PA: Disabled PATCO Train Clogs Rush-Hour Commute -- Again

Feb. 10--PATCO officials have started a "lessons learned" session on Monday afternoons to figure out how to improve service on the troubled commuter line between South Jersey and Center City.

They had plenty to work with Monday.

During both the morning and evening rush-hours, trains were disabled on the lone working track on the Ben Franklin Bridge, forcing evacuation of the trains and causing significant delays on a line already slowed by construction.

The morning breakdown was over the Delaware River, while the evening failure was on the approach to the bridge on the Philadelphia side.

In Monday's evening rush hour, some passengers were evacuated to the closed Franklin Square Station beneath Old City before being placed on another train to continue their eastbound trip, PATCO spokesman Tim Ireland said.

Two passengers complaining of breathing problems were evacuated through an emergency exit in the area of Fourth and Florist Streets, police said.

Firefighters gained entry to the tracks through another emergency exit on Seventh Street just north of Race Street, police said.

The remaining passengers on the train were waiting for the arrival of another train to take them to New Jersey, police said.

Traffic was blocked east on Race at Eighth and south on Seventh at Race.

Two passengers were given permission to use the hatch to get out and catch a car ride home.

In both breakdowns, an electric traction motor underneath the train apparently was the culprit, shorting out and disabling the trains and filling the cars with smoke.

The traction motors, which seem especially vulnerable to damage from powdery snow, are among the components that will not be replaced as part of PATCO's ongoing $194 million rehabilitation of its 120 railcars.

The existing motors will continue to be used and rebuilt as needed, to save money, PATCO officials have said.

PATCO service has been disrupted for weeks by the start last month of a two-year, $103 million track-replacement project on the bridge.

Monday's breakdowns compounded those delays and further upset passengers already irked by faltering service and a rash of broken escalators and elevators.

pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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