Here Are the Details on SEPTA’s Service Modifications
Yesterday, SEPTA announced that Regional Rail service will operate on a modified Saturday schedule starting tomorrow (July 5th). Today, Assistant General Manager for Operations Ron Hopkins described in detail what those modifications will be at an afternoon news conference.
The main message for Regional Rail riders is: Expect overcrowded conditions, as about half the total capacity SEPTA puts on the system each weekday will be missing, and individual lines will have anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent fewer seats available to carry riders. Examine your alternatives, including rapid transit and buses, and try to shift your commutes to and from work either earlier or later in the morning and evening.
Here’s what SEPTA will be running on Regional Rail:
Service on all lines — save for the Cynwyd line, where buses will provide service instead — will operate on a modified Saturday schedule. This means hourly base service on all lines, with additional peak-hour trains added on selected lines where high peak direction travel is expected, such as the Paoli/Thorndale and Lansdale/Doylestown lines. Most of the extra trains on those lines will “short turn,” that is, begin or end their runs at a station well inward from the end of the line.
Additional peak-hour trains, including an earlier run at the start of the day, will be added to all operating Regional Rail branches except the Airport, Chestnut Hill West, Fox Chase and Warminster lines.
“We’re encouraging people to get one of the earlier trains or one of the trains after rush hour,” Hopkins said. Service to Center City from Glenside, for instance, starts at 4 a.m. He also suggested riders within a reasonable drive of the further-out stations use those instead of closer-in ones, as trains will bypass closer-in stations once they reach capacity.
Other alternatives include:
Rapid transit. “We carry 180,000 passengers per day on the Market-Frankford Line and 130,000 per day on the Broad Street Line, and we have room for more,” Hopkins said. That’s especially true on the Broad Street Line, which is designed to carry far more passengers than it currently does. SEPTA has arranged for commuter parking in two additional locations: 1,600 spaces at the former Naval Hospital at 16oo Pattison Avenue, near AT&T Station on the Broad Street Line, and 300 spaces in a surface lot at Columbus Boulevard and Spring Garden Street, near the Market-Frankford Line’s Spring Garden station. In addition, parking fees will be waived for those using the parking garage at Frankford Transportation Center, which has excess capacity, and riders can park at the Norristown Transportation Center garage at a discounted rate and ride the Norristown High-Speed Line to 69th Street. Morning peak-hour service levels will be extended to 1o a.m. and afternoon peak-hour trains will run from 3 to 7 p.m. on all lines, including the Media and Sharon Hill light rail lines, and additional trains will be placed in service to add capacity.
Buses. As of now, SEPTA has no plans to add service on bus routes paralleling Regional Rail lines. As Hopkins noted, the buses operate in mixed traffic and will take longer to reach their final destinations. But he said that SEPTA will be assessing ridership patterns on Regional Rail tomorrow morning with an eye on adding bus service if it proves necessary. Riders at Regional Rail stations closer to Center City, however, should consider using buses to rapid transit as an alternative, as trains will bypass stations inbound to Center City once they reach capacity.
Hopkins said that as SEPTA’s main commitment to delegates is providing shuttle buses to and from the convention site, he does not expect the Regional Rail car shortage to affect the Democratic National Convention at the end of this month in any way, but travelers headed into the city for convention-related events should be aware of the capacity issues and plan their travel accordingly.
Hopkins reiterated that SEPTA is working with others, including builder Hyundai Rotem, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit to both identify options for adding service such as borrowing equipment or having trains make extra stops. The agency also has 23 spare trucks available to install on Silverliner V cars, raising the possibility that married-pair cars with only one damaged truck can get that truck replaced and return to service once SEPTA is confident the cars can operate safely. Lack of capacity, however, will remain a problem at least through August.
Schedules for weekday Regional Rail service will be posted on the SEPTA website around 5 p.m. today, said spokesperson Heather Redfern. Schedule information will be updated periodically in response to changing conditions.
TrailPasses are good on all transit modes, but SEPTA will still offer pass holders partial credit for the passes they have purchased for this month. Details on this are still being worked out.
Follow Sandy Smith on Twitter.