    * A one-year, $1.4 million contract extension to First Transit Inc. to provide paratransit service to Bucks County.
    * A $316,500 contract to Sytech Corp. for an upgrade to the radio interoperability system for the SEPTA police department. The contract, paid for by Homeland Security money, will allow SEPTA police to communicate with Philadelphia police and other law enforcement agencies in tunnels in the vent of an emergency.
    * Leases to Upper and Lower Saucon townships, in the Lehigh Valley, for the right-of-way of the now-defunct Bethlehem Branch for use as a trail. The 30-year leases cover about 6 miles of the right of way and allow SEPTA the right to recapture the right of way if it decides to reinstate service. The line is currently inactive north of Quakertown.

Posted by Anthony Campisi. Contact the reporter at campisi.anthony@gmail.com

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