SEPTA GM on This Morning’s Commute: We’re Getting There

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Two of the three trainsets SEPTA has borrowed from Amtrak, the Maryland Transit Administration and New Jersey Transit went into service for this morning’s commute, Day One of the new interim weekday schedule. So how did the morning commute go?

According to General Manager Jeff Knueppel, not bad — considering. “We’re still seeing delays and crowding on the railroad, but we’re continuing to make things better,” he said at a news conference on the afternoon of Monday, July 11th.

Knueppel said that the agency was now actually running more car-trips than on its regular weekday schedule. (A car trip is when one railcar completes a run between end points. For example, a six-car train that runs from Lansdale to Center City makes six car trips.) But it’s doing so with longer, less frequent trains of six to eight cars each, so while the total number of car trips has increased, the total number of train trips remains well below normal weekday levels. The new schedule’s figure of 574 train trips is up from 549 last week but still below the normal weekday figure of 788. Read more »

Details Emerge on SEPTA Silverliner V Defect

All 120 of SEPTA's Silverliner V Regional Rail cars have been removed from service due to a "serious structural defect." | Photo by O484~enwiki from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0

All 120 of SEPTA’s Silverliner V Regional Rail cars have been removed from service for inspection and repair due to a “serious structural defect” in the cars’ wheel assemblies. | Photo by O484~enwiki from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

Earlier this afternoon, SEPTA announced that all 120 of its Silverliner V Regional Rail cars had been removed from service due to a “serious structural defect.”

More information is now available about the nature of the defect. Read more »

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 »

Here’s How the SEPTA-Uber Suburban Connection Works

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Today’s the day that SEPTA Regional Rail riders no longer have to worry about finding a parking space at 11 of the system’s busiest suburban stations.

That’s because of a pilot partnership between SEPTA and Uber that seeks to find new ways to fill the “last mile” gap between home and the train.  Read more »

Reading Viaduct Park Would Make Getting Around Philly Easier

Before and after.

The Reading Viaduct today — and tomorrow? | Photo by Malcolm Burnley and rendering via Friends of the Rail Park

Last September, after visiting the new Whitney Museum in New York, I climbed up to the High Line for what I thought would be a breezy stroll with gorgeous views of the Meatpacking District. How wrong I was. Between the people jockeying for avant-garde lawn chairs and the gaggles of camera-toting tourists, the foot traffic crawled along at an infuriating pace.

The park was designed for 600,000 visitors per year; last year, there were 6 million. Though the High Line remains an international beacon of innovative green space (it has also invited lots of deep-pocketed developers into the once-sleepy Chelsea neighborhood), it’s not a functional piece of the urban grid. You can lick all the $8 popsicles you want there, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s a good way of getting around the Lower West Side.

All of which made me believe that the rallying cry in Philly to create a High Line-esque park out of the rusting Reading Viaduct and adjacent railroad tunnels — together, they form a continuous stretch of land going from Chinatown to Fairmount Park — was mostly about beautification, and not at all about improving mobility. That’s why I left it off Philly Mag’s recent list of “20 Smart Transportation Ideas Reshaping Philadelphia (and Your Life).” Was it one of the 20 coolest urbanism projects around? Surely. But was it going to change the way we moved around the city? Meh.

Someone begged to differ. “Think about being in West Poplar or NoLibs, riding a few blocks to Fairmount and 9th, taking an elevator up onto the Viaduct and then riding all the way to PMA or Boathouse Row, and [you] only have to stop for cars when crossing Kelly Drive,” Michael Garden wrote to me on Facebook. Alright, that got my attention. 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 »

Insider: How to Incentivize Development In Philly’s Overlooked Neighborhoods

The Paseo Verde complex alongside SEPTA’s Temple University Station is an example of what great transit-oriented development can look like in Philadelphia. | Photo by Ariel Ben-Amos

The Paseo Verde complex alongside SEPTA’s Temple University Station is an example of what great transit-oriented development can look like in Philadelphia. | Photo by Ariel Ben-Amos

(This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)

Last week, Councilman and Condo King Allan Domb went public with a proposal to double the city’s controversial tax abatement from 10 to 20 years for properties worth less than $250,000. Domb points out that developers have not invested in neighborhoods in North Philly, West Philly and Southwest Philly the way they have in Greater Center City, and he thinks his legislation will change that.

Whether or not you agree with his proposed solution, it’s undeniable that the problem he identified needs to be fixed. Many Philadelphians are worried — rightly — that they will miss out on the massive growth of Greater Center City. These are residents who are isolated from downtown amenities, as well as those who have been driven out of their former homes by rising housing costs.

But there’s a better way to spur development in outlying neighborhoods than to expand the city’s expensive tax abatement.

Here’s how: The state’s General Assembly should pass Senate Bill 385. It wouldn’t even threaten the school district’s budget the way Domb’s proposal could.

I’ll explain how the bill would work in a second. But first, a history lesson: In 2004, the state legislature sought to support transit-oriented development by passing legislation that allowed SEPTA and the city to forge a partnership that could float bonds in order to help pay for upgrades at transportation stations — and then letting the pair pay back the bonds with the additional real estate taxes that are generated by any improvements made.

These enhancements can include new lights, rehabbed sidewalks and even environmental remediation work. The idea is that by making a train station more accessible or cleaning up a dirty site, a developer will be more apt to build there.

Senate Bill 385 is an update to this law, and it does two things that would be particularly good for Philadelphia. Read more »

Indego to Embrace Fairmount Park This Year

Photo | Indego Facebook

Photo | Indego Facebook

The Indego bike share network turns one this April, and while the folks who run it are pleased with how well it’s done so far, it still has plenty of growing to do. Its expansion plans for the next year will both promote bike riding in Philadelphia’s biggest park and advance its mission of increasing bike ridership in the city’s disadvantaged communities.

Aaron Ritz, complete streets implementation manager in the city’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, said that in the year ahead, 24 bike share stations would be added, most of them in neighborhoods bordering East and West Fairmount Park, including Brewerytown, Strawberry Mansion, Parkside, Mantua and Belmont.
Read more »

SEPTA Picks a King of Prussia Rail Route

SEPTA locally preferred alternative map

SEPTA has chosen the PECO/Turnpike alignment as its “locally preferred alternative” for routing the King of Prussia rail spur. Map | SEPTA

SEPTA has reached a decision on which of the five possible routings for a Norristown High-Speed Line spur to King of Prussia it prefers.

A map showing the “Recommended Locally Preferred Alternative” route was released last week. The route chosen branches off the NHSL main line between Hughes Park and DeKalb Street stations, then follows a PECO transmission line right-of-way from the wye junction to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It then hugs the south side of the Turnpike right-of-way until it reaches the King of Prussia malls. The line follows Mall Boulevard around the north side of the mall property, then crosses the Turnpike to follow First Avenue through the King of Prussia business park.
Read more »

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