Monday, March 10, 2014

Quasi-Government Waste Threatens Viability of Local High Speed Line

The celebrated and popular PATCO speedline put into place in 1969 to run on already established tracks between Lindenwold, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA, has been a generous benefactor of a variety of pet projects in the local vicinity, including $14 million towards the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies stadium-complex, $5 million towards the National Constitution Center and $5 million towards the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden. The totals spent to "promote tourism" have all come from fares being paid by riders.

Now, that may all sound like a good use of money coming from a non-profit, quasi-governmental organization. Take the money paid by users of the system and use it to enhance the area to increase ridership and promote the area's local sites. Unfortunately, despite regularly raising fairs due to increased "costs", PATCO and the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) that operates, the amount of money needed to bring the speedline back up and fully functionable is almost a half-billion dollars. That is just about the same amount of money they have spent on pet projects throughout their 34 years. Does that mean it will take 34 years to get back in shape?

Most of the stations along the line have elevators and escalators that don't work. In fact, it is so bad that the Federal Transit Administration has already cited them numerous times for failing to maintain equipment meant to allow the disabled access to the train platforms. Just this year during the first six weeks of 2014, trains have broken down 55 times because of lack of maintenance!! Yet, the money has already been spend on pet projects to promote tourism for people who now can't use the system because of lack of maintenance. Just this past Monday (2/17), 50% of the lines elevators were out of order!

At one time, the PATCO Speedline was considered the most efficient rapid transit system in the country. Now ridership is dropping. People are tired of not being able to count on something that willingly promotes itself through economic development grants yet doesn't seem equally willing to keep its users happy. Fires have broken out while the trains were halfway across the Ben Franklin bridge. This is no longer an inconvenience. It is a disaster seeking the opportune time to happen.

Stop spending money on promotion and start putting it all back into the transit line. Riders should not be riding the same trains that started out 34 years ago. shutting down half of the tracks in the dual-track system in order to do maintenance every day is not how it should be done. Had they done their jobs all along, maintaining both the trains and the tracks and the stations, there would be no need of a major disruption of service. I honestly can't see any good coming of this for this transit line. Too little oversight on the handling of money taken in through fares has created a nightmare for commuters.

Original source of the idea for this post is -

Information on how much has been spent (in 2001) by the DRPA came from -

Photo credit for train on the bridge - Attribution Some rights reserved by Jim, the Photographer (

Photo credit for the transit map - Attribution Some rights reserved by DearEdward (

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

None of that money came from PATCO which has always operated at a deficit. PATCO's operation is subsidized by DRPA using bridge tolls. PATCO fares cover about 70% of operational costs. Annual reports and financial information available on the DRPA web site will provide all the information you need to verify that.

March 10, 2014 at 9:31 AM  

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