Anthony scanned the crowd every day, looking for Jackie, the beautiful woman who rode the same train he took to work. Cheryl looked up from her book and had a conversation with George, the man who said hello as they were waiting for the trolley.
While these sound like plots right out of Hollywood, the settings for these and many more real-life love stories were Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) vehicles, stations and platforms. For the third consecutive year, SEPTA cut the February chill by celebrating red-hot romance on the rails with its “SEPTA Love Stories” contest.
Finding the love of one’s life on public transportation happens all the time — at least it does in SEPTA’s five-county Greater Philadelphia service region. Over the past three years, hundreds of SEPTA Sweethearts have submitted their “moving” tales of “bliss on the bus” and “love on the line,” inspiring thousands to vote for their favorite mass transit Romeos and Juliettes. The 14 couples receiving the most votes win prizes, including an invitation to ride on the "Love Train" — a specially decorated Market-Frankford Line (“the El”) six-car train that takes passengers on a romantic ride with a perfect view of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program's "Love Letter Project.” The trip to view the 50 rooftop murals in West Philadelphia along the Market-Frankford Line is followed by a VIP reception at SEPTA's downtown Philadelphia headquarters.
When you think about it, public transit is a perfect place to find a significant other. SEPTA serves one million riders a day, many of whom are eligible bachelors and bachelorettes, sharing stop after stop along the route (high-speed line dating, anyone?). Commuters heading to work see the same familiar faces day after day, many forming “train families” or finding “bus buddies.” They share details of their jobs, weekend plans and hobbies while traveling to and from the office. And then there are the wildcards — those who lock eyes with a stranger on the subway and take a chance at striking up a conversation. Sometimes a simple hello can lead to happily ever after.
The SEPTA Love Stories contest draws entries that run the gamut from falling for the operator who drives the bus every day to reuniting with an old flame. However couples found love, their tales give hope to single passengers that love can happen when and where it is least expected.
The next time you board your bus, train or trolley, Mr. or Ms. Right might be there waiting for you. For inspiration on sparking a romance on the rails, read the stories of the SEPTA Sweethearts at www.septalovestories.org.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.