SEPTA Key Travel Wallet Expansion Begins Monday

SEPTA Key with City Hall in the background

SEPTA Key has been out in the wild for a while now, but it still seems to be in beta test phase. You can put weekly and monthly TransPasses on a SEPTA Key, but the Travel Wallet feature has been limited.

Now, the rollout begins. SEPTA announced on Thursday that it will begin increasing the Travel Wallet availability starting on Monday and continuing throughout the month. You will be able to buy new SEPTA Keys at kiosks at various stations as the rollout goes on.

SEPTA has released a list of which stations will begin offering SEPTA Key purchases on which date. You can buy SEPTA Key Travel Wallets at kiosks at those stations once the functionality is added. You’ll be able to add funds to your Travel Wallets at those kiosks, too.

The functionality is even being added to major bus loop junctions throughout the month as well. Once you have a Key, getting on buses, trolleys and subways is easy: You just tap at the fare box or turnstile and go. No more trying to remember where you left those tokens! Read more »

PATCO Boss: Sorry for the Bad Service, Everyone

PATCO trains being repaired

Photo via PATCO

It’s been a rough month for PATCO — so much so that the head of the transportation line is apologizing to customers.

“We are very sorry for our recent level of service,” PATCO general manager John Rink said in a release. “At PATCO, it is our number one goal to provide safe, convenient, and timely service to our customers. We know that, in recent weeks, we have failed to provide the level of service you expect and deserve. We are monitoring customer feedback and we have heard the frustration of passengers who have withstood extended wait times, crowding on our platforms and in our trains. What our customers have experienced is not the level of service we strive to provide and we continue to take steps to improve our service.” Read more »

The Top 5 Items on This Year’s SEPTA Wish List

New locomotives are just one of the items SEPTA will spend capital budget money on in fiscal 2017.

New locomotives are just one of the items SEPTA will spend capital budget money on in fiscal 2017.

Each fiscal year, SEPTA releases two budgets: operating and capital. The operating budget, released last week, is the bread-and-butter budget that projects what SEPTA will spend on keeping us moving around the region.

The capital budget, released over the weekend, is SEPTA’s wish list: It outlines not only what it will spend on building and fixing stuff in the year ahead but also what it wants to build and fix in the next dozen years.

SEPTA’s cup now runneth over with capital projects for the next 12 years thanks in large part to the steady stream of state funding guaranteed by the passage of Act 89 in Gov. Tom Corbett‘s last year in office. The total price tag for everything SEPTA wants to build or fix during that time frame is $7.3 billion, up from $6.8 billion in the previous fiscal year. What the agency plans to spend on its infrastructure in the coming year also rose, from $534.54 million to $548.63 million, a 2.6% increase and more than the agency projected it would spend in fiscal 2017 at the start of this year.

So what will that $548.63 million buy this year? The short answer is: A ton of bridge, track, station, overhead wire, communications infrastructure and maintenance and storage facility repairs as well as the start of an upgrade to SEPTA’s headquarters and a little more headway on SEPTA Key. What follows are some of the biggest-ticket items on this year’s to-do list: Read more »

Philadelphia Scientific’s Owner Has a Bright Idea: Electric Roads

Frank Hebbert | Flickr | Shared under a Creative Commons license.

Frank Hebbert | Flickr | Shared under a Creative Commons license.

With the exception of Tesla, electric cars haven’t gotten very far with the American car-buying public — or manufacturers for that matter. One reason? Keeping them on the road is hard. They either need big, cumbersome batteries, or more recharging stations than currently exist. And the conundrum gets more pressing when you consider the coming advent of driverless — yes, driverless — cars that advocates envision will be on the road perpetually, never parking.

Will Jones, the owner of Montgomeryville-based Philadelphia Scientific, has helped offer a possible answer: Electric roads.

No, the entire road wouldn’t be electrified: Instead, a metal charging strip would be embedded in highways — creating miniature trolleys of a sort — ensuring travelers don’t run out of juice far away from home or civilization. The proposal just won an innovation award from the Smart Transportation Alliance. Read more »

Possible NJ Transit Strike Looms Later This Month

NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train

Northeast Corridor NJ Transit trains connect with SEPTA trains at Trenton. (Photo by Adam E. Moreira; used under a Creative Commons License

NJ Transit rail operators may strike later this month. The transit agency is releasing contingency plans later today.

A court-ordered “cooling off period” ends March 13th; at that time rail workers can walk off the job or NJT can lock them out. A coalition of 11 rail unions has been working without a contract since 2011.

“The last thing we want is a strike,” the coalition said in a release. “Our settlement proposal is modest and fair. All we are asking is what has been recommended by two expert neutral panels.” Read more »

East Hunting Park Gets Bus Service Starting Sunday

Route 53 Extension Map

The red line on this map shows the route of the new East Hunting Park extension of Route 53. Map | Courtesy SEPTA

Starting Sunday, February 21st, most trips on SEPTA Bus Route 53, which currently connects Mt. Airy with Hunting Park subway station via Wayne Avenue, will be extended to serve the Hunting Park, Feltonville and Juniata Park neighborhoods via Hunting Park Avenue.

The extension will provide east-west service and Broad Street Line connections to a growing collection of businesses and service agencies along East Hunting Park Avenue, many of them serving the area’s Hispanic population. Among the facilities the extension will serve are the Esperanza Academy Charter School, the La Fortaleza complex, Concilio and the Hunting Park Plaza shopping center. The new service will also connect with north-south Routes 4, 47, 57 and 89. Most of the 22 new stops being added along the extension are at signalized intersections to maximize passenger safety.

The extension came to be as a result of SEPTA’s Annual Service Plan process, which evaluates suggestions for new routes, route extensions and service changes to match supply with demand. 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 »

SEPTA’s Big Regional Rail Schedule Changes Start Sunday

SEPTA's Ron Hopkins explains new service patterns on the Warminster, West Trenton and Airport lines (left). A map of the regional rail system with a North Broad bottleneck highlighted. Photos | Sandy Smith

SEPTA’s Ron Hopkins explains new service patterns on the Warminster, West Trenton and Airport lines (left). A map of the regional rail system with a North Broad bottleneck highlighted. Photos | Sandy Smith

Back in 1985, when service began on SEPTA’s Airport Regional Rail line, the agency was still trying to get its railroad operations act together after a long and crippling strike in 1982. Management couldn’t guarantee that the trains would run on time, so in order to ensure that trains to the airport did, it was kept separate from the paired former Pennsylvania and Reading railroad lines that operated through the tunnel.

Now, 30 years later, the same problem has surfaced, but this time, it’s the result of the Regional Rail system choking on its own success. Steady ridership gains over the past several years have led to longer dwell times at stations, and the delays these cause ripple throughout the system. As a result, the Airport Line is once again being uncoupled from the rest of the network as part of a larger reorganization of Regional Rail schedules and timetables.

Ron Hopkins, SEPTA’s assistant general manager and chief operating officer, called the schedule changes that take effect Sunday “the most comprehensive schedule change in 20 years” at a news conference Wednesday afternoon (December 9th). Read more »

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