Readers Fwd: Dear SEPTA, Your Unannounced “Express” Train Totally Freaked Me Out

golden septaFolks heading home on a northbound Market-Frankford El train at rush hour yesterday got a little more than they bargained for when the normal northbound trip just kept going. “After a lengthy delay,” a reader tells us, “passengers were picked up at all the # stops (15th, 13th, 11th, 8th, 5th & 2nd), but the train blew by Spring Garden etc until it reached Margaret & Orthodox. The driver never made an announcement & didn’t answer the Emergency Call button when everyone freaked out because no one knew what was going on […] What a totally lame & incredibly scary few minutes to end a Monday.” Below is her letter to SEPTA, detailing the incident.

[Dear Septa Customer Service]:

I wanted to bring to your attention, an incident from Monday’s commute:

I, along with hundreds of other riders, waited at the 15th St Station from about 5:15 to 5:35 for a northbound Market-Frankford El train.
Delays happen, so we all just gladly boarded the train when it finally arrived, albeit packed.

The train made stops at 13th, 11th, 8th, 5th, and 2nd.
My stop is Girard.
After exiting the train tunnel and heading to the Spring Garden Station, the train did not stop there.
It also did not stop at Girard!
It continued at a good pace past Girard, on to Berks and showed no signs of stopping!
What was initially annoyed inconvenience, quickly turned into a train full of panicked riders!

Everyone began pressing the Emergency Call button.
There was no response!
Some people were trying to call 911.
I was sending tweets to @Septa_Social on Twitter and called my husband.
No one knew what was going on and it was VERY scary!
Was this really happening? Why is the conductor not making ANY announcement? Why is he not responding to the Emergency Call button?
Is something REALLY wrong?!

I’ll also note that this occurred on the same day the news reports a train derailment in Chicago:

I will say that @Septa_Social on Twitter, and the representative “NV” is very good and I received a very quick response.
Thanks to NV for that.

It seems the train was an “Express” due to the delay.
The statement by @Septa_Social was: “Was on the phone with Control Center. Per engineer announcement was made that train was expressed”
I can tell you first-hand, that there was never an announcement made. At all.

My 3 major concerns are that
1) there was no announcement made at ANY of the stops.
Even if I hadn’t heard the note about the express train at 15th Street, I would have definitely caught one of the announcements if the message was said also at the 13th, 11th, 8th, 5th, and 2nd Street stops..which it wasn’t.

2) there was no response to the Emergency Call button.
Which either means that the Call button wasn’t working, or the speaker system in the train wasn’t working.
That’s not good for, clearly, a variety of reasons.

3) what is the recourse for passengers in this situation? – Is there an emergency stop mechanism anywhere?
(we didn’t see one, or else it would have definitely been pulled).
Especially in light of the Chicago incident, what are riders who suspect there may be a life-threatening issue to do?
I wasn’t in the front car, so I couldn’t pound on the door to the driver – which is just what I would have started doing.
If he’s passed out, collapsed, etc, do we just hold on and brace for impact?

What a thoroughly un-nerving situation yesterday!
I am however, very glad that it was only an extremely inconvenient lack of communication, rather than the very possible scary scenario that just happened in another city.


[Name Withheld]

6 Responses to “Readers Fwd: Dear SEPTA, Your Unannounced “Express” Train Totally Freaked Me Out”

  1. B B Says:

    This letter reads kinda ‘recent transplant’-y, so I guess a “We’re Getting There!” joke would be lost on her.

  2. 123Rawr Says:

    B B – nope, this gal’s a Philly-lifer. All too familiar with “We’re Getting There!”, but it’s SO losing its humor.

  3. Christopher Sawyer Says:

    I used to always want to hit the emergency call button when I commuted every day through Frankford.

  4. Julie_the_T Says:

    This sounds like an onboard annunciator problem (admittedly a big one). They sometimes announce they’ll express to Margaret-Orthodox, but tell people getting off at stops in between to disembark at 2nd st and wait for the next train. WHOOPSIE DAISY.

  5. disqus_lu8WTd3A0w Says:

    Hard to believe they’re a lifer since MFL goes east/west and the use of way too many exclamation points leading me to believe they’re too enthusiastic (unlike the usual jaded lifers).

  6. Julie_the_T Says:

    To be fair, in that section the MFL turns north, so the letter-writer could be forgiven for saying “northbound train.” Maybe she’s a Philly lifer but a relative MFL newbie?

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