Transit Dispatches

Contributing bloggers discuss a variety of topics geared toward the transit and motorcoach sectors.

Back to the list

August 18, 2011

The State of SEPTA’s 'State of Good Repair'

by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

Crumbling bridges, deteriorating platforms, ancient power systems. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the nation’s sixth largest transportation agency, provides safe, reliable service for 1.1 million people a day despite the serious challenges presented by an aging infrastructure with many vital components that are upwards of 100 years old.

On July 11, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff traveled to Philadelphia to see firsthand the extent of SEPTA’s needs and to discuss the importance of investing in America’s aging mass transportation systems. In 2009, the FTA estimated it would cost $4.2 billion to bring SEPTA’s infrastructure up to a “State of Good Repair.”

From left: SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey; U.S. Senator (Pa.) Robert P. Casey Jr.; Transport Workers Union Local 234 President John Johnson; Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter; and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff listen as SEPTA Chief Engineer and Assistant GM Jeffrey Knueppel discusses infrastructure issues of City Hall Station.

“We do a meticulous job of maintaining our system, but we are running out of time,” SEPTA Chief Engineer and Assistant GM Jeffrey Knueppel said during a briefing attended by Rogoff, U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. and U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah at SEPTA headquarters. “The system will start to shrink if we don’t make improvements now.”

“We have a very old system, some of which has operated far beyond its useful life,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “We have an extensive list of needs and many projects ready to begin, but cannot proceed with the work without adequate funding.”

When it was established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1964, SEPTA inherited the wire systems, bridges, substations, viaducts and stations originally built by the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co., Philadelphia and West Chester Traction Co., Philadelphia and Western Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad. Many of the incorporated facilities date to the mid-1800s and were not well maintained by previous owners.

Held in SEPTA’s Control Center, where supervisors and dispatchers from different transit modes monitor and keep the authority’s system moving, the briefing gave Casey and Knueppel the opportunity to describe the extensive renovation and maintenance projects SEPTA has been able to undertake with previous funding from the FTA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other sources, as well as detail the most pressing of SEPTA’s infrastructure needs.

“Our 32 ARRA projects are about 90 percent complete and our customers have appreciated the work we have been able to do,” said Casey. “Our ridership has steadily increased over the last year. However, without funding for our infrastructure needs, we are not going to be able to serve our current and future passengers.”

From left: District Chief of Staff Caitlin Ganley, Congressman Patrick Meehan (Pa. 07); SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey; FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff; and SEPTA Chief Engineer and Assistant GM Jeffrey Knueppel examine a rail bridge that dates back to 1906.

Following the briefing, SEPTA officials led Rogoff on a tour of some of the authority’s region-wide facilities: City Hall Station, Philadelphia; Jenkintown Traction Power Substation, Montgomery County; Paoli Station, Chester County; Norristown High Speed Line, Montgomery County; and 69th Street Transportation Center, Delaware County.

Rogoff was amazed by what he saw on his tour. He even took a piece of a crumbling Norristown High Speed Line bridge with him to show officials in Washington, D.C., the necessity of investing in mass transportation.

“I’m really struck by how fragile the infrastructure is that is supporting millions of passengers,” Rogoff told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We will continue to focus on state of good repair issues — they’ve been ignored too long.”

Funding cuts have forced SEPTA to defer dozens of improvement projects. This can lead to expensive emergency repairs and heavy maintenance work. Further delays could result in major service disruptions.

“At best, we face speed and weight restrictions and short-term service interruptions,” said Casey. “At worst, we have long term service disruptions with a major economic impact on the Delaware Valley. We need to get started on this work now.”

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "'Economic situation feels like a bad movie"  here.

Heather Redfern

Press Relations Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority


Write a letter to the editor
deli.cio.us digg it stumble upon newsvine


  • Eli Gilbert[ August 23th, 2011 @ 7:58am ]

    This fine article ends with Joe Casey's statement that " . . . at worst, we have long term service disruptions . . . . " Unfortunately, at worst, we face serious hazards for the riding public.

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

Author Bio

Heather Redfern

Press Relations Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority


Scott Belcher

President and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)


Joel Volinski

Director, National Center for Transit Research at CUTR/USF


Brian Antolin

Consultant, Transportation and Travel Industry


Joe Zavisca

Joe Zavisca is an independent consultant specializing in paratransit service.


Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

Paul Mackie is communications director at Mobility Lab, a leading U.S. voice of “transportation demand management.”


Rob Taylo

Founder/CEO SinglePoint Communications

Rob Taylo is founder/CEO of SinglePoint Communications, an exclusive U.S. distributor of WiFi in Motion.


Zack Shubkagel

Partner/Creative Director of Willoughby Design

Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.


Amy Snyder

Communications Specialist, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District


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


STORE
METRO Magazine - February/March 2014

METRO Magazine
Here are the Highlight:
  • Time Running Out for Funding A New Surface Transportation Bill
  • Mobile Ticketing Makes Strides, E-fare Tech Ramps Up
  • Telematics Systems: Making Good Fleets Great
    And much more…
  •  
    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