SEPTA’s Been Lying to You

The transit agency puts out a call for feedback on out-of-date or inaccurate information on signs and announcements.

septa_signHas anyone out there ridden the Fox Chase-Newtown shuttle bus lately?

Didn’t think so. SEPTA discontinued that replacement for the defunct Regional Rail train connecting the two more than a decade ago.

But it appears that riders on the Route 18 bus hear announcements that they can catch it as the bus pulls into its terminal at Fox Chase loop.

Caught the R6 at East Falls station lately? Announcements on the Route K bus say you can, but you  can’t — like all the other Regional Rail lines, the Manayunk/Norristown line has lost its number.*

These are just two of what are likely hundreds of examples of outdated or inaccurate information SEPTA gives riders of its buses, trolleys and trains.

Bad information not only confuses and misleads riders, it can get them lost, wasting time and money.

Which may explain why SEPTA is putting out calls for reports of inaccurate information that needs to be corrected or updated.

A SEPTA Youth Advisory Council member of my acquaintance, Marcus McKnight, received such a request this week. Via Facebook, he has already collected from fellow riders dozens of reports of bad info.

The reports fall into a few broad categories:

Announcements of routes that have been discontinued or relocated on buses and trains. Example: There was once a Route 16 bus that operated in the Northeast. SEPTA recently reassigned that number to one branch of what had been Route C. But some buses operating on Routes 70 and 77 on Cottman Avenue call it out when they approach the intersection of Cottman and Central avenues.

Lack of information about routings or destinations. For instance, Route 44 buses use two different routes into Center City from Ardmore — one via Montgomery Avenue, the other via Narberth Station. Not all bus destination signs tell riders which route the bus follows.

Signs that convey outdated information or do not inform riders of changes. The Route 64 bus, which used to run on Ellsworth and Federal streets, now follows Washington Avenue, but until recently, signs in Ellsworth-Federal station on the Broad Street Line still pointed to the old transfer points at either end of the station. Those have been covered over, but riders now have nothing to guide them to Washington Avenue and the rerouted bus.

I’m sure there are hundreds more such examples, so I thought it would be a good idea to help McKnight out by asking you to send in your reports. As SEPTA is now in catch-up mode, with a new capital program aimed at clearing a huge backlog of deferred maintenance, this is the right time for it to clear its backlog of incorrect information.

If you know of an incorrect or outdated announcement or sign on SEPTA, please send it to me at I’ll make sure they get to 1234 Market St. via McKnight or by other means.

Follow @MarketStEl on Twitter.

*This is perhaps as good a time as any to inform you about the fate of that campaign I launched here back in August to get SEPTA to restore the R-numbers. Even though the overwhelming majority of responses I got were in favor of the move, SEPTA media relations chief Jerria Williams informed me in response that the decision to drop them is final and will not be reconsidered. Given that, then at least SEPTA should color-code more than just the timetables, and doing that as part of this information cleanup would make eminent sense. And maybe while it’s at it, it could give the routes better names.

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  • Bekah

    Also.. isn’t the POINT of the “real time” app for iphone/ipad to give us.. i dunno, REAL TIME info for regional rail? Every train was delayed yesterday (well, for the past few days) I get that. I can handle it. It’s cold. There was snow. All I want is a “real time” update for where my damn train is.

    Oh dammit. I just became a real Philadelphian, didn’t I? Ranting on a blog…

    • Sic Transit PHL

      The problem is that, when trains are in Amtrak territory (which is nearly the full lengths of the Trenton, Paoli/Thorndale, and Wilmington/Newark lines, and short stretches of Cynwyd and Chestnut Hill West), SEPTA cannot actually see them, and can only report what Amtrak bothers to tell them. That would be fine, but of course they fail to explain this anywhere. Maybe a different color background on TrainView would at least let people know that there’s something different about those trains, even when they don’t know the arcane points of local railroad dispatching…

      • matthew brandley

        When my nrhs chapter was on a behind the scene tour of septa this past may septa was in the process of startig to work with and install a tracking system so they can track all of the regional rail trains on amtrak territory once they are entering it or leaving it. . the system was being installed designed ect . Since your dealing with amcrap one must remember how inept that railroad agency is to begin with at getting anything done. SEPTA has the screnes in at the OPS center in its rr division to track the trains. its just waiting for amcrap on that end of everything to get the go ahead from what I last heard. They rely on train crews to advise of location right now

    • Jamie

      and next you’ll them to do away with tokens…


    • Karina Ambartsoumian


  • Allie

    Shouldn’t SEPTA be able to tell what signage needs to be replaced and what announcements should be re-recorded? They don’t have records of that? Why is it up to their customers/riders to do the work in identifying issues? I know it’s a large system, but to me, this is just another of example of how SEPTA is disorganized and can’t get into the 21st century like the rest of the country’s major metro transit systems. Perhaps SEPTA should do a full audit of their lines, stations, etc. to survey this information. I’m sure it will turn up many other things that could use improvements outside of signage. They need to be in touch with their own product. Maybe then customers will have fewer complaints.

    • Sic Transit PHL

      Establishing and maintaining inventory lists is a lot of hard work. SEPTA is, bewilderingly, better at it than most municipal governments and public entities. If this prospect fills you with a feeling of stark terror, do not be alarmed. This is an indication that you are still sane.

    • tonyb

      I could not of said it better. Oh, but if they have to be accountable they’ll ask the state for more money to cover the expense. Shameful.

      • matthew brandley

        you realy are clueless as to how mass transit works. yes. you have proven how stupid hamnity realy can be. you have no idea whats involved to run septa do you? just another clueless libtard

        • tonyb

          Yo idiot the article is about signage and routes. Imagine if you were a tourist trying to use Septa. Oh, and we still use tokens. Have you ever been to Europe and used any of their transit systems?

          • matthew brandley

            Gues your clueless about the new payment etchnoly septa plans to phase in by end of next year? wow. unbelieveable how uneducated people spew the mouth off on here. your one of them. It takes money stupid. septa is playing catch up. since clowns like you would rather see the state cut back on funding I guess. go crawl back under your rock an let me know when they grey matter in that pea size brain connects

        • Mike Francis

          He’s clueless? You’re the one who can’t spell.

    • matthew brandley

      would you rather ride in a safe reliable vehicle? try taking a behind the scenes tour like I went on and you would realise whatactualy happens behind the scenes and what it takes to run the entire system . Not to mention the amount of money spent to replace windows that the trash etches every day with razors. the filament over them is not cheap. rebuilding el and subway cars. mandatory state inspections on the and the rr division. the buses also. . fuel . salary. health insurance . . the state and feds where gutting funding for the past 5 years . septa has won numerous awards as best transit agnecy in the country for the past 3 years and you clown have the guts to trash it?wow. wait unti you move out of the area where its more expensive like d c . or go to baltimore where rail service is virtualy non existent. stop your complaining

      • Allie

        I actually have lived in other cities with other transit systems, including abroad. I love Philly and was pleased to move back, but when people ask what my number one complaint about Philly is, I reply with public transportation. I do understand they have a lot to take on (with handicap accessibility actually being a higher concern for me), but if Philly wants to be a top-notch city, transit simply needs to be better. Obviously SEPTA is trying (under a tight budget, nonetheless) but this request for needed-updates gives the impression they’re out of touch with their own system, which is my actual concern.

  • Katy S Phila

    I’d love to see all the entrances and exits to the El/Subway open in Center City. It’s very confusing for those not familiar with the routes and there is no good reason for it in the middle of the day.
    Also… and I’m guessing this is assumed… the elimination of the heavy urine smell would be swell.

    • matthew brandley

      katy. its the certain low lifes to lazy to use a rest room that make it smell that way. also they close these entrances to keep the bad elemt out fr a good reason

  • Mark DeLoatch

    Glad to see SEPTA doing this. On my side of the Delaware, getting NJT’s attention is a futile exercise since anything south of Middlesex County doesn’t exist in the minds of NJT’s planners.

  • Marcus

    Let’s get a few things straight first, before my name goes to hell in a hand basket, courtesy of ye olde big mouth aka Sandy Smith.

    First of all, SEPTA didn’t “lie” to you, they’re merely catching up. With very important projects such as New Payment Technologies, and with the added pressure of funding crises, updating announcements have fallen behind a little.

    Yes, in a perfect world, everything would be fixed “right then & there”, but at least they (SEPTA) are reaching out &working towards better customer service & communication for all

    Secondly, I finished my term with the Youth Advisory Council on August 31st, 2013. I just serve as a transit ambassador as needed for special events or whenever the need arises.

    Furthermore, I asked in a Facebook group for people’s inputs. You can’t take what’s in a “closed” discussion and make it public for others to see. If you share with them, privately, that’s one thing, to write an article about it, is something else completely different.

    and finally, for the love of Mike, PLEASE ASK me if you can use my name when you write an article. I know I’m going to catch hell for this tomorrow. Even though this article means well, it makes the Authority look bad when there is name calling. There’s a right way to do things and there’s a wrong way to do things.

    What’s suppose to be a simple list of transit announcement updates is going to turn into an all out bitch fest about how bad SEPTA is…UGH!


    • Old Philly Boy

      Way to go Sandy! -Way to…(as the expression goes)..- “Way to throw your “source” “Under the Bus!” – Classic journalism. How’s about next time actually doing some research on a subject you intend to write about…instead of just slapping something together based on something you heard “an aquaintance” was involved in. Oh, and talk about a misleading headline…Geez!

      • Sandy Smith

        I don’t write the headlines.

        I’ve already apologized to Mr. McKnight privately for running off without informing him. Personally, I considered this an ADMIRABLE move on SEPTA’s part, and if the tone of my article didn’t convey this, then I apologize for that too.

        As SicTransitPhila points out above, this is an incredibly complex system and there are lots of little details to attend to every day. Accurate information is important, but if any of you think that this problem is unique to SEPTA, then you don’t get out much.

        The “research” for this story you and I can conduct every day. In fact, two of the examples I gave above come not from the “riders” I mention but from my own travels on the system: the “R6” announcements on the Route K and the signs for Route 64 in Ellsworth-Federal station.

        Frankly, who better to ask than the riders who use the system every day and probably know their routes as well as those who operate them what information is inaccurate or outdated?

        As for the “bitchfest,” I just explained to an acquaintance tonight why SEPTA deserved the American Public Transportation Association award as Best Large Transit System for 2013. And yet I understood his complaints about the performance of the routes he uses every day. The latter do not make the former a sham.

        • Marcus

          With that being said, I’m compiling a list and sending it in tomorrow morning. So Sandy, if anyone drops anything your way, let me know. If you get anything after tomorrow, I’ll simply make another one.

  • Jon Frey

    The real lie is when they discontinued services, calling it temporary, and then they never return.