> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Lisa, I am wondering if City of Phila
> Parking Authority are as full of snot as the people who run the
> various 'Authorities' (we used to call them 'Atocities' in Chicago...
Yes, the Parking Authority is very tough and arrogant.
But there are two sides to the story.
Before the Parking Authority got reorganized into becoming a tough
agency, parking was a big problem in the city. Phila has narrow
streets and illegally parked cars badly foul up downtown traffic.
People who paid $$$ to park legally in lots resented motorists who
parked illegally and got away with it. Phila is on the border with NJ
and NJ motorists got away with parking violations since they didn't
follow up out of state.
First, they gave the PA computers to check for scofflaws. If someone
had a long list of unpaid violations, their car was 'booted' and they
had to pay up. They also agressively began towing illegally parked
cars that blocked traffic and collecting fines from ticketed cars.
People were brought in who owed thousands of dollars of unpaid fines.
All these efforts improved traffic flow and citizen morale.
This recent problem has them going too far. I have no problem
aggressively collecting fines -- if it's done so promptly after the
ticket is issued and regular notices are ignored. But to try to make
up for 15 years of neglect using very fuzzy data base matches is
More importantly, this use of database matching to search out people
or flag people is frightening. Is it fair for a completely innocent
person to be denied credit, housing, or a job because some SECRET
computer says he might be a deadbeat?
I still wonder if anyone can defend this sort of thing. I'm glad ABC
News did an expose of the business, but I think that fell on deaf
> i.e. the Chicago Transit Atrocity, the Chicago Housing Atrocity,
The quality of other govt Authorities varies by unit and also over
time. We had one agency, the Delaware River Port Authority, that was
well run. They built an excellent rapid transit line,
PATCO-Lindenwold. That was the first automated trainsit line (before
BART) and was well designed and very reliable. The designers knew
automation wasn't perfect and put it full manual backup capability* as
well as a strong organization and operation. Unfortunately, in recent
years some local politicians got involved and turned the DRPA into a
*FWIW, PATCO was not high-tech or cutting edge. The designers just
used proven off-the-shelf designs and put them all together. To save
money, some components were actually second-hand. For instance, their
internal telephone system was a used SxS. Every station had a
Call-For-Aid telephone at the fare gates. If a passenger's ticket was
short, the passenger would put coins directly into the phone -- they
used 2nd hand pay phones as part of their network. Very cheap but
workable solution still in use today. The train signal system used an
old railroad 100Hz (that's one-hundred not one-thousand) code, not
some fancy thing that other systems took years to debug. Pat, you may
remember the auto faregates the Illinois Central commuter railroad
used; PATCO copied those.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Yes, I do remember the Illinois Central
fare gates; one hassle (nothing major) was that the doors coming in
to them from the tracks outside were used in common by passengers from
the Illinois Central trains and the Chicago, South Shore and South
Bend Railroad (hereinafter, the "South Shore" trains.) South Shore
trains were also electrified, and run east across northern Indiana
through Hammond/Gary on the southern shore of Lake Michigan over to
South Bend, Indiana, splitting off from the Illinois Central 'mainline'
tracks at 115th Street, onto their own tracks. North of that point,
going into downtown Chicago, South Shore was a tenant, renting right
of way on the Illinois Central tracks and at 'stations in common'
which are/were Van Buren Street, Roosevelt Road, 57th Street, 63rd
Street. Once they reached 115th Street they are on their own as their
track cuts off and runs eastward. South Shore does not, or did not,
use the automated fare collection system. You pay for your little stub
ticket from an agent, board the train, and hand over your little stub
when the conductor comes through the car.
The hassle with that was Randolph Street where the automatic gates are
located. The gates work both ways, to come out of the train area and
to go into the train area. Illinois Central passengers use their
little ticket slipped into the card reader on the gates. When a South
Shore train pulled in, the clerks at the station level would see the
mob of passengers coming; one of them would say 'on the gate' and by
clicking on a wall switch, all the little turnstyles would go unlocked
and stay unlocked for the three or five minutes required for the
passengers to all be disengorged. Then to show that hands can be
quicker than the eye, when the last passenger got through the gates,
the clerk would hit the switch and cause the gates to go back in
Where they had problems however was when two trains -- one a South
Shore, the other an Illinois Central -- both pulled in at _exactly_
the same minute and the disembarking passengers from both trains were
pushing and shoving each other as they marched toward the gates. When
that happened, as it usually did at least once per day in the morning
rush hour, the clerk had to simply open the gates and wound up writing
off the uncollected mag stripe card deductions the railroad was due on
the Illinois Central passengers. But as long as there was at least 45
seconds or a minute between incoming trains from one railroad or the
other, as there usually was, those clerks at the gates were pretty
fast and effecient at opening the gates only as needed for the minute
or so required to let the South Shore people get through.
At the 'stations in common' the agents sold tickets for both
railroads. There was a period of 2-3 days when the clerks union for
Illinois Central went on strike for some reason, and they all walked
off the job, all that is, except for the clerks on duty at the
stations in common who were told by the union to stay on duty only
to handle South Shore duties. Every other station was devoid of any
workers those days. PAT]