I Tried SEPTA Key — and I Think it Works

SEPTA Key card. Photo by Jared Brey.

SEPTA Key card. Photo by Jared Brey.

Eat my dust, Philadelphia. I got SEPTA’s new payment technology.

This morning at 6 o’clock, stations around the city began accepting “early adopters” for the SEPTA Key electronic fare system. They’ll disburse up to 10,000 fare cards today. If you don’t make the early cut, you may have to wait until the full rollout of the system late this year. Read more »

SEPTA: Key Should Fully Launch by Fall 2016

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

SEPTA says its long-awaited (and long-delayed) card fare payment system will finally fully launch by late fall of this y ear. A “limited” launch of SEPTA Key is also planned to take place during the summer.

SEPTA revealed the news at a City Council hearing on Tuesday. Jeff Knueppel, SEPTA’s general manager, said that gradually rolling out the project is a deliberate move. “The amount of change that this kind of system brings, we’ve chosen to bring it in over time,” he said.”It’s very important to break this system in carefully.” Read more »

SEPTA Proposes Budget Increase, But No Fare Hike, for 2017

Septa regional rail train

Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco

SEPTA has published its proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2017 (PDF), which begins in June. The $1.39 billion operating budget represents an increase of $40 million, or 3.7 percent, from the fiscal 2016 budget, yet is projected to be balanced, as state law requires, largely through an equal increase in federal, state and local government subsidies, with money from the state making up the lion’s share.

The agency expects a slight rise ($788,000) in revenue from operations, with most of that coming from other revenue, as the fiscal 2017 budget contains no fare increase, representing a continued pause in what has become a practice of regular incremental fare hikes at three-year intervals. (SEPTA plans to resume the practice with the fiscal 2018 budget; the last fare hike took place in July 2013.) One of the newer sources of other revenue is the sale of power from storage batteries installed along the Market-Frankford Line to the PJM Interconnection regional power grid, a program that will expand in the years to come with the installation of additional batteries along both the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines. Read more »

Coming Soon: Two New SEPTA Bus Routes?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

SEPTA wants to hear what you have to say about proposed changes in bus service, including two new routes slated to start service in 2017-18. | Photo by Jeff Fusco

SEPTA’s Annual Service Plan for Fiscal Year 2017 includes two new bus routes that won’t be launched in the coming fiscal year. That’s because the agency wants to get as much public feedback as it can about the proposed services before letting them roll.

Both of them, though, are much anticipated, and one of them responds to longstanding clamor from some Philadelphia neighborhoods for new service to fill a connectivity gap. Here’s the skinny on each of them: Read more »

20 Smart Transportation Ideas Reshaping Philadelphia (and Your Life)

The original Open Streets PHL: Pope Weekend, September 2015.

The original Open Streets PHL: Pope Weekend, September 2015. Photograph by Cory J. Popp

Our city has reached a tipping point. Just look outside, in the streets, where rentable, shareable Indego bikes have come, conquered and multiplied. Meantime, regional rail ridership is at an all-time high, and SEPTA usage in general has been trending up. Philadelphians are driving less, and all over, parklets are winning out over parking. But the most visible shift happened last September, during the Pope’s visit, when thousands of people took to the car-free streets to revel and cavort and see the city in an entirely new light. It was a weekend that spawned a movement (Open Streets PHL), and a moment that marked the beginning of the end of the long, long reign of the automobile in Philadelphia.

Of course, the end of any regime always means some resistance, and plenty of bumps. But there’s too much momentum behind a Philly that’s less about driving and more about, well, everything but driving to slow down now. So here, we take a look at what’s happening on the streets of Philadelphia, what will happen, and what should happen to take us where we want to go. Read more »

Upper Merion Residents Seek to Derail KofP Train Proposal

NoKOPRail Facebook graphic

While the business interests and developers in King of Prussia are all in on SEPTA’s proposed Norristown High-Speed Line spur, a bunch of Upper Merion Township residents feel they’re being, ahem, railroaded — and they don’t like it one bit.

They’ve taken their case against the extension to the public in the form of a Facebook page and an online petition on Change.org.

Township resident Dan Cowhey, one of the organizers of the Facebook campaign, gave several reasons for the local opposition to the spur. They fall into four broad categories: Read more »

This Unofficial SEPTA Map Highlights What Riders Really Care About

SEPTA Frequency Map

In much of the city, SEPTA is already convenient: Just head to the bus or trolley stop and a vehicle should show up soon. Map by Thomson Kao.

Most transit maps show would-be riders where the buses and trains go. Which is fine, as far as it goes — and if everyone were a mere commuter, maps like these would fill the bill.

But transit users in cities are a different breed. They often use transit not just to get to and from work, but also to get around in general, and for them, how often the buses and trains run often matters much more than where they run.

Frequent transit service also benefits the transit agency by boosting casual ridership. If a rider knows that they can simply walk to a nearby bus stop or train station and get on a vehicle in a matter of minutes, they’re more likely to ride and less likely to drive.

Which is what makes Thomson Kao‘s unofficial SEPTA frequency map so valuable. It shows the corridors where riders can just show up and board a vehicle in fairly short order.  Read more »

How Those SEPTA Stop Announcements Work — and What to Do When They Don’t

5th St Station

The signs outside say 5th Street. But what does the announcement say? (Photo by Flickr user Michael Hicks, used under CC-BY-SA-2.0)

One of my colleagues asked one recent morning, “Why is it that the stop announcements on SEPTA are off so much of the time?”

This didn’t come as a total shock to me, for I’ve been on trains, mostly on the Market-Frankford Line, where the automated stop announcements were way out of sync with the views from the train windows. But what did surprise me was how often he said he experienced this phenomenon: “Frequently,” he said, mentioning the Route 10 trolley and the El in particular.

So that makes at least two of us who recall out-of-sync stop announcements on the El. And there’s been many a late night when the Broad Street Line train I took announced every station four times: twice on the way and twice when the train got there.

It was time to get to the bottom of this problem.

So I put the question to SEPTA: Just how do those automated stop announcements work? Read more »

The Five Biggest Philadelphia Transportation Stories of 2015

transit-year-in-review

If anything, 2015 was the Year of the Bike on the transportation front locally, with major new facilities opening up the promise of faster, easier bike commuting, adding steam to a steady climb in practical bike use. And one major event that promised to disrupt lives all over the city instead opened everyone’s eyes to the potential contained in car-free streets (done right this time; no one’s interested in bringing the Chestnut Street Transitway back from the dead). But the biggest transportation story of the year is the one that’s still not over yet. Herewith, my picks for Top Philadelphia Transportation Developments of 2015: Read more »

London Tube Now Accepting Apple Pay

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Apple Pay made its London debut earlier this week, which means that travelers and Brits alike can purchase merchandise at over 250,000 shops with a simple tap-and-go of their smartphone. One of the biggest operations accepting Apply Pay? The London Underground. Here’s how it works: you simply hold up your device  — linked to your credit card or bank account with Apple Pay— to a sensor upon entering the metro, zip through the turnstile, then tap a sensor upon exiting which determines your fare. Read more »

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