By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA’s regional rails were back in business for the Monday morning commute, thanks to a presidential executive order that derailed a strike by some 400 locomotive engineers and electricians.
Until President Barrack Obama acted to order the unions back to work and appointed a three-member panel to mediate a settlement, uncertainty was high among the tens of thousands of commuters who use SEPTA’s regional rail system.
At the Paoli station, riders were grinning when the first train arrived at 5:20 a.m. Rob of East Goshen is a regular and he wasn’t looking forward to finding another way in to work.
“There isn’t really easy ways into the city from out this way,” he said. “I mean it’s either you’re taking the bus down on Route 3 or you’re driving. Well, driving at this time probably wouldn’t have been too bad, but you join enough other people on the road it’s going to back up pretty quickly. It would have been a big pain to have to figure out a different way around.”
A few casual train commuters admitted they had no idea there was a brief strike and were pretty much disconnected over the weekend, but felt lucky to find the trains running this morning. Alex of Ardmore was heading to New York for an appointment. He was aware and said he was plotting possible alternatives before he heard the news Sunday that trains would be operating again.
“It was definitely a big deal, definitely a big deal,” he said. “I like to ride the train more than any other mode of transportation. It’s usually the most reliable.”
Elizabeth of East Vincent is a regular rider of the Paoli train to Center City. She said the office where she works put out an advisory to all its employees about contingency plans if the strike had continued.
“Folks were asked to have alternative plans for today, bringing their laptops home or working at a satellite office outside of the city,” she said. “It did all work out and we’re glad to hear it, because it does create a disruption.”
But there was no disruption this morning, and the 500 parking spaces filled up quickly as commuters rushed to make their train connections. Claire, who lives in Center City, is a regular rider and said she had a back-up plan for what she called her reverse commute.
“I would always have my car,” she said. “So I usually come from the city in the morning out to the suburbs. I guess in February I’ll have to worry a little bit more.”
February is the deadline for the presidential panel to get the unions representing the locomotive engineers and electricians to come to terms on a new deal. The panel is set to begin hearing testimony next week in the rail labor dispute.
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