Former Kensington resident and Sunday Suppers program manager
1. How does the closure of Somerset Station affect you and people in the neighborhood? What challenges may you face in accessing transportation now?[It affects] people who I know who live in the neighborhood; families that I serve. We provide groceries to people, and in the very beginning of COVID — when SEPTA was shut down and a lot of people were struggling to get places — we shifted from doing pop-up produce to delivering produce. So I know families that are directly being affected by this right now.
Now you have to get your kids ready earlier; you have to leave your home a little bit earlier. So you can walk to a whole other station just for you to get to work, which can derail your morning and make you late for work. And just getting to places in general to get food or anything else you need for your family [is challenging].
2. What are the conditions like at Somerset Station and on the Market-Frankford Line? How do they affect you?
I don’t take the El day-to-day anymore, but I grew up taking this train. Literally, Allegheny Station is my station. A lot of the things that [the speakers from the march] were just mentioning, like how these particular spots have been ignored for many, many years. Taking the El to every stop and just seeing over time how some areas have been getting taken care of and then other areas — like Allegheny, like Somerset, like Huntingdon — have been ignored this entire time. There have been no improvements.
A lot of [people experiencing homelessness] are also being pushed down to these three areas. Other places have been able to get cleaned up and have brand new murals. They’re blaming it on [people experiencing homelessness] and that their pee broke down the elevator. No, you’ve been neglecting this area for a really long time.
3. What kinds of solutions could be implemented to create safe and reliable transportation in Kensington?
We could put more security, more SEPTA security, in certain stations. Also, making the process safer for people to just get on and off the El.
Outside of SEPTA, the neighborhood needs a lot of work regarding supporting [people experiencing homelessness], supporting the opioid crisis, and [reducing] crime. Overall, there’s a lot of health issues that are at stake in the community that then affect how people are going to work and getting on the train.
4. Should there be a community-led advisory board, made up of stakeholders like the City, SEPTA, Kensington residents, civic associations, nonprofits, and businesses, that comes up with a plan for reopening the Somerset Station and provides long term solutions to the problems that led to its closure?
Absolutely. All I can think of, because I do work in the community and I am a part of some of these organizations, is creating a space where we can all convene. Right now, there’s [Somerset Neighbors for Better Living], there’s [NKCDC], and then other people doing different work. However, we’re all being affected by the same thing. So, just creating a space for all of us to convene and have a conversation together and help solve some of this.
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Editors: Zari Tarazona, Claire Wolters / Designer: Henry Savage / Translator: Somlmaira Valerio
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