November 2010

SEPTA Chief Renovating Agency for the 21st Century

by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

SEPTA is one of the few agencies in the U.S. that operates a multi-modal transit system, with buses, trolleys, trackless trolleys, high-speed lines and regional rail.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the nation's sixth-largest public transportation system. SEPTA's estimated 2,202-square-mile service area includes Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. The system serves more than one-half million customers daily and provided approximately 330 million (unlinked) passenger trips in FY 2009. SEPTA's service also extends to Trenton and West Trenton, N.J., and Newark, Del., via its regional rail system.

SEPTA is one of the few agencies in the U.S. that operates a multi-modal transit system, with buses, trolleys, trackless trolleys, high-speed lines and regional rail.

In Philadelphia, its city transit operations serves a network of 84 subway-elevated, trolley, trackless trolley and bus routes. In FY 2009, approximately 928,000 (unlinked) passenger trips were generated per weekday.

SEPTA's railroad operations serves all five counties with a network of 13 regional rail lines, serving approximately 124,000 (unlinked) passenger trips per day.

Suburban operations (Victory and Frontier Divisions) provides service in the suburbs, north and west of the City of Philadelphia, with a network of 47 bus, trolley and heavy rail routes generating approximately 68,000 (unlinked) passenger trips per day.

SEPTA's paratransit service, Customized Community Transportation, serves Philadelphia and the surrounding counties and schedules approximately 7,100 customized weekday trips for seniors and persons with disabilities.

SEPTA's seven small bus circulator and shuttle services connect fixed-route operations to business, health and educational centers, as well as to park-and-ride facilities. In Fiscal Year 2009, these services provided transportation for approximately 4,000 passengers per weekday.

SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey has headed the agency for the past three years and, come January, will have worked for the agency for 29 years. He began his career at SEPTA as a senior auditor, moving up the ranks to CFO before becoming GM. Casey spoke with METRO Executive Editor Janna Starcic about changes at the transit authority and his vision for the future.

METRO: where do things stand for you budget wise and how have you been impacted by the economy?

We are unique in the industry. Across the country, people are cutting service and having fare increases, well above inflation rates. We've been impacted by the economy, but not at the level the other agencies in other cities are. On the expense side, healthcare continues to have double-digit growth, prescription drugs and our claims have been higher, which I believe is due to the economy, but overall on the revenue side, our revenue has been holding its own.

Last year, aside from a seven-day strike and the winter storms we encountered, ridership was pretty much where it was the year before. And so far, it's up a little bit, so we are very encouraged that the economy didn't adversely affect our ridership.

However, on the subsidy side, it is a drop, the overall sales tax for the state is down and, therefore, the amount that we receive from the state is also down. So, that is a problem going forward. On top of that, the transportation funding package assumed that they were going to toll I-80 and provide much needed funds for both us and the highway folks. That was turned down by the federal government, which has created a big hole on the capital side for us. So, on the operating side, we are doing relatively well. But on the capital side, it's disastrous for us.

And as you know, we are probably one of the older systems in the nation and need significant capital dollars for state of good repair.

Tell me about SEPTA's state of good repair initiatives.

We have about 350 bridges that we are responsible for. Half of those bridges are over 75 years old and half of them are over 100 years old — they have to be replaced. I have 19 substations on the regional rail, 16 of them are over 75 years old and, generally, they have a useful life of 50 years.

I'm also replacing 70 of my railcars, which are 47 years old, with 120 new Silverliner V railcars [manufactured by Hyundai Rotem USA Corp.]

Unfortunately, we have spent most of our capital dollars on the brick and mortar of the system. We rebuilt the Market-Frankford Line from Market Street north and west of City Hall. So, we really spent a lot of capital dollars on that at the deference of some of the new technologies, such as smart cards systems. We needed to rebuild our systems from scratch.

We deferred a total of 22 projects until our funding on the capital is resolved. It's a lot of critical projects: City Hall Station is one of them, Jenkintown Substation is another. The Jenkintown Substation will be responsible for 50 percent of our regional rail passenger service, and, if that fails, half of the system will go down. So, those are critical projects that we have to proceed with.


Write a letter to the editor
deli.cio.us digg it stumble upon newsvine
[ Request More Info about this product / service / company ]

  • Paul Iverson, PA-TEC[ December 5th, 2010 @ 11:06pm ]

    Mr. Casey is right, SEPTA is not cutting service like its peers, because it has already severely truncated its system. Since 1983, SEPTA has closed 65 train stations and truncated 5 of its rail lines, cutting service off to several high growth segments of the region. SEPTA is currently embarking on an effort to extend one of its far out lines, further out into another region, which counters the need to focus on the region's core. The 422plus R6 extension to Wyomissing PA will encourage further sprawl and increase VMT. SEPTA would be wise to consider extending its shortest line, the Fox Chase-Newtown line (R8) back to the high growth and dense area of Bucks County. President Obama's stimulus program gave SEPTA $190 million dollars. Sadly, very little of it was used for useful projects. Joe Casey elected to divert this money to useless projects, such as the $5 million dollar fence along the airport line, or the replacement of low cost bus shelters with high-maintenance waiting areas that lack basic ammenities such as heat. Joe Casey and Rich Burnfield, SEPTA's chief Policy makers, along with Pasquale "Pat" Deon have twisted the concept of "State of Good Repair", which involves caring for and maintaining existing systems to a policy of "Total Systems Replacement", which Mr. Casey states in his interview, where SEPTA desires to start from scratch on many systems. Mr. Casey has chosen to divert money to non-critical projects, such as the $100 million smart stations program, which recently failed to capture two defenseless college students being beaten in a SEPTA concourse, instead of using half of that money to replace the critical Jenkintown Substation. SEPTA needs a complete overhaul of its management and board, and a thorough investigation by the State Attorney General's office and Auditor General, Jack Wagner. We cannot afford to squander funds on projects that do not maintain critical systems, focus on the region's core or grow ridership. If Jo

E-NEWSLETTER

Receive the latest Metro E-Newsletters in your inbox!

Join the Metro E-Newsletters and receive the latest news in your e-mail inbox once a week. SIGN UP NOW!

View the latest eNews
Express Tuesday | Express Thursday | University Transit

White Papers

Mass Transit Capital Planning An overview of the world-class best practices for assessing, prioritizing, and funding capital projects to optimize resources and align with the organization’s most critical immediate and long-term goals.

The Benefits of Door-to-Door Service in ADA Complementary Paratransit Many U.S. transit agencies continue to struggle with the quality of ADA service, the costs, and the difficulties encountered in contracting the service, which is the method of choice for a significant majority of agencies. One of the most basic policy decisions an agency must make involves whether to provide door-to-door, or only curb-to-curb service.

Mass transit mobile Wi-Fi & the public sector case study How Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority successfully implemented Wi-Fi on its light rail and bus lines

More white papers


 
DIGITAL EDITION

The full contents of Metro Magazine on your computer! The digital edition is an exact replica of the print magazine with enhanced search, multimedia and hyperlink features. View the current issue