should there be sheffield shaming in malvern?

this photo is from Malvern Community Forum

  
Sheffield Furniture & Interiors has been a Malvern Borough mainstay for a long time. But this is not the view most of us see traveling up and down King. 

This is what residential neighborhoods behind them and across the train tracks see. Not a particularly lovely design is it ? Sort of an abomination isn’t it?  

Why can’t they paint it every few years with anti- graffiti paint? Sherwin-Williams actually makes an anti-graffiti coating that does this that can go over painted walls.

Graffiti is everywhere and I think it would be nice if Malvern Borough encouraged businesses with graffiti to clean up. And what if a mural went on that wall and was covered with that anti graffiti coating? Wouldn’t that look cool?

And the rear of Eastside Flats shows the cheapness in that project. Eastside Flats is just that: flat. Only the facade has any sort of detail. The side and rear of Eastside Flats looks like a large looming cheap shore motel.

Malvern Borough should also see if Amtrak and / or SEPTA have any beautification monies ever that could help defray the cost of graffiti removal, anti- graffiti , and even help fund murals and re-painting of these track and neighborhood facing walls. 

major amtrak crash outside philadelphia last night

 
 If you were still awake last night around 10 pm you saw the news start to come in about a horrific and now deadly Amtrak crash right past 30th street station around Wheatsheaf Lane Port Richmond (Philadelphia).

Many years ago for quite a few years I used to commute on Amtrak to NYC and when I lived on Main Line, train tracks ran through a lot of our neighborhoods. 

This crash was always a fear. Especially when we would as residents of small Main Line neighborhoods used to see freight trains on the R5 rails. Yes freight trains. Recently it has been on the news about folks in Philadelphia expressing concern and protesting about freight trains and the fear of crashing. Even in 2013 SEPTA tried for “TIGER” funds for this. 

What does this have to do with this crash which news reports now say 6 people confirmed dead and at least 140 injured?

  
Infrastructure. AMTRAK has a lot of track to maintain and  this morning 7 cars are strewn like toy trains on a child’s train table. When I lived on the Main Line in Lower Merion Township like many others including friends from Bala Cynwyd through even to Malvern Borough today, we had tracks literally in our neighborhoods. The tracks aren’t just running through city neighborhoods. For me it was across the street, for some the tracks were right beyond their back yards, sometimes only a matter of feet away. And you would see SEPTA local commuter trains, AMTRAK trains, and even freight trains. 

Seeing the freight trains was the worst in my old neighborhood because the tracks would literally groan and shake with their weight. Of course what was even more fun is when you would call to find out why freight trains were running through residential neighborhoods and they would tell you “there are no freight trains running through residential neighborhoods on the Main Line.” You would have to take a photo of the freight train in order to prove it.

  

  
There is always news around here about people wanting AMTRAK to clean up, do repairs, be better neighbors. Where I used to live still suffers during storm events – portions of the neighborhood flood horribly because of stormwater runoff.  Former Congressman Jim Gerlach used to try to help us with our AMTRAK issues, even came out personally quite a few times to see the tracks himself, but there need to be a lot more elected officials to do this all over the country.

I remember once a few years ago, government officials holdings community forum with AMTRAK and this Senior Government Affairs guy from AMTRAK NYC was part of the panel.  He wasn’t particularly used friendly to the regular folk and I wonder if his phone is ringing off the phone this morning ?

I hope the media stays on this story. There needs to be a spotlight on our aging infrastructure as far as our rail systems go. And there was a former Congressman (Pagrick Murphy) on this train along with a producer or some other kind of NBC news employee. And given the age of social media in which we live there are a lot of photos surfacing from the scene of this crash. Right now they are saying Amtrak service is suspended on the northeast corner, and I bet a lot of the SEPTA trains are canceled as well.

When I commuted to New York we experienced quite a bit on AMTRAK. One time in the summer we got caught in a marsh fire in between coming out of the tunnel in New York City before we got to Newark. 

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there was always “jumper season”. Yes as awful as it sounds – that was the peak time of year when people would attempt suicide by train. One time they didn’t cover up the body parts fast enough. I don’t mean to sound callous but that’s what it was. It was horrible. 

And what also came to mind last night is if last night’s tragedy had occurred during the holiday season when the trains are so packed what would have happened? Quite literally then people are standing in the aisles between New York and Washington. If that had been the case last night, you would’ve been looking at a much larger body count. And I’ve never understood how AMTRAK allows that to occur anyway because it’s just not safe even without worrying about crashes.

 

Of course this derailment and accident makes me think of all the developers who want to build right on the train tracks. We have an example of that locally which is Eastside Flats in Malvern borough. In media coverage of this crash in Philadelphia, it looks like the catenary wires came down too – those are those big wires on giant poles  you see around a lot of the train stations.
  
Say prayers for the victims of this crash. And send up a huge word of thanks for the first responders who were so amazing last night. Things like this don’t happen very often, but wherever there’s a track that could happen. I hope that this means we will have a more meaningful conversation in this country about our aging infrastructure and government officials will do more than pay it lip service. And AMTRAK does have a pretty healthy budget every year, so how do they spend their money? Is it on infrastructure repairs and upgrades or salaries of middle level and upper management?

According to NBC10 71 years ago there was a horrible crash in the same location.

Here is media coverage:

NBC10:

Dead, Over 140 Hurt After Amtrak Train Derails, Rolls on Side in Philadelphia

NOTE: Those trying to contact passengers on the train should call the Amtrak Hotline at 1-800-523-9101


At least six people were killed and over 140 people hurt after an Amtrak train, carrying 238 passengers and five crew members, derailed and rolled onto its side in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia Tuesday night, according to officials.
The death toll from the crash rose to six Wednesday morning when Temple University Hospital officials confirmed one patient had died of their injuries overnight. 54 patients were treated at Temple, 25 remained hospitalized Wednesday morning including eight patients in critical condition, chief medical officer Dr. Herbert Cushing said at a briefing.
All seven cars of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 derailed and came off the tracks near Frankford Junction on the 2000 block of Wheatsheaf Lane shortly after 9 p.m., officials said. The train was heading to New York from Washington, D.C., and had six passenger cars as well as an engine.

Follow : @nbcphiladelphia on Twitter | nbcphiladelphia on Facebook

CNN:

Amtrak train derails in Philadelphia

New York Times:

Amtrak Train Derails in Philadelphia, Killing at Least 6 and Injuring Dozens

krapf school bus issues

 Meet school bus number 94 from the Krapf Bus Company. I was about a car length and a half behind this bus coming up to the stop sign of Collegeview and Morstein. Good thing I’m not a distracted driver, because this bus driver without warning and without really looking behind them threw it into reverse off Morstein to turn around and head in the opposite direction. Seriously, the bus was hauled around like it was a little sports car.

It must be a full moon for school buses from this company because when I was coming down Hershey’s Mill Road five minutes prior to this I was tailgated the entire way by bus 122 from the same company. 

Hershey’s Mill Road  is narrow and quite windy. I was going the speed limit. I am guessing that the bus was in a hurry to get to Villa Maria or something. But it doesn’t really matter, it’s kind of disconcerting to have a giant yellow school bus riding on your tail.

Fortunately I got to turn off so hurry hurry bus driver could be on their merry way. But to run into another Krapf’s driver with issues at Collegeview and Morstein was sort of like a full moon experience.

These bus drivers have a schedule to keep, I get that. But they  carrying precious cargo, so in addition to not hitting people on the road in their vehicles or coming close to doing that, they should have a care for the people’s children they are carrying.

Oh, and I’ve been noticing another bus related phenomenon  on King Road lately. People in an all fired hurry who seem to feel the need to pass the Septa buses when they stop around Immaculata and the William Henry apartments at high rates of speed. These people don’t even look to see where the people getting on and off the bus are crossing. And not even the enormous axle eating potholes on King Road seem to slow them down.

Thanks for stopping by.

if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

malvern train stationI remember years ago as a college student without access to a car when I wanted to go visit friends at West Chester University, if I couldn’t get a ride I had to take a train to Paoli and then get one of those scuzzy cabs to West Chester. And Paoli train station on the side going towards Malvern felt just as creepy and isolated then as it does today.

I was happy when Malvern and beyond opened again on Septa.  And people ride the train.  When I was transitioning out to Chester County for a while I took the train out from the Main Line.  I was going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and a lot of the time towards the end of my treatment I was too tired to drive. This was when Malvern train station was under construction.  It was then I realized there was no handicap access at either Paoli or Malvern – quite frankly during that time I would have welcomed a ramp versus steep stairs – I was just that tired. At Malvern during the heat of that summer I was going through radiation was when you not only had to climb  steep stairs, the train station also had no place for you to sit to wait to be picked up and a car couldn’t get near enough to pick you up.  Instead you had to wind your way through a construction site and around through to the other side via the roads on a sidewalk that was not the best.

So now there is the tunnel and the station is rehabbed (but still isn’t truly handicap accessible) and during the summer Malvern Borough officials were putting on charettes or whatever for T.O.D.  Transit Oriented Development, otherwise known as borough officials see dollar signs and have no brain cells. I wrote about T.O.D. before.

I said then I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses. It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

To say that people in suburbs and exurbs and quasi rural areas will give up driving is just ludicrous.  These municipalities and developers should just be honest: they don’t have the ability to put sufficient parking in all this new age urban-like development.  They don’t care so much about the environment and being green, in my humble opinion it is all about the green they can bank in profits. And who suffers? People already living around these infill development targeted sites.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

TOD stands to add hundreds of living units. Hundreds as in someone told me in excess of 600.  Malvern is no way capable of handling that many additional living units and cars and people.  That has a trickle down effect to the schools too. And we aren’t talking real estate taxes, we’re talking overcrowding.

TOD in Malvern will also adversely affect their neighbors in East Whiteland.  Much the way Tredyffrin affected Radnor residents downstream along the Gulph Creek when they allowed Church of the Savior and some other things to super-size.  East Whiteland should stay on top of this from a municipal perspective.  No one needs trickle down issues.

So why am I writing this? Because of something that appeared in Malvern Patch that was copied from Plan Philly.

The long and short of it there is a very real chance SEPTA will cut stops off the R5 Paoli/Thorndale Line.  As in NO MORE train service. Stopping at Paoli again.

(See  septa-s-complete-service-realignment-plan-and-letter-to-state-secretary-of-transportation-barry-schoch.original )

eli kahn

So I have to wonder if Septa will even do the makeover planned for Paoli train station?  And if the service is truncated and stops at Paoli, how will Paoli even if their grand plans make it to completion handle the influx?

I put forward that Malvern Borough Council and Borough staff /administration need to be watched.  They want to shove, shove, shove through new development yet they have no substantive planning that I can see. I know what they see- they see ratables.  What is happening (for example) with the Gables Greenhouse property on Warren and Second Ave?  There were a couple of things in Malvern Patch which seem to have disappeared?  The comments indicate on the remaining article that like five houses are being considered for that property?

Malvern Borough has lost it’s way.  They don’t seem to listen to their residents.  They also can’t seem to get much money in the end for development projects.  Remember when people checked out what they were getting in ratables for East King Street/Eastside Flats? See:

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the  of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

And oh yeah what exactly in the realm of new businesses is Eli Kahn actually bringing to Malvern? Besides Kimberton Whole Foods?

I feel I must say again that in addition to better planning by municipalities and boroughs throughout Pennsylvania, there also need to be updates made to the Municipalities Planning Code.  After all Zoning blames Planning and Supervisors/Commissioners.  Supervisors/Commissioners blame flaws in Municipalities Planning Code.

Want to see bad planning?  Look no further than Lower Merion Township and take Ardmore as an example.  There is a short film surfacing about development there and the fact that when it occurs a lot of businesses and residents will have ZERO parking for two years and reduced parking after that. Why?  Because Lower Merion is essentially giving away land to a developer. I think you can view the documentary short by following this link: https://vimeo.com/72950877

Getting off the soapbox now.  Just been chewing on this a few days.

the emperor may have no clothes on when it comes to t.o.d. in malvern

8725667223_b569e6c098_b

UPDATE: I was just cruising through Malvern Patch to see if there was any resident feedback from Malvern’s TOD meeting (since the media can’t seem to cover life altering development) and my eyes about popped when I read this:

Sidne Baglini      July 24, 2013 at 09:34 pm   

The meeting was last night at Borough Hall.  The subject was the Transportation Oriented Development…Read More Plan presentation which is encouraging the Borough to change the zoning on the north side of the railroad tracks on Warren Ave.  so that 600 residential units can be constructed so that SEPTA can increase it’s ridership and surrounding communities can avoid suburban sprawl.  The plans presented showed several 12 story buildings; a plan with multiple 7 story buildings and a plan with even more multiple 4 or 5 story buildings.  Another meeting will be announced for late summer or early autumn as they are required to hold 3 public meetings and last night’s was the 2nd.  I don’t know if the 3 plans were left at the Borough Hall or if they are being held by the Delaware Valley Planning Commission.  In a nutshell, if you think East King Street Flats is your vision of what Malvern should be like, then this proposal is EKSF on steroids.

EARLIER:

I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses.  It really means Transit Oriented Development, and whoa Nellie I had no idea it was being planned for Malvern Borough.

It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

And oh my gosh golly here comes a meeting that may have been held TODAY in Malvern Borough that I only saw on Malvern Patch just now and it wasn’t posted until July 22 at almost 11 pm.  This is a meeting important enough that it should have had widely publicized notices for weeks and not been held in the dead of a hot, hot summer when a lot of people are away.  But the jaded person in me says that naturally that is when local governments sneak things through: around major holidays or in the dead of summer.

Future of Train Station up for Discussion

This is your second chance to see what could be coming for the Malvern train station.

 A meeting this Tuesday could shape how a major section of Malvern could look in the future.

The Malvern Transit-Oriented Development Plan (TOD) is holding a public meeting to discuss the future of the half-mile section of borough near the SEPTA train station on Tuesday, from 4 to 7 p.m….For more information on the meeting, contact borough manager Sandra Kelley at 610-644-2602 or check out the group’s flyer onthe borough website.

Malvern-workshop-2-flyer

malvern flyer july 2013

A meeting this important and they seem incapable of properly publicizing? it is a shame that Malvern Borough wants to turn themselves into Upper Darby or something isn’t it?  I have to ask is this “plan” actually a done deal and are these motions are just for show?

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

Some will find my words hard and hyper critical and for that I am sorry, but lordy have they learned nothing? Look at Eli Kahn’s hulking monstrosity would you? The photo below was taken in March and while the Tyvec and black paper may be covered up now by plaster and whatnot but it still does not disguise the fact that this project looms over the street, looms over houses across the train tracks and lacks human scale and the ridiculously low amount once quoted in the paper as what would be gained in ratables leaves me scratching my head.

And again, I am sorry to sound this way it is just so simply Groundhog Day and if I could spare anyone what others have gone through with these Emperor’s New Clothes fools’ errands of unattainable zoning overlays and infill development hair-brained plans that don’t EVER seem to take into account the scale of current buildings, architecture, history, human scale, design elements, the actual will of the people or parking and traffic I would.

I don’t live in Malvern Borough so I have no standing, just opinion.  But I have to say I am not anti-progress but I am against poor planning.  An article from September 2012 in Main Line Media News by Henry Briggs on this topic says that as per tax records Malvern Borough residents pay nearly FOUR TIMES the taxes paid by businesses and industrial property owners.

Here is that column of Henry Briggs’ from September 2012:

Main Line Suburban Life > Opinion

HENRY BRIGGS: How much should Malvern grow?

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012

On Tuesday, Sept 25, from 4pm to 7pm, Malvern Borough will offer its citizens a voice in a decision that will permanently effect the future of the town.

Woody Van Sciver, Borough Council President and Jeff Riegner a planning consultant, will ask for comments on “transit oriented development” in Malvern; specifically, putting additional people and buildings into a half-mile perimeter of the Malvern SEPTA station.

As Malvern is only 1.3 square miles, this will have enormous and permanent impact on the people who live and work there.

With the development of East King Street, the town is currently in the first stage of a 10% expansion….What triggered the study? A breakfast in 2008 hosted by the Philadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce and attended by assorted civic leaders, including Woody Van Sciver, Malvern Borough Council President.

The main speaker, Barry Seymour, from the DVRPC, spoke about the need to beef up density around transit centers – the SEPTA and AMTRAK stations – along the Main Line. His pitch echoed that of the “Landscapes Plan” which Chester County put together years ago.

I am with Henry Briggs and ex-Borough President Pat McGuigan: keep Malvern a traditional village.  Maybe spruce it up a little and get some of those derelict property owners near the Flying Pig to clean up and get tenants, but don’t supersize Malvern around a train station that isn’t even handicap accessible.  Fix up the existing downtown, get grants to repair sidewalks.  Look to ways of improving parking for visitors and residents. Come up with a viable village plan that looks at Malvern Borough as a whole so progress flows and doesn’t cause pain. Go to Media and Narberth and check them out – although downtown Media is much larger than either Narberth or Malvern like Malvern and Narberth it is off the beaten path (i.e. not right on a major road like Route 30)

Like many municipalities, Malvern Borough might benefit in term limits for elected officials because wow hearing this stuff makes one question why people serve doesn’t it? Maybe this Woody Van Sciver needs to retire, right?

Also see Should Malvern Grow by Joseph DiStefano at The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malvern Borough is 1.2 or 1.3 square miles and that will never change.  It is time for Malvrn Borough Towns Fathers to put away their huge insecurity issues and obvious inferiority complexes and accept Malvern for what it is: a VILLAGE.  Capitalize on THAT, don’t try to make Malvern what it is not.  And anyone who tells you that your community in exurbia (because out here we are past the traditional suburbs of the Main Line) will only thrive and prosper with tons of density and infill development should be run out of town on a rail and sent to live in the urban jungle they so greatly crave.  As a matter of fact, I hear there is a lot of room in Detroit these days.

Lecture over You all do what you want this is merely my opinion.

the ramp to nowhere. thoughts?

NBC10: Woman With Disabilities Describes ‘Ramp to Nowhere’

SEPTA spent millions to build wheelchair ramps at one train station, but people with disabilities still aren’t able to board the trains there

SEE VIDEO OF NEWS STORY: CLICK HERE

Despite millions of dollars in renovations, some SEPTA stations remain inaccessible to some travelers with disabilities.

NBC10’s Chris Cato talked with Anne Cope, who says she was on the White House lawn when the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990. But 23 years later, she says public transit accessibility in Philadelphia still remains a major problem.

“The ADA was passed in 1990, and here we are with stations, some pretty important stations, that aren’t accessible yet,” said Cope.

SEPTA  has spent 9.2 million dollars in federal stimulus money to build two elaborate wheelchair ramps and a pedestrian tunnel at the Malvern station. However, once reaching the top of the ramp, people with disabilities cannot board any trains because there is no raised platform there.

 

 

 

malvern train station: all that $ spent and still not ADA accessible?

malvern 3Wow.  Way to go Pete Kennedy from Malvern Patch!  Millions of tax dollars were spent on making SEPTA’s Malvern Train Station new and improved….and I thought that meant fully ADA accessible. Only, as Malvern Patch is reporting it is NOT truly  ADA accessible after all.

SEPTA seems to have provided Patch with some amazing non-answers.  I find it absolutely astounding that train stations are being reconstructed at the tune of millions and millions in tax dollars, grants, you name it and they are supposed to be new, improved, shiny, and ADA accessible…only they aren’t?

malvern1

Malvern Patch: Wheelchair Users Can’t Board Trains in Malvern, Despite Ramps/How can a person in a wheelchair get onto the train? They can’t, SEPTA said.

ByPete Kennedy Email the author 5:30 am

A Malvern Patch reader who watched the $9.2 million renovation of the Malvern SEPTA station has been wondering something.

Rob Anderson, a daily rail commuter for more than 12 years, writes:

[T]hey installed all the ADA required ramps, etc. and that is great.  But, how can a person in a wheelchair get onto the train?  Has SEPTA made any indication of how they are going to install ramps for riders to get on/off the train?

We reached out to SEPTA, and spokesperson Kristin Geiger explained that there’s currently no way for someone in a wheelchair to board the train in Malvern, despite the many new ramps. They can, however, request free transportation from Malvern to a nearby station with a high-level platform

You can read the full SEPTA response on Malvern Patch.

malvernSo how are the railroads accountable exactly?  Shouldn’t they be fined and forced to remediate? I pretty much just asked Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that question a few moments ago as he wrote a rather large article the other day about the Paoli Station makeover which is moving forward.  If all new and reinvented, rebuilt, repurposed train stations are supposed to be ADA accessible, why aren’t they? I mean ask anyone who opens a business that has public rest rooms for example.  They can’t just say “oops we’ll add handicap accessible bathrooms later” can they ? So why is it any different for public transit entities like AMTRAK and SEPTA?

According to AAPD Of the nearly 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their homes, 560,000 never leave home because of transportation difficulties

I can tell you off the top of my head in addition to Paoli, Bryn Mawr and Ardmore train stations are not ADA accessible.  So now Malvern is back on that list after a very expensive face lift that included all sorts of fancy ramps.  I was using Malvern station a great deal almost two years ago now when being treated for breast cancer. It was so difficult for me to navigate, and I kept thinking that at least at the end of the project people with temporary and permanent disabilities would be better served when the renovation was complete.

I am utterly amazed that Malvern Borough did not stay on top of this project to ensure ADA compliance, but should I be surprised?  Malvern Borough has some of the worst sidewalks I have ever seen in their downtown, so obviously ADA compliance is not a huge priority is it? Maybe it will be when someone trips on a sidewalk and sues the borough?

I figure I would bring this up now, given the money about to be spent in Paoli on a new train station. I am thrilled that this project is moving forward as in Ardmore there is nothing transit related happening with regard to THAT train station project and one can assume people will be riding Dranoff condos or apartments into Center City Philadelphia.  The Paoli project will remove that hideously dangerous and outmoded North Valley Road bridge, but Paoli Train Station has serious ADA issues now, so will the station be ADA compliant?

Part of why these train stations are getting makeovers isn’t just parking and aesthetics, the functionality is supposed to be bought current.  I guess I just don’t understand the thinking of SEPTA with regard to Malvern and wonder why they can’t just do something right the first time?

To quote the AAPD again:

Transportation and The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the landmark civil rights law that addresses the rights of people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail (subways, commuter trains, etc.). Under the ADA; all new vehicles used in public transit must be accessible; key existing rail stations and all new rail stations and facilities must be accessible; and transit operators must provide paratransit (on-demand, door-to-door) services for those who cannot use available mass transit.

 Accessibility

Twenty years after passage of the ADA, transportation choices for people with disabilities are still limited. The ADA has led to major improvements in transit systems across the United States. However, there are persistent gaps in compliance that continue to create significant barriers for people with disabilities. In addition, because the ADA only addresses public transportation, few transportation options exist for people with disabilities where no public transportation is available. In some areas, such as in rural communities, insufficient funding has left people with disabilities with little or no transportation options. In urban areas, where individuals often rely on accessible taxis, a lack of requirements has meant very uneven progress.

tragedy on the tracks

As a photographer I have actually photographed the aftemath of an accident involving trains and humans. It was at Bryn Mawr station on a summer evening in June 2010. I even wrote about it for Main Line Media News as an op-ed piece.

That night, a reporter I knew phoned to say there was a fatality on the tracks. I met the reporter at the scene after they were certain the victim had been removed. I didn’t want to see that because I have seen similar scenes in the past. I used to commute to New York City years ago, and especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas there were always incidents on the tracks, as there is literally a suicide by train season. One time in particular, NJ Transit and Amtrak weren’t fast enough to clean up an accident scene. That image is forever in my mind.

After this in my editorial I wrote In addition, in spite of horrible tragedies like this, so many people go up onto or get too close to live train tracks every single day. Every summer as soon as school lets out, part of the sounds of summer nights are voices on the train tracks — usually kids. Even during the school year it happens. You see it every day when people don’t want to take the time to take the stairs at stations to get to the other side — they just cross right in the middle.

On that Friday evening in 2010 I also thought of the family who would receive this tragically horrible news, as well as a local family who did receive news like this in May 2007. That was when young Brian Breskman was electrocuted by the third rail of SEPTA’s Route 100 trolley line in Bryn Mawr. Since Brian’s death, his dad, Ben Breskman, has tried to raise awareness for the need of increased safety measures around train and trolley tracks.

While I lived along the Main Line I  asked about increasing fencing at train stations and the dangerously open in-between stretches of tracks. Every time I asked I was told it’s never going to happen; it costs too much money.

Now that I am out here, I still wonder about safety and fencing along the tracks – for passenger rail and freight.  It is not like I live with a major rail line cleaving my neighborhood in two any longer, but you still wonder.  After all when you spend the better part of 15 years shooing teenage boys from the Haverford School off the tracks during the school year, and kids in general during the summer as well as some stupid adults I saw who used the tracks as a walking path, you will always wonder every time you see a train pass.

Yesterday there was a crazy tragic accident outside Ellicott City Maryland.  I started to watch it because of the fact it was a train derailment, and also I used to have cousins who lived in Ellicott City in this crazy awesome Victorian house.

What I learned this morning is one of the two teenage girls who were messing around near the tracks on a rail bridge and killed when the CSX coal train derailed was  a granddaughter of one of my mother’s friends.  Two friends of mine told me this morning.  Not that it matters in the end, it is just mind-boggling and tragically sad to think of two young lives snuffed out like this.

These weren’t crazy kids – they were two young women who were high school pals who made a dumb and deadly choice on a summer evening before going back to college.

See that is the thing, even good kids can do dumb things.  And no you can’t wrap them in cotton wool until they reach an age certain (and what age would that be anyway?), but I have to ask again, are the railroads in this country doing their best to keep people safe?

And to *think* there was talk a couple short years ago of a walking trail alongside freight train lines in Gladwyne.

Two young girls made a dumb choice.  And now they are dead.  I think part of this conversation should be as they investigate this derailment is why ordinary people can still access train tracks and railroad bridges so easily?

I am thinking that this should be a national issue.  You can’t fence every square inch of train tracks, no, but apparently something needs to be done as people keep getting smushed by trains. And there needs to be more attention to rail safety in general.  How do we know that CSX say had the right weight to haul for those tracks?  Were the tracks in perfect condition? Will the railroad try to blame these kids for the derailment and deflect accountability?

I am sorry  but you *can’t* just fluff the issue off by saying people should have more sense.  Of course people should have more sense but sometimes human beings do dumb things. And I am sorry but human beings doing dumb things are only part of the equation in this tragedy.

Ellicott City Train Derailment Victims Tweeted From Tracks Before Death ; Two young women, 19, died in an Ellicott City train derailment.

By Brandie Jefferson, Elizabeth Janney, and Lisa Rossi August 21, 2012

In the hour before officials said parts of a CSX train crashed and overturned early Tuesday in downtown Ellicott City, two young women who died in the incident were tweeting about sitting on the train tracks.

Elizabeth Conway Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19, of Ellicott City, died in the incident, which occurred at 12:02 a.m. Tuesday, train officials said.

“Levitating,” wrote a Twitter user named Rose Mayr at 10:51 p.m. under the name @r0se_petals, accompanied by a picture of two pairs of women’s feet dangling over the street in Ellicott City.

A Twitter user named Elizabeth Nass (@LizNassty) tweeted at 10:40 p.m. that she was “drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign,” which sits under the train tracks that cross Main Street, with @r0se_petals.

Safety officials have not yet confirmed the tweets came from the victims.

The train derailment occurred at 12:02 a.m. Tuesday, according to officials.

By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — They were seemingly ordinary tweets from two friends hanging out on a railroad bridge in their hometown, enjoying one last summer night together before heading back to college.

“Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign,” read one. “Looking down on old ec,” read another. Accompanying photos showed their view from the bridge and their bare feet, one with painted blue toenails, dangling over the edge. “Levitating,” read another tweet.

Minutes after the messages were shared on the social media site Twitter, a Baltimore-bound CSX freight train loaded with coal barreled down the tracks and derailed, killing the 19-year-old women and toppling railcars and coal onto the streets below of this historic Maryland community.

Investigators were still trying to figure out what caused the derailment. Witnesses heard squealing brakes and a thunderous crash around midnight Monday.

It wasn’t clear whether the women’s presence on the tracks had anything to do with the derailment. They were sitting on the edge of the bridge over Ellicott City’s main street as the train passed a few feet behind them, Howard County police said, and their bodies were found buried under coal. Authorities said they needed to do autopsies before their cause of death could be determined.

The victims were identified as Elizabeth Conway Nass, a student at James Madison University in central Virginia and Rose Louese Mayr, a nursing student at the University of Delaware.

The railroad is easily accessible from the picturesque downtown of Ellicott City, about 15 miles west of Baltimore, and generations of young people have played and partied along the tracks. The railroad was completed in 1830 and crosses over Main Street in the city’s historic district, following the route of the nation’s first commercial railroad, according to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

“We grew up running on those tracks,” said Ellicott City native Bridgette Hammond, 25. “It’s actually really beautiful up there.”

Nass and Mayr were on the dance team at Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City, from which they graduated, and they planned to finish college in 2014, according to friends and their Facebook pages….

A person who answered the telephone at Nass’ home declined to comment, as did a family member who answered at a number listed for the Mayr family.

The pictures and tweets from Mayr were no longer publicly available Tuesday afternoon, but friends confirmed they were hers and police said they were aware of the posts and looking into them.

Jill Farrell, who lives across the street from the tracks, said she heard what sounded liked squealing brakes and then a crash, followed by silence.

Benjamin Noppenberger was getting ready for bed when he and his wife heard what sounded like gunshots. They waited about 10 minutes before going outside.

“We could see all the cars that fell over. I just saw catastrophe,” he said.

Jim Southworth, investigator in charge for the NTSB, declined to speculate on a possible cause. He said the brakes were applied automatically when an air line used to pressurize the braking system was disconnected. He did not say what role, if any, the brakes may have played in the derailment…

The derailment also damaged some of Verizon’s equipment, disrupting land-line telecommunications services to clients.

The problems reached all the way to the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where pretrial hearings were delayed for a day for five men charged with orchestrating and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks because files on government servers were temporarily unavailable.

Gresko reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Matthew Barakat in Ellicott City, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., and Karen Mahabir in Washington contributed to this report.

Two Young Women Dead in Ellicott City Train Derailment; Officials say more than 20 cars derailed.

ByBrandie Jefferson August 21, 2012

Police: Teens Who Died in Trail Derailment Were Buried Under Coal;Howard County police are revealing more details in a fatal Ellicott City train derailment.   ByLisa Rossi  August 21, 2012

malvern’s mistake

I have written before how I feel that Malvern’s super-sizing via the Eli Kahn development on King Street is a huge mistake.

In March, the Daily Local had one of its nameless editorial columns on it.  As was the case with a couple nameless, faceless editorials on West Vincent, they were off the mark on Malvern too.  And honestly, part of my problem with these editorial is that if you want to go incognito on a blog, that is one thing, but if you are writing for a large local and regional paper, sign your name.

So the Daily Local said at the time:

At a recent meeting of the Malvern Business and Professional Association, developer Eli Kahn told the group about his plans to transform East King Street in the borough, now home to small industrial complexes, into a vibrant residential and retail swath that he calls “a walkable environment … a better environment to work in.”

Kahn is the man who with his partner Jack Loew purchased two large buildings from Chester County in West Chester’s so-called “first block,” ….In Malvern, Kahn said he had gotten the idea 12 years ago to begin work on a new mixed-use environment there. He said the five-year venture in 18 months will produce 25,000 square feet of retail space with “quality residential” space above it and expanded parking below and outside…“Success is a mix of business, shopping and quality residential,” he said. “West Chester has been very successful over the past five years,” and a like result can occur here. “The charm of Malvern is what’s making this project successful.”

 

We hope that Kahn will continue his efforts to be forthcoming about plans for the West Chester property. It sounds as though he is on the right track in Malvern.

Ok, did the nameless, faceless anonymous editorial column writers walk the site?  Or did they merely expound upon a developer feel-good press release?

I went to the site today while running errands.  I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw, and can easily envision for the future.  Yes, it is a site that should be redeveloped. But why not a park and a couple of stores?  Or something Malvern lacks? Sufficient parking?

Malvern Patch also has covered this development.   Much like The Daily Local has. The Daily Local has also covered the Kahn-ism of West Chester too.  In both cases, I feel in my heart of hearts, this will when all said and done, like letting the proverbial fox in the hen-house.

West Chester has a good formula in their downtown now, which I saw more of this morning when I went to the West Chester Grower’s Market.   Carolyn Comitta and Holly Brown better keep their heads on right, lest they  ruin a good thing.

Developers always say the right thing when they come a courting, but what happens when they leave?

Which brings me back to Malvern.  You know what I think Eli Kahn and Jack Loew’s project is going to be like when it is done?  A super-sized Charleston Greene.  And over the years, how has Toll’s Charleston Greene worked for you ,Malvern?

As I went back and forth through Malvern today, checking the streetscape, I had to wonder if they needed super-sized development anymore than Ardmore, PA does? In Ardmore, the residents wanted a new train station which may never appear in anyone’s lifetimes now, but on Monday apparently there is a press conference about the work beginning on the Paoli Transportation Center.

As I said before, as long as I can remember has had an unfortunate identity crisis – mostly stemming from local officials as opposed to residents.  The borough of Malvern has a charm that doesn’t need super-sizing with giant Tyvec wrapped buildings that will end up looking like a New Urbanism Disneyland.

Malvern will sacrifice any  charm of the area  and the traffic will be a nightmare.

I think parts of Malvern may end up looking as unattractive as parts of Eagle, another tiny community developers had a “vision” for.  When municipalities suffer an identity crisis, the residents and business owners are the ones who suffer in the end.

I sure hope I am wrong about Malvern and these plans, but I don’t think so. What I see are future buildings just sitting right on the street without sufficient setbacks like Jabba the Hutt, architecture (if you can call it that) that picks up zero cues from its surroundings, over-abundance of density abutting train tracks and an urban feel all wrong for a somewhat sleepy  and small Chester County borough town.

And mark my words, just because they build it it does not mean they will come.  And if they come, they might not be what you wanted.

But the horse is out of the barn on this one. So we’ll just wait and see.  Hopefully I won’t be able to say I told you so.  But again, honestly, I think Malvern had better enjoy Malvern before it’s gone.