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Commuters Make It To Work On Time Bicycle, Taxi, Train

April 4, 1995

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Thousands of commuters made it to work by bicycle, taxi and train Monday as a week-old transit strike spread to the suburbs.

The trip to work was a luxury for some and an extra expense for most commuters used to lower-cost buses and trains operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Some workers are shelling out $5 to $10 on taxis. United Cab Association, which operates 250 taxis, has been taking 700 to 800 more calls a day than the usual 1,000 since the strike began last Tuesday, many during commuter peaks.

Regional rail lines, more expensive than subways, have saved suburban dwellers.

``I have a video conference in Europe at 8:30 a.m. that I can’t miss,″ said chemical company executive Christopher Koob of Radnor as he boarded an express train bound for the city.

``I say `Thank you, SEPTA. Stay on strike longer,″ said Bill Prader, manager of Bike Line in downtown Philadelphia. He has sold 230 bicycles, most in the past two weeks, so far this year. That’s 130 more than for the same period last year.

The 5,200 drivers and mechanics in Transport Workers Union Local 234 went on strike after demanding a 9 percent pay raise over three years. SEPTA has said it could afford no more than 7 percent.

A smaller local of the same union went on strike early Sunday after its 176 workers also rejected SEPTA’s wage offer.

The weekend walkout meant about 21,500 suburban commuters joined about 350,000 city dwellers who have been without their usual mass transit since last Tuesday.

SEPTA runs subways, buses, trolleys and a high-speed rail service.

Two mediators are handling negotiations between SEPTA and the two unions. No talks took place Monday and none were scheduled.

Ridership on regional rails, virtually the only mass transit operating, was at 47,155 Monday, a slight drop from last week.

``This is a lot nicer than the El,″ said Steve Maher, 25, of Havertown before boarding a regional train into the city. ``The seats are bigger ... it’s a luxury.″

And an extravagance for Maher, who normally rides a subway to his job at a bank.

The subway costs $1.15 each way. The train Maher rode Monday cost $3.50 round trip.

Car traffic from the suburbs was steady but not gridlocked.

``People are adapting to the situation,″ SEPTA spokesman Jim Whitaker said.

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