A day of frustration devolved into an evening of confusion for Philadelphia commuters Tuesday as pickets blocked SEPTA crews from reaching trains, causing delays and cancellations in an already stressed Regional Rail system.
The trains were the only public transit running in the city after an early Tuesday strike shut down subways, buses, and trolleys, sending hundreds of thousands of riders scrambling for alternative transportation.
Transportation Workers Union Local 234 set up picket lines at two rail facilities, the Roberts Yard in East Falls and the Liberty Yard in Tioga, blocking crews from parking their personal cars on SEPTA property and getting to work, said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch.
The impact rippled through the system before the agency obtained a court injunction to allow its personnel to reach the trains.
At Jefferson Station in Center City, hundreds of commuters waited on the concourse. Many were bewildered, unsure when or if trains would arrive, or how they would make their way through the crowd to board.
"No one knows where the lines are starting, no one knows where the lines are ending. It's kind of a hot mess," said Chris Dellinger, 27, of North Wales, who had waited an hour for a Lansdale train.
"This stinks," said Karen Adair, 45, of the city's Somerton section. "They don't tell us what to do. They just put us in our cattle chutes."
She said striking workers "are not going to get much support by blocking the trains."
As rush hour proceeded, SEPTA reported that crews were moving to operate trains, and cancellations subsided.
Caught between the union and the transit agency were the people who depend on SEPTA.
For Asma Young, the day began when she hurried down the concrete stairs to the Erie Avenue subway station, then hustled right back up - with a panicked look on her face.
The station was locked up.
And, at 8:30 a.m. with minutes ticking by, she needed to be four miles south.
"I'm on my way to a job interview," said the 28-year-old Germantown woman. "I don't even think I'll make it if I get a cab."
Southbound Broad Street traffic stood bumper to bumper, going nowhere.
"Yo!" newsstand owner Hobart Snead, 63, shouted to people who were making their way toward a subway line that wasn't running. "SEPTA's closed!"
It sure was.
Day One of the SEPTA strike left only Regional Rail trains and suburban buses running, forcing commuters to beg car rides, walk, or bike to jobs and appointments.
Some lost money when they couldn't get to work. Drivers saw their commute time double - many tweeted photos of the lines of cars.
In Common Pleas Court, Judge Kathryn Streeter Lewis juggled cases not by number but by which attorneys had managed to appear. On North Eighth Street, the usually crowded PennDot licensing center was nearly deserted. Comcast added rack space at its headquarters for 40 bikes and told employees to see their managers about flexible schedules and working from home.
A strike theme song? On Twitter, Jim Saksa, transportation writer for PlanPhilly.com, suggested "Bicycle Race" by Queen.
Mayor Kenney compared his role to one of SEPTA's "captive riders," and Gov. Wolf said the strike was "bad for everybody and it has to end."
The word of the day? Frustration.
"Today is one reason I do not own a handgun," emailed Matt Uebele, a health-care executive who lives in Havertown.
He missed a train by seconds, decided to drive, and ended up stuck near Broad and Spring Garden Street.
"People were getting out of their cars to shout at other people," he said. "I almost witnessed a fight."
On Wednesday, he said, he's riding his bike to work.
Some people sped from the suburbs to the city on half-empty trains, while others rode trains that crept. Yellow signs saying "Station closed" hung at subway stops.
It was a good day for cabdrivers. And parking-lot owners.
"It's good for the taxi business, but it's not good for the people," said cabbie Mamadou Diallohe, 35, as he navigated traffic near City Hall.
He planned to work a longer shift to take advantage.
The Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway lines move more than 311,000 people daily, and trolleys carry about 83,000. Regional Rail already was suffering with scheduling and higher capacity as it recovers from a loss of a third of its cars this summer.
SEPTA services outside the city were running, including the Norristown High-Speed Line and suburban buses and trolleys.
People worked their phones and their friends, trying to catch a lift to work, or at least to a place where they might find a cab.
Leslie Blake, 62, normally takes the Broad Street subway from Olney to her job cleaning offices in Center City. On Tuesday, her husband drove her to the train at the Fern Rock station.
That worked out. But her husband will be at work when she comes home, she said, meaning she'll have to walk almost two miles from Fern Rock to her house in Ogontz.
Tara Gibble of Wayne could blame a busy Halloween or the hurried rush out the door with two toddlers, but she forgot to check whether SEPTA was on struck.
She heard the news when she was already on the High-Speed Line headed to 69th Street.
"What am I going to do?" Gibble shrugged. She'd figure out something.
The morning saw gridlock on Broad from Washington Avenue to City Hall, on Spring Garden, and on Walnut Street near Rittenhouse Square.
"The traffic was just godawful," said Temple University sophomore Molly Crooks, who got to campus 25 minutes late.
Still, the Italian major said, she didn't mind.
"I support the strike," she said. "It's an inconvenience, sure, but it's not the end of the world for me."
At the Chestnut Hill News Stand on cobblestoned Germantown Avenue, the commuters who normally board the No. 23 and No. 77 buses had vanished.
"Oh, it's terrible, very slow," said Sam Warwick, 44, who was running the stand. "I haven't sold a single Daily News."
Heather Heard, 41, waited on Germantown Avenue for a regional bus to Montgomery County, where she's a health-care claims auditor.
"I am not happy," she said. "I am not happy at all."
Normally, the Brewerytown resident takes two city buses to the Norristown Regional Rail line at the Wissahickon station. But the strike forced her to adopt a Plan B - sleeping Monday night at her sister's house in Germantown, then getting a three-mile car ride to the bus stop on Germantown Avenue.
The suburbs didn't escape the impact.
At the King of Prussia Mall, Marbles manager J.R. Goldberg, 32, had a big hole in his schedule - two employees couldn't get to work.
Aigner Spencer, 27, who works at Godiva chocolates, got a ride with a friend Tuesday from her home in North Philadelphia. But Wednesday? She checked a ride-sharing service but found that an eight-minute trip would cost her at least $20.
Worse, she's planned a Saturday birthday party for her 5-year-old daughter, and her family won't be able to come if the strike continues.
"My baby is very upset right now," she said. "It's killing me inside."
Schools and universities made adjustments as needed.
All Philadelphia public schools, where 51,600 of 130,000 students rely on SEPTA, were open and operating Tuesday.
Central High School extended its usual 25-minute morning advisory period to allow students extra time for travel.
"Normally, 60-minute advisories would be for special assemblies," said principal Tim McKenna. "It's a 'special assembly' because we have a strike."
Central turned its wrestling room into a bicycle parking lot and allowed student drivers to park in a school lot without a sticker.
"We told them, 'Just come,' " McKenna said.
Attendance was down, at 80 percent instead of the usual 97 percent.
Colleges added travel options but weren't canceling classes or events.
The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University offered bus rides to and from major transportation points in Center City.
Drexel asked administrators to be flexible in adjusting hours for staff and asked students to walk, bike, and carpool.
On Erie Avenue on Tuesday morning, near the SEPTA station, Coffeeland worker Holly Kim glanced at a mostly empty counter.
"Right now, this is dead," she said.
Outside, men driving unlicensed cabs didn't have to wait long for customers.
"A lot of people wake up, come down here, and they find out real quick and need a ride," said driver Dez James, 46. "I could bring in $300 to $400 a day with the strike."
This story was written by staff writer Jeff Gammage, based on reporting by Gammage and staff writers Susan Snyder, Tom Avril, Alfred Lubrano, Chris Brennan, Martha Woodall, Mari A. Schaefer, Michaelle Bond, Michael Matza, Mensah Dean, Justine McDaniel, Stacey Burling, Jason Nark, Chris Palmer, Julie Shaw, William Bender, Julia Terruso, Rita Giordano, Bob Fernandez, and Jane M. Von Bergen.