#INTERVIEWS Community Featured Journals

‘Mad or nah?’: Philly residents react to recent violence at SEPTA stations

Jess, a South Philadelphia resident, told me that she is mad — and not only about the city’s gun violence crisis and the subway’s lack of immunity to it.

“Not only do I not feel safe, but let’s not forget SEPTA is not the cleanest place either during this time,” she said.

The more I asked residents if they felt comfortable on SEPTA, the more I heard residents talk about unsafe hazards such as the over-collection of trash and debris, noticeably unpleasant aromas and bodily fluids, as well as the lack of sanitation precautions in general. Just this week, Somerset Station in Kensington closed temporarily so SEPTA can repair elevators damaged by urine and needles.

Samuel from North Philadelphia expressed concerns about the system becoming a shelter for unhoused people at a time when Philadelphia is experiencing an affordability crisis. He said he wants to see more people trained to keep people safe at stations to help improve public safety for everyone using the space.

Meanwhile, Solomon from Fishtown said the March 15 attack of a SEPTA worker was frightening.

Jess, a South Philadelphia resident, told me that she is mad — and not only about the city’s gun violence crisis and the subway’s lack of immunity to it.

“Not only do I not feel safe, but let’s not forget SEPTA is not the cleanest place either during this time,” she said.

The more I asked residents if they felt comfortable on SEPTA, the more I heard residents talk about unsafe hazards such as the over-collection of trash and debris, noticeably unpleasant aromas and bodily fluids, as well as the lack of sanitation precautions in general. Just this week, Somerset Station in Kensington closed temporarily so SEPTA can repair elevators damaged by urine and needles.

Samuel from North Philadelphia expressed concerns about the system becoming a shelter for unhoused people at a time when Philadelphia is experiencing an affordability crisis. He said he wants to see more people trained to keep people safe at stations to help improve public safety for everyone using the space.

Meanwhile, Solomon from Fishtown said the March 15 attack of a SEPTA worker was frightening.

Picture punching a time clock for work and hours later you’re rushed and attacked by a mob of teenagers while on duty. “Why would I feel safe if the SEPTA employees are not even safe while at work?” Solomon asked.

He said the violence is especially unfair after a gut-wrenching year that left employees risking their lives to keep Philadelpians moving during a pandemic.

Yet this is not new to SEPTA or their employees. The agency plans to deploy 60 unarmed security guards along the system between 15th Street and Frankford Transportation Center along the Market Frankford Line.

Employees have long been on guard for violence too.

“We see some form of it almost every day,” Willie Brown, president of the Transit Workers Union Local 234 recently told PlanPhilly. “Never a day goes by that there isn’t some intimidation, assault, or thing of that nature.”

Mad? Yes, that’s a feeling many people here feel right now.

Rightfully, Philadelphians want to feel safe moving through their city and getting where they need to go.

But how to change the situation — that’s a harder question.

Leave a Reply