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SEPTA Strikes

History, Effects and What to Do During a SEPTA Strike



What you won't see on the road during a SEPTA strike.

Photo: Flickr user specialkrb / CC BY-ND 2.0

History of SEPTA Strikes

Members of SEPTA's largest union, Transport Workers Union Local 234, have gone on strike over contract negotiations several times since the late 70's. The year and length of each strike is as follows:

Strike Year & Length in Days
1977 - 44
1981- 19
1983 - 108
1986 - 4
1995 - 14
1998 - 40
2005 - 7
2009 - 6

Over the years, other strikes have been approved by union members, but contract deals were made before the strike deadlines. TWU members operate all SEPTA subway trains, buses and trolleys in Philadelphia. SEPTA's Regional Rail, which is operated by a different union, usually continues to run when the TWU goes on strike. As part of the 1995 strike, however, members of TWU did disrupt Regional Rail traffic by picketing on the tracks of some Regional Rail lines.

Effects on Ridership

After each strike, SEPTA ridership has been lower than what it was before the strike began. Usually ridership continues to rise over the following months, although not always to pre-strike levels.

What to Do During a SEPTA Strike

Philadelphia is a major city that relies heavily on its public transportation to get people where they need to go. In short: if you normally travel by SEPTA, you're probably not going to find another way to travel that's comparable during the strike. That said, here are some things to consider:

  • Figure out which lines are affected. SEPTA's buses, trolleys and subways are staffed by a different union than the Regional Rail lines, and when one goes on strike, the other will usually still run. NJ Transit and the PATCO High Speed Line are run by different companies than SEPTA, and barring unforeseen circumstances, will also continue to run during a SEPTA strike.
  • Check SEPTA's Web site. When a strike is planned, SEPTA will usually provide detailed information about what is running, what isn't and possible work-arounds.
  • If you rely on SEPTA to commute to and from work or school, see if you can carpool with a coworker or classmate who lives near you. In the past, the city has made extra parking spots available during SEPTA strikes and posted information about the parking situation on Philadelphia's Emergency Management Web site.
  • If you can, telecommute.
  • A SEPTA strike can be the perfect impetus to start commuting by bicycle. If you need a new bike or a tune-up for your existing cycle, head to one of these Philadelphia bike shops, listed by neighborhood so you can hopefully find one within walking distance. Then take a look at the city's map of bike-friendly streets to plan your route.
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