The residents of the 5400 block of Wynnefield Avenue aren’t too happy that SEPTA decided to re-route the 52 bus to travel northbound on their street to get to City Avenue and 54th Street.
“Outrageous! The noise has been too much, too often. More buses are coming down here back-to-back, safety violations and buses going over the 15mph speed limit,” 5400 Wynnefield Avenue block captain Walter Martin said..
SEPTA, in a press release, notified riders and residents that the turnaround route of Belmont and Conshohocken Avenues would no longer be used. The new turnaround would use Wynnefield Avenue to Cardinal Avenue and back to City Avenue. There were alternate routes that were explored but none of them saved the miles, time and money that the new turnabout did.
“Originally we tried to use Wynnefield to Cardinal back to City and were met with very strong opposition from the community,” SEPTA’s Chief Surface Transportation Officer, Michael Liberi said. “We ventured into Montgomery County, Lower Merion Township, but miles and time were not favorable to us.”
Another option for the new turnaround was 52nd Street and Bryn Mawr Avenue but a previous compromise precluded this option.
“We looked at 52nd and Bryn Mawr but we already had buses on 52nd Street and had an agreement at that location that we wouldn’t put anymore buses on 52nd,” Liberi said.
“We had an agreement with the residents on 52nd Street. We met with them 10 years ago and we agreed to a certain number of buses, a certain speed limit and it wasn’t a written agreement , just a verbal agreement,” SEPTA’s Assistant General Manager of Government Affairs Frances Jones said.
SEPTA claims that the shorter loop would save the public transportation agency more than $500,000 per year. SEPTA said in a press release this would be a more efficient turnaround method on Route 52, which serves nearly 17,000 riders daily along the route from Wynnefield to Southwest Philadelphia.
SEPTA also said in the press release that it has met with Wynnefield groups to discuss this change. Some neighbors said that SEPTA held meetings but that the decision was already made to change the turnabout and residents had no say in that decision.
“ They decided what they decided and that it’s and they say they talk and everything,” 5400 block of Wynnefield Avenue resident Nicholas Di Glulio said.
“The meetings are really a procedure that SEPTA has to do. They had decided to make this the route that they wanted to use,” block captain Walter Martin said.
The residents are also concerned that the values of their homes are in jeopardy.
“In my point of view, it’s bringing down the value of the houses,” Di Glulio said.
SEPTA refuted the claim of property value loss, asserting that there was a vibration test done by the City that stated the buses running on Wynnefield wouldn’t cause any damage to the homes.
“The buses have no impact on the value or the appraisal of their property,” said Jones.
“We have buses running in Old City, where you have houses that are millions of dollars and that are historically certified and buses that run over cobblestones in areas. There is nothing to indicate that a bus running on the street has any correlation to property value,” SEPTA official Jones said.
SEPTA had imposed limitations on the buses such as a strict 15 mph speed limit. The buses only travel northbound on Wynnefield Avenue. There is no stopping on Wynnefield Avenue and SEPTA even put in a vibration-monitoring device to determine if any damage occurred on the structure of the homes.
“We’ve done over 400 radar checks to insure that we are following the posted 15 mph speed and we’ve had a 97 percent compliance rate,” SEPTA’s Liberi said.
“The first month of the implementation we had a supervisor staged there throughout the course of a business day over a 10-hour period and that has seen been drawn back because there has been no issues to periodically checking,” Liberi said.
Opponents of the new bus routing are also fighting an injunction issued by a local judge because demonstrators were blocking the buses on January 14, 2013. That was the first day the buses started their new turnabout route.
There hasn’t been a ruling made yet to maintain that injunction permanently. If ruled in favor of the neighbors, then they would be able to go back to protesting and blocking the buses from coming down their street. If the court rules in favor of SEPTA, the injunction would prevent residents from blocking the buses and interrupting bus service as long as the 52 bus operates on Wynnefield Avenue.
“We always want to have a working relationship with our residents where we run our service,” SEPTA’s Frances Jones said. “Our job is to run public transportation system even if that means putting a bus on a street where there hasn’t been one before.”
The changes to the 52 bus route are not permanent and SEPTA has to decide by January 2014 if it wants to keep the new turnabout or try an alternative route.