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Live from SEPTA Headquarters... It's the NBC10 Morning News

SEPTA's Control Center is known as the Authority's "nerve center," the place where supervisors, dispatchers and personnel from all transit modes work under one roof to monitor the entire system. But on January 5, the Control Center also served as the newsroom for NBC10 Philadelphia's Terry Ruggles, who anchored the station's 5-to7 a.m. morning show from SEPTA headquarters.

Since November, Ruggles has left the studio behind, giving viewers a glimpse at local businesses and organizations that are already well into their workday when the region's residents are just waking up. The newscast was Ruggles' first visit to the Control Center and he was impressed by the technology, equipment and staff needed around the clock to ensure SEPTA's 1.2 million weekday passengers get to and from their destinations. "If there is an Oz, this is behind the curtain we're seeing this morning," he said.

Throughout the two-hour broadcast, SEPTA Control Center "wizard" Ron Hopkins (officially the Chief Control Center Officer) took Ruggles and NBC10 viewers on a tour of the facility. From police and bus dispatch to viewing the subway and light rail grids, Hopkins explained how controllers can manually move trains out of the yard from their desks to provide service, how staff prepares for and responds to emergencies and the work that goes on from the center 24 hours a day to have the buses, trains and trolleys ready to roll, especially during evening and morning rush hours. The newscast showed viewers a side of SEPTA operations many never knew existed, especially on such a large scale.

As Ruggles stated, the broadcast in the "hi-tech heaven" was "important because more than a million of us in the tri-state area use the SEPTA system everyday." Hopkins was more than happy to explain the intricacies of the center. "Our passengers use the trains, buses and trolleys everyday, but they don't know about the technology used to make sure the vehicles get where they need to be," Hopkins said. "The newscast was a great way to demonstrate the behind the scenes operations."

Just as the NBC10 newscast showed it takes many hands and much preparation to keep SEPTA vehicles up and running, putting together the location shoot required more time than most viewers think especially since Ruggles was not only introducing the audience to the SEPTA Control Center, he was also co-anchoring the program, delivering the news and interacting with his colleagues at the station.

Crew members Jim Friedman and Glenn Miller arrived at SEPTA headquarters at 4 a.m., setting up cameras, cables, the microwave signal and microphones and checking in with the station to make sure the signal was working clearly. Ruggles and field producer Lucy Tuttle arrived shortly thereafter, straight from the studio with scripts and other details pertaining to the morning's show. After mic checks, a script review and walkthroughs, the show was ready to go at 5 a.m.

Throughout the broadcast, including during commercial breaks, the crew remained in contact with the station, for script updates and to make sure the production was running smoothly. "The can be many logistical complications of a location shoot," said Miller. "You are relying on your truck, which could be parked far away from the shoot, as well as the electricity source and cable. At the studio, you have crew and equipment backup." Previous stops on the "Ruggles on the Road" tour have included SEPTA's 69th Street Transportation Center, the Philadelphia Zoo and Tastykake.

On this morning, there were no technical difficulties and the broadcast was seamless. At 7 a.m., just as SEPTA was in the midst of the morning rush, the show, but not the day, was over for the NBC10 crew. They were headed back to the studio, to shoot other programs for the station and prepare for the next day's newscast. The hectic, nonstop pace is one the staff of SEPTA's Control Center understands and appreciates.

Crew member Glenn Miller sets up the microwave transmitter.

Cameraman Jim Friedman gets ready for the show.

Terry Ruggles reads over his script before the broadcast.

SEPTA's Ron Hopkins explains the Norristown High Speedline map to Ruggles and NBC10 viewers.

Friedman packs up his gewar after a successful broadcast.