inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

SEPTA Violence Inspires Farry, Tartaglione Bill Protecting Transit Workers

SEPTA bus driver Bernard Gribbin was shot and killed while driving on his route in the Germantown section of Philadelphia last month. Police charged a woman passenger with his murder.

A bill named for Gribbin, a U.S. Army veteran, sponsored by state Sens. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) and Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia) that would make it a crime to interfere with a mass transit operator passed the Senate transportation committee unanimously this week. Senate Bill 977 would make it a felony of the third degree. If a person commits an aggravated assault against an operator, the penalty would be a felony of the first degree.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in threats and assaults against transit workers in Pennsylvania – especially Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operators – including gun violence, physical assaults, and other disruptions.

“Our hope is this legislation will not only help safeguard our transit operators so they can safely do their job but protect passengers and other commuters on the roadway,” Farry said. “The bill is named after U.S. Army veteran Bernard Gribbin – a SEPTA bus operator who was murdered while working on Oct. 26. Operators deserve our protection.”

While the COVID-19 lockdowns are long over, John Golden, a spokesman for SEPTA, said the transit system is still feeling the impacts. SEPTA’s daily ridership is around 700,000 daily riders, or 70 percent of their pre-pandemic ridership.

However, despite Gribbin’s murder, crime on SEPTA vehicles has been going down.

“We are seeing progress in efforts to reduce criminal incidents, driven by efforts to hire new officers and adjust patrol strategies,” said Golden. For the quarter that ended Sept. 30, serious crimes were down 6 percent, serious violent crimes like robbery and aggravated assaults were down 31 percent, and criminal assaults on employees were down 62 percent.

Perhaps not coincidentally, arrests increased by 5 percent.

Also, “more customers are reporting incidents via the SEPTA Transit Watch App, which we have been encouraging. This is a great resource for customers to discretely communicate with SEPTA Transit Police about anything they see that is of concern.”

SETA officials expressed their gratitude for the legislation.

“SEPTA is grateful for the efforts of Sens. Farry and Tartaglione for leading this bipartisan effort to increase the penalties for those who assault bus and rail operators,” said SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. “There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our employees and customers.”

Dismay as King of Prussia Rail on Hold Despite $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Act

Community and business leaders are expressing dismay for the King of Prussia area as Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) this month blamed rising costs and inflation, as well as the Biden administration, for pausing the plan to extend a high-speed line to the Philadelphia suburb.

SEPTA said last week it would cease construction on the project for the time being due to a lack of funding. The cost of the four-mile extension from Norristown—called KOP Rail by developers— had risen to more than $3 billion.

Ryan Rosenbaum, executive director of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, told the Delaware Valley Journal: “The impact of not having the KOP Rail line will be felt in this area in the years to come.

“Here is why. This region is booming with hotels, retailers, restaurants, and a major casino. Many of the employees of these businesses live in other regions of the Greater Philadelphia area and find it difficult (from a transportation perspective) to come to King of Prussia to work.

“Many are without cars and rely heavily on SEPTA,” Rosenbaum continued. “The problem of finding quality employees to come here to work is an issue that’s been percolating here for a while. The suspension of this project can have ramifications in retaining quality employees, who spend a considerable time commuting to King of Prussia.

“The impact runs much deeper. This project could have been a gateway to reducing congestion on major highway arteries in this township. Workers could have depended on reliable train service, which would have reduced the carbon footprint in the region.

“This also has an adverse effect as the rail system could have been utilized by residents in Upper Merion who may have used the rail to go into the city to dine, see theater and or get to the airport,” Rosenbaum added.

Eric Goldstein, president and CEO of the King of Prussia Business District, is also disappointed—and concerned.

“This is a huge loss for this region, and the federal dollars that could have come here will now go to one of our national competitors,” Goldstein said in a statement.

“I am disappointed that we are not going to help the thousands of Philadelphia and Delaware County residents stuck on congestion-delayed buses trying to get to their jobs in King of Prussia in a timely fashion. My biggest regret is that they are now forced to continue riding buses with only a 66 percent on-time performance.

“I am disappointed that Upper Merion will not have a way to get thousands of cars off the roads as 60,000-plus employees and even more shoppers, diners, and visitors come here daily,” Goldstein added.

John Golden, a spokesman for SEPTA, said in a statement that the project “is not recommended for federal New Starts funding in Fiscal Year 2024, and SEPTA will use resources allocated for KOP Rail to bolster essential infrastructure work.”

A major factor preventing KOP Rail from advancing is the lack of flexibility in the transit agency’s capital budget.

Federal Transit Administration officials have expressed reservations about SEPTA’s ability to fund its project share, including any cost overruns. SEPTA’s capital budget is constrained compared to peer transit agencies that have more state and local funding.

“SEPTA’s capital budget has been underfunded for decades. This has left the Authority with significantly fewer resources than peer agencies to pursue system expansion while also addressing critical infrastructure needs,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie Richards.

“With the funding we have currently, SEPTA must prioritize essential infrastructure work and safety and security improvements to maximize the reliability and effectiveness of our aging system.”

From August 2020 to August 2022, officials said the KOP Rail project estimate increased from $2.08 billion to $2.6 billion.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), who voted for and praised the $1.2 trillion Biden administration Infrastructure Act, did not respond when DVJournal asked why funding for the King of Prussia Rail was not included in that federal measure. According to a White House fact sheet, that bill included $39 billion for mass transit.

State Rep. Andy Briggs (D-King of Prussia) also declined to comment.

“The news is disappointing, but I’m hopeful that the hard work is not for naught,” Rosenbaum told DVJournal. “Perhaps this vision can rekindle in the future.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

SEPTA Still Struggles From Pandemic Ridership Losses, Crime

The state Senate Transportation Committee recently met at the SEPTA headquarters in Philadelphia to study its challenges up close and personal.

“It doesn’t take much for you to see firsthand when you come to visit Southeast Pennsylvania, how important SEPTA is,” said Jenny Louwerse, Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation at PennDOT. It’s also not difficult to see first-hand the problems that are putting so much stress on the system.

Violent crime, COVID-19 impacts, homelessness, illegal drug use, mental illness, and just an overall indecency for humankind are destabilizing the sustainability and future of the nation’s sixth largest mass transit system. We must not allow this to continue to plague our commonwealth,” said state Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Bedford/Cambria/Clearfield).

Serving both downtown Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, fixing SEPTA is a bipartisan concern.

“[Our region produces] 42 percent of the economic activity with 32 percent of our population in the commonwealth and only 5 percent of the land. This dense region cannot function without high capacity mass transit,” Louwerse said.

Safety and cleanliness top the riding public’s concerns. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, ridership has plunged. Now over two years into this pandemic, the number of riders using transit is only 53 percent of what it was prior to the outbreak. The regional rail lines have only reached 44 percent of their pre-pandemic levels.

Declining riders means lost revenue, and that is particularly problematic for a system that already relies heavily on taxpayer subsidies.

Currently, 49 percent of SEPTA’s operating budget comes from state taxpayers—almost double the average among transit systems nationally. In addition, 60 percent of SEPTA’s capital budget (i.e., funding for infrastructure improvement and new trains and buses) comes from the state.

Most of that funding does not come directly from taxes—though both the sales tax and lottery revenue subsidize transit systems. Rather, more than $925 million in driver charges, including turnpike tolls and vehicle fees, are diverted to transit agencies, primarily SEPTA, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank.

 Compounding the ridership issue is the fear of crime that many residents have. With Philadelphia now leading the nation in crime, the issue has likely had a “trickle-down” effect on SEPTA, one resident pointed out.

Several recent incidents that drew national attention have not helped, including rapes and attacks by groups of teenagers on Asian students riding home from school on the subway.

To make matters worse, the number of officers policing SEPTA has been reduced dramatically in recent years.

“SEPTAs police department is budgeted for 260 sworn officers, but as I see here right now our police department outreach was fewer than 160 patrol officers,” explained Omari Bervine, president and CEO of the Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109. 

 SEPTA has struggled to employ enough transit officers in recent years, in large part because of lack of benefits and protections offered. Transit workers have been among the demographics most heavily impacted by the pandemic.

As long as SEPTA is permitted to treat its transit police officers in this manner, it will continue to lose talented officers to the departments that treat them fairly and with the dignity they deserve,” continued Bervine. Many residents fear that opens the door for crime. Even with the strained relations between police and citizens recently, many riders feel the availability of transit police is critical to their safety.

SEPTA is trying to address those concerns.

“We have a commitment to safety that is unwavering and we have increased spending in this year’s budget by 50 percent…. That is a total of $53 million dollars that will be spent on safety and security this year,” Louwerse said.

“If we can not convince the public that their system is safe then the entire system is doomed to fail,” Bervine said.

GIORDANO: Progressive Politics Promote Attacks on Asian-American Girls

My interview with Philadelphia City Councilmember David Oh last Thursday showed how important it is for different voices to be heard, despite the thousands of news media people in the Delaware Valley.

First, Oh told us well ahead of the news curve that the African American girls filmed attacking Asian students on a SEPTA train in Philadelphia actually had assaulted the same students on a SEPTA train the day before. This attack just happened to be filmed and be more intense.

More importantly, as I broadened the conversation, Oh brought up the narrative about Asian- Americans that he thinks pervades much of progressive thought in Philadelphia. He said, “It takes the form of the rewriting of American history.” It involves portraying Asian Americans as reaping the benefits of the civil rights movement without ever having suffered true discrimination. Oh, even launched the idea that those that want to justify their view of America as a racist country must allege that Asian-Americans are mostly recent arrivals to our country and benefit from special programs that give them an edge.

He also referenced the fact that a Philadelphia ordinance forcing businesses in certain areas to close at 11 p. m. was mainly aimed at Chinese takeout restaurants. There has been a lot of tension between Asian store owners and some African American leaders in Philadelphia around the issue of many Asian American-run businesses serving customers behind bulletproof glass. In fact, Councilmember Cindy Bass, who represents the area in which I live, debated me on this issue on my show and a few times inside some of the businesses.

There is also a good deal of tension around a Philadelphia School District initiative to remove grades and test scores to get into the district’s magnet schools and replace them with a lottery system. That was aimed not just at White students, but also Asian students who are extremely well represented in these schools.

Media outlets that have tried to make some sense of the vicious attacks we saw in the SEPTA film suggested it is part of ongoing attacks against Asian Americans due to people like former President Donald Trump and many conservative leaders calling COVID-19 the Wuhan virus and attributing its origination to a lab in Wuhan.

I see no evidence of that theory in this attack. I believe it stems from the resentment created on a daily basis from the issues that Oh and I discussed. Progressives have even labeled this minority group “White adjacent” as a way of explaining the stunning success of many Asian Americans.

Councilmember Helen Gym, who is also Asian American, the progressive darling in Philadelphia and one of the frontrunners to be the next mayor, rejects my commonsense theory around these attacks and told WHYY News, “It’s heart wrenching to see young people at such a young age harming one another. But I will underscore time and again that they are witnessing violence at an unprecedented level across our city, and we are not doing nearly enough for children right now in helping them deal with the trauma and harm that has been caused to them.”

So, this trauma theory explains this very specific targeting that we saw play out? No, it does not! I believe those students were targeted because of the resentment built up over the years against Asian Americans in Philadelphia fueled by conspiracy theories and stereotypes. As a practical matter, those girls also seemed to believe the targeted students wouldn’t fight back.

It’s time that we fight back by demanding that the accurate history of Asian Americans be included in the public school instruction in Philadelphia and by calling out any public leaders or elected officials who continue to articulate stereotypes against Asian Americans.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or

In Wake of SEPTA Rape, Should PA Pass a ‘Bad Samaritan’ Law?

The rape of a woman on a Philadelphia train continues to raise questions, one of them being, should witnesses to a crime be required to help a victim? These are called “Bad Samaritan” laws, and Pennsylvania is not one of the 29 states with such rules on the books.

“Bad Samaritan laws express society’s revulsion about and retribution against bystanderism, and encourage upstanderism,” says Zachary D. Kaufman, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Law and Political Science, and co-director of the Criminal Justice Institute at University of Houston Law Center. “Bad Samaritan laws are different from Good Samaritan laws, as Bad Samaritan laws punish people for not providing help whereas Good Samaritan laws immunize people from liability when offering aid.”

For example, if someone is choking, a Good Samaritan law would immunize you from accidentally breaking the person’s rib if you administered the Heimlich maneuver.

“A Bad Samaritan law would punish you if you didn’t even try to help the person,” says Kaufman.

In the hours immediately following the October 13 rape Philadelphia police officers were quoted as saying people on the train did nothing to intervene.

“It’s disturbing that there were definitely people on the El and no one did anything to intervene or help this woman,” Upper Darby Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said in the hours immediately following the attack.

The comments caught fire and got attention from news outlets including USA Today, The New York Times, and CNN. However, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer has since dismissed claims that witnesses did nothing, adding people on the moving train may not have even known exactly what was happening.

“This is the El, guys. We’ve all ridden it,” said Stollsteinmer in a story published by “People get off and on at every single stop. That doesn’t mean when they get on and they see people interacting that they know a rape is occurring.”

Two people may have recorded video of the rape, one of whom “probably” alerted train operators about the attack, added Stollsteimer.

Law enforcement identified the man arrested as 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy. According to investigators, Ngoy and the victim both boarded the train at the Frankford Transportation Center in northwest Philadelphia. It was not until around 27 stops later at the 69th Street terminal in west Philadelphia that police said they were able to stop the assault.

“In addition to punishing bystanderism and encouraging upstanderism, prosecutors could offer immunity from an applicable Bad Samaritan law in exchange for a criminal witness’s testimony,” says Kaufman, who is also Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.

“Violations of Bad Samaritan laws in the United States are rarely prosecuted, so they are not often used to punish bystanderism,” adds Kaufman. “Such offenses could be tried more frequently, which would increase this usage of the statutes.”

David French, senior editor of the Dispatch, says people helping people is what makes us a functioning society.

“We’re saying things are so broken down that we’re going to have to pass a law for basic, human decency,” French told Delaware Valley Journal. “That’s sort of a symbol of how much these norms have been abandoned, and that’s troubling.”

French has “zero problems” with the notion that says it is a basic requirement of human decency to intervene when you can to save someone in distress, “but repairing those norms through laws that are almost impossible to enforce seems to me to be an act of futility.”

The very existence of Bad Samaritan laws is not widely known, so Kaufman says they are not effective at prodding upstanderism.

“Authorities and concerned citizens, however, could raise public awareness of the statutes,” says Kaufman. “Prosecutors occasionally offer criminal witnesses immunity from Bad Samaritan laws in exchange for testimony, but that usage’s frequency is unclear.”

As such, Kaufman says it is “difficult to determine how effective Bad Samaritan laws are,” but it is possible that they could be more effective if the statutes were more widely known and violations were more frequently prosecuted or immunized in exchange for witness testimony.”

Even then, Kaufman said Bad Samaritan laws are arguably unconstitutional in certain contexts.

“First, some critics contend that duty-to-report laws violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s right against compelled speech,” says Kaufman. “However, where it has a compelling interest, the government lawfully requires statements of fact, such as with tax returns and draft registrations.”

In addition, the government can lawfully require reporting information about crimes through issuing subpoenas to testify.

“So, the First Amendment’s protection against compelled speech is not absolute,” says Kaufman. “In any case, Bad Samaritan laws could be drafted so as not to compel speech; they could include the option of providing direct assistance.”

Second, complying with a duty-to-report law could infringe a person’s right against self-incrimination, protected under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. However, duty-to-report laws could be drafted or amended in four ways to avoid self-incrimination.

“First, these statutes could require actions, at least one of which would not necessarily cause self-incrimination (such as summoning non-police assistance or providing direct assistance to a victim),” says Kaufman. “Second, Bad Samaritan laws could state that self-incriminating information is not required to be disclosed when summoning or providing assistance. Third, such statutes could immunize individuals from being charged with crimes that only come to the attention of law enforcement from complying with the statutes. Fourth, Bad Samaritan laws could simply exempt individuals who would self-incriminate by complying.”

Delco DA Jack Stollsteimer Will Not Prosecute Bystanders Who Watched SEPTA Rape

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer says he has no plans to prosecute the people who watched and took videos while a woman was raped on the Market-Frankfort El for eight minutes.

Stollsteimer released a statement Wednesday saying he intended to “prosecute the perpetrator to the full extent of the law,” but not the onlookers.

“While I share the public’s outrage that such a heinous crime could occur on a public SEPTA train, I want to reiterate that Pennsylvania law does not allow for the prosecution of a passenger who may have witnessed a crime. Accordingly, any passenger who believes he or she may have observed the October 13th event on the SEPTA train should not fear prosecution. You are encouraged to come forward to share information with law enforcement,” Stollsteimer said.

Fiston M. Ngoy, 35, a reportedly homeless Philadelphia resident, was arrested when the train arrived at the 69th Street Transportation Center after a SEPTA worker intervened.

Ngoy, who was unable to make bail, is being held at the George W. Hill Correction Center, according to court records. He was charged with rape and sexual assault, among other crimes. The incident was national news. Published accounts say Ngoy overstayed his visa and, despite an arrest for a misdemeanor sexual offense, was allowed by a federal immigration judge to remain in the U.S.

Meanwhile, at least one person who was assaulted on the very same SEPTA train has some strong criticism for Stollsteimer.

“As someone who was recently the victim of an assault on the El, I am deeply disappointed in the comments by DA Jack Stollsteimer assuring witnesses to the rape that they would not be prosecuted,” said Christine Flowers, an immigration attorney, and occasional Delaware Valley Journal columnist.  “Having interviewed Stollsteimer on the radio and written about him favorably on social media, I truly believe that he has the best interests of victims at heart. His engagement with victims and the communities they inhabit is admirable and in stark contrast with Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, who has consistently ignored the pain of those preyed upon by criminals in the city.

“I am also aware that it is unlikely the law would support a prosecution of ‘bystanders,” Flowers said. “However, I find it tone-deaf and extremely disrespectful to the rape victim to try and calm the fears of callous, heartless men and women who stood by and allowed a fellow human being to be violated. Their conduct is even more repellent if you consider that instead of calling the police, they filmed the event for their private entertainment. Such despicable human beings do not deserve to be ‘comforted’ by the words of Delaware County’s chief law enforcement officer.”

Meanwhile, the District Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Investigation Division remind anyone in Delaware County who observes suspicious activity to call 911 immediately and provide the most specific and accurate details possible to assist law enforcement agencies investigating the call for service.

FLOWERS: Riding the Market Frankford El, From Magical To Monstrous

I’ve been riding the Market Frankford El for more than half a century. I was about four the first time I got on at 52nd Street with my grandmother, and we rode into the city to go to Wanamaker’s (after an initial round of shopping along the old 52nd Street commercial strip.) It was magical, gliding high above the city, watching the rooftops fly by, and seeing the ant-sized figures milling around below. I will never forget those first impressions of the El or the excitement of those rides in the 1960s with Mamie Fusco.

Later on, I started traveling alone, whether it be to work in Center City, weekend forays to the museums, shops, and restaurants, or simply to take long walks by the river drives (which in those days were called “East” and “West.”)  It never occurred to me to be afraid. The El was my friend, I who didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 40 and broke out into a cold sweat at the prospect of navigating city streets behind a wheel I controlled.

I can’t exactly put my finger on the moment that changed, when fear crept into my experience. I don’t think it was a specific incident because it evolved over a period of time. One day I paid my fare and stepped into the car at 69th Street headed east and felt an unusual, uncommon, and very unwelcome sense of discomfort.

And now, I can put actual events to those intangible feelings.  I’ve personally been assaulted on the El in the past few years, usually just with verbal epithets or threats from people who looked to be stoned, intoxicated, or mentally disturbed. My solution was to move to another car as quickly as possible.

More recently, I was punched in the back of the head by someone who looked to be about 13, wearing the sweatshirt of a local school. And the adult who was traveling with the child, who could have been a girl or a boy since most of the face was covered by a mask “for safety” (irony abounds) actually got up to defend him/her when I picked up my phone to call 911. Then, the kid knocked the phone out of my hand. And that adult?  He lunged at me, mouth filled with foam (I’d say he was a rabid animal but it was likely just spitting). I was able to get off at 40th Street before he hit me.

A few months before that, I was pushed and kicked by another youngster, this one clearly under the influence of drugs. Both incidents occurred in the middle of the day, with other people on the train cars.  A few tried to intervene, but most kept their faces buried in their phones. I suppose they thought that if you don’t look up, real life isn’t happening.

To be quite honest, I’ve been very lucky to have only had these random incidents of low-level violence happen to me, given the fact that I’ve been riding the rails for over a half-century.  Tragically, others haven’t been as lucky.

The day after I was punched by that young thug, a woman was raped on that same route. It started in the city and continued all the way through to the 69th Street terminus when police finally got on to stop the crime. The true crime, other than the horrific sexual violation, is that the security cameras showed people on the El who did nothing. Nothing. 

They didn’t call 911. They didn’t intervene. I thought perhaps they might not have known what was happening, but there’s no question that they did.  You couldn’t miss it.

Finally, a SEPTA employee called the police, who as I said were waiting when the train came to a stop.

This is an urban outrage that is no longer uncommon. The violence of the streets has entered into the train cars and bled into the lives of people who, like me, need to use public transportation to manage their day. I suppose we could all buy cars, or we could all wait hours for a bus to come and drop us off at a location miles away from our destinations, or we could Uber everywhere. Those among us swimming in money and affluence can hire a driver.

But for the rest of us, the price of a weekly Key card is a luxury we can barely afford but will purchase because we need mobility.  The fact that we take our lives into our hands for that mobility is an obscenity.

There have been shootouts at train stations filled with people in the middle of the day.  There have been deaths.  There have been long rides when you look in the faces of the strangers seated across from you and wonder which one of them is going to hurt you, slash you with a knife, expose himself to you (that’s happened to me as well), or in the best-case scenario, “only” steal your wallet. This is daily life on SEPTA, and this is the world created for us by DA Larry Krasner who allows criminals to slip underground, into the bowels of the trains and prey on the defenseless commuter.

We could vote Krasner out of office, which I hope we do. But that won’t completely solve the problem.

We can put more police into the cars, which I also hope we do. But that won’t solve the problem, either.

The lesson of this latest rape on the Market-Frankford Line is that we need to create a society where criminals, addicts, and sociopaths don’t have easy access to the rest of us. That’s a lot harder and takes common sense, people who aren’t afraid to be called racist or bigoted or uncaring, and I don’t think I’ll be riding the rails long enough to see it happen.