Coalition Makes Pitch For Septa

Posted: June 29, 1989

What do 100 area civic, business and political leaders all joined in a common cause sound like?

To John Miller, chief executive officer and chairman of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co. and one of the leaders who traveled to Harrisburg on Tuesday to argue for more money for SEPTA, they sound like three million people.

"I told the legislators that as they listened to us, that they were really hearing the footsteps of three million people," Miller said. "That is the kind of broad-based coalition that we had out there."

The coalition - the Delaware Valley Alliance For Transit - wants to show the transit authority's importance to the entire region, not just the city of Philadelphia.

"It's hard not to imagine any constituency not represented at that meeting," said Miller, who lives in Villanova. "This agency (SEPTA) is not a city issue but one that is crucial to the whole region, including the four counties."

Miller said that between 35 and 40 legislators and five representatives

from the governor's office met with the coalition and heard speeches about the need for a long-term commitment to the transit authority.

The coalition first met two weeks ago, deciding then to go to Harrisburg to meet legislators. The group is the first of its kind to go to bat for the agency, and members hoped that government officials would follow their lead.

"This is the best group of its kind that I've seen in 25 years of watching Pennsylvania government," said Robert Butera a partner at the Philadelphia law firm Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul. "I hope that the government would form a similiar coalition that would act as an advocate for SEPTA from Philadelphia and the state as well."

Although the coalition wanted to draw attention to the $157 million that Gov. Casey has earmarked for SEPTA's operating costs for the next fiscal year, the group is looking to the future of the agency.

"This was the first shot out of the cannon," Miller said. "We didn't really expect any tangible results - such as a bag full of money - but it was a tremendous success in drawing attention to the long-term interest of the agency."

Joseph Egan, former head of the Philadelphia Development Industrial Corp. and an executive vice president of the Hansen Group in Montgomery County, said that the goal was to get the state to look at SEPTA as a major component in the growth of the region and the state as a whole.

"SEPTA is a major part of the infrastructure in this region," said Egan, who could not make the trip but is a member of the coalition.

"In Montgomery County, where we are a net importer of jobs, we all have a tremendous stake in SEPTA," he said.

Egan said that the coalition is optimistic about the agency's future

because of the new leadership.

"We are very optimistic about the direction of SEPTA with the hiring of (Louis J.) Gambaccini and we hope to show the legislaters that the funding will not go down a sinkhole."

Krya G. McGrath, an attorney hired by Gambaccini, SEPTA general manager, three months ago to organize the coalition, said that the trip to Harrisburg was only the beginning and that the next task was to keep the momentum going.

"It was an excellent turnout and I hope that we got the message across," McGrath said. "What we need to do now is to focus on securing a long-term, stable funding source for the agency."

McGrath said that an ad-hoc steering committee had been established and would meet weekly.

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