Is SEPTA in danger of a funding shortfall?

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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SEPTA is working on a long-term vision for regional rail.
David C. Lester

In late June, about 100 transit and SEPTA supporters gathered in near 100-degree heat on the steps in of the Pennsylvania state Capitol to meet with lawmakers and staff to lobby for continued funding of SEPTA and other public transit.

Leslie S. Richards, SEPTA’s general manager, said “We wanted to remind them of one of the facts that I’m not proud of, which is that we have the oldest rail fleet in the entire United States that we need to replace as soon as possible.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that present levels of funding will not address the $6.4 billion required for repair and replacement of the SEPTA trains and trolley cars. Richards added “that backlog will be caught up in about 20 years [at present funding amounts].

Pennsylvania transit agencies will start receiving $400 million from state sales and use taxes on the purchase of automobiles. Transit has received a “turnpike contribution,” which will dwindle to $50 million in the 2023 fiscal year, but will eventually disappear altogether.

SEPTA is seeking the authorization from the Republican-controlled state legislature to issue bonds tied to the tax money from vehicle sales, which will begin in 2023.

Richard said that “We were not asking our legislators for more, but to be able to raise taxes or fees from what is due to us.”

SEPTA would also like the ability to raise taxes from local governments to help fund transit agencies.

Fran Kelly, SEPTA’s assistant general manager of government and public affairs point out that “If we’re going to remain competitive, we have to do our own thing locally here, too. [And] We have the ability to do that.”

For more information about SEPTA and transit funding in Pennsylvania, take a look at The Philadelphia Inquirer story.

Categories: Commuter/Regional, News, Passenger, Rapid Transit/Light Rail
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