Sunday Storm Update: Hello, Sunshine!

after the snow

Photo by Joel Mathis.

After two feet or so of snow, the Great Blizzard of 2016 appears to be over. The mess isn’t.

Dawn brought a bright blue sky and temps still freezing cold in the twenties, though Accuweather predicted the high would hit 31 degrees later today. The National Weather Service says: “For Sunday, sunny and dry weather is expected with high temperatures in the lower to middle 30s. This will lead to snowmelt and ponding of water. This water will re-freeze Sunday night when low temperatures plunge into the teens region-wide. Untreated roadways and walkways, particularly bridges and overpasses, will become slippery. This may impact the Monday morning commute.”

It’s important to note: In Philadelphia, the snow emergency remains in effect. Read more »

So Cool: Mount Airy Bike Shop Installs SEPTA Bus Mural with Working Bike Rack

SEPTA bus mural with working bike rack | Photo via the Philly Electric Wheels blog

SEPTA bus mural with working bike rack | Photo via the Philly Electric Wheels blog

Guys, I just stumbled across a post on the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s blog and I couldn’t not share it with you: It’s all about the mural above, installed by Mount Airy bike shop Philly Electric Wheels. So you see the SEPTA mural — a new addition to the shop — up there? Get this: That bike rack sitting on the mural is a working SEPTA bike rack, and the shop uses it to teach riders how to get their bikes on and off of a SEPTA bus — usually a pretty intimidating process, mostly for the stank eye you get while trying to figure it out.
Read more »

SEPTA Suspending Most Service Saturday Due to Probable Blizzard

Photo on R: The National Weather Service’s latest snowfall prediction map as of 5 a.m.

Photo on R: The National Weather Service’s latest snowfall prediction map as of 5 a.m.

Want more proof that this is no ordinary storm? SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel announced at a news conference this morning that almost all service will be suspended for at least 24 hours starting at 4 a.m. Saturday.

That means all bus routes, trolleys, Regional Rail Lines and the Norristown High Speed Line will not be operating.

Knueppel explained that the agency made the decision to shut down because of forecasts of high winds and whiteout conditions accompanying the winter storm that is expected to hit the Philadelphia area starting tonight. Read more »

How Braking SEPTA Trains Will Generate Electricity — and Save the Agency Millions

Photo | Flickr user Paul Sableman under a Creative Commons license

Thanks to a public-private partnership, Broad Street Line trains will join their Market-Frankford siblings as power sources for SEPTA thanks to batteries that will capture energy generated when they brake. Photo | Flickr user Paul Sableman under a Creative Commons license

Thanks to a new public-private partnership announced today, SEPTA has taken the lead in implementing a technology that saves money, reduces the need for new power generating plants and better equips transit systems to handle emergencies.

The technology, which SEPTA installed at two Frankford Elevated power substations in 2014 as a pilot project, captures energy generated by braking trains and feeds it into storage batteries via the third rail.

The public-private partnership between Constellation and SEPTA will expand the pilot into a full implementation by adding batteries at seven additional substations on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines. The seven new batteries will provide 8.75 megawatts of storage capacity on top of the 1.8 megawatts already in service on the Frankford El. Read more »

5 SEPTA Projects You Can Expect Progress on This Year

septa-improvements-940x540

Remember the Crum Creek Viaduct on the Media/Elwyn Regional Rail Line, the poster child for SEPTA’s horrible physical condition? Its replacement is well on its way to completion now, and several other century-old bridges on that line are getting rebuilt so they can last another century or so. That was one of the highlights in the annual capital budget presentation SEPTA made at an open house at SEPTA headquarters yesterday.

The agency is spending $534.5 million on capital projects in the current fiscal year and plans to nudge that figure up a bit in the coming fiscal year, to $539.2 million. As was the case this year, the state will provide the largest portion of the budget: $326.8 million, or about 61 percent.

Much of the spending will go toward whittling down SEPTA’s $5 billion backlog of state-of-good-repair projects like repairing or replacing those bridges on the Media/Elwyn line. But there are some other improvements and changes in the works as well. Here are five projects to keep your eye on in the coming year: 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 »

All SEPTA Transit Police Now Wearing Body Cameras

Thomas Nestel - body cameras

SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel demonstrates how officers will turn on body cameras. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

At least one suspect has already been captured with the help of a SEPTA police officer’s body camera.

At a press conference Friday outlining a department-wide launch of the $400,000 police body camera program, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel showed three videos taken from police body cameras. Fifteen officers had been wearing body cameras since a pilot program began in July 2014. The entire force began wearing them January 1st.

The first video Nestel showed at the press conference began with an officer talking with a man who Nestel said had been suspected of panhandling on the Market-Frankford El. The SEPTA officer asked him to get off at the York-Dauphin stop and sit on a bench at the station. Video shows the officer and the man exiting the El car, when a woman comes running toward them. She actually stops and puts her hands up, but the officer walks past her.

Unbeknownst to the police officer, Netsel said, the woman shown on video had allegedly snatched another SEPTA passenger’s phone as the two exited the El. A scream is heard in the background of the video; it was something that sounded like “she took my phone!” The officer didn’t hear it in time, though. But thanks to the body camera, a clear shot of the woman was circulated among transit police. Officials said she was eventually picked up. Read more »

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