SEPTA details doomsday rail plan to deal with funding shortage

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor

Joseph Casey, general manager of The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), said that without an infusion of funding for a backlog of critical state of good repair projects, the authority will have to significantly shrink the transit system over the next 10 years, including major reductions in rail service.


Casey’s comments occurred during testimony at a Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee hearing held at Temple University on Sept. 12.

Fiscal Year 2014, which began July 1, 2013, has the lowest level of capital funding for SEPTA in 15 years and is the fourth consecutive year of reduced capital funding from the state. In contrast, SEPTA has seen overall ridership hit its highest levels in more than two decades, including an all-time high on Regional Rail last year.

To continue safe and reliable operations, SEPTA will have to implement a Service Realignment Plan that the authority expects to leave 89,000 daily riders – or 40.7 million annually – without rail service. This is due to the critical, immediate need to modernize SEPTA’s rail network, such as replacement of bridges that date back 100 years or more and purchasing new Regional Rail cars, subway cars and trolleys to replace vehicles that already date back 30 years or more and are well beyond their useful service life. Without an increase in state funding for infrastructure improvements and new vehicles, SEPTA anticipates the implementation of the ten-year service realignment beginning in 2014 and would have to reduce the size and scope of the rail network over the next ten years by:

– Eliminating service on nine of 13 Regional Rail Lines, including Cynwyd in 2014, Media/Elwyn in 2015, and Chestnut Hill West in 2018, followed West Trenton, Airport Warminster, Wilmington/Newark, Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill East lines in 2023;

– Truncating service on the Lansdale/Doylestown Line (2018) and Paoli/Thorndale Line (2023);

– Suspending service on the Broad-Ridge Spur of the Broad Street Line and eliminating all express service on the Broad Street Line;

– Converting all city and suburban trolley routes to bus, and truncating service on the Norristown High Speed Line.

Casey and SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale Deon detailed these needs and the impact of these pending transit cuts in a letter sent earlier this week to state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch. In the letter, SEPTA detailed the $6.5 billion needed over the next 10 years to address the transit system’s state of good repair needs. The letter also noted the impact of shrinking SEPTA on regional and state transportation as a whole, as vehicles are added to roadways, increasing both traffic congestion and roadway maintenance costs.

Categories: Commuter/Regional, Rapid Transit/Light Rail