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.”
[IMAGE]SEPTA-FTA3HeatherBlogAug192011EDIT.jpg[/IMAGE] “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.”
[IMAGE]SEPTA-FTA2-HeatherBlogAug192011EDIT.jpg[/IMAGE] 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.
Ask commuters who drive between Houston and Dallas almost every day and see what they have to say. They are known as “super commuters” – the nearly 50, 000 people traveling back and forth between the two cities at least once a week. That number will increase as the growth in Texas continues to climb. Super commuters and other drivers want another solution to Texas’ traffic-clogged highways. Enter the Texas Central high-speed rail project...
For many college engineering and architecture students, it’s probably a good bet that they have not given much consideration to careers in public transportation. Members of the SEPTA's Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division have worked closely with Philadelphia-area university students to introduce them to job opportunities in the realm of mass transit.
When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.
Winter Storm Jonas socked Philadelphia with 22.4 inches of snow in January. In some areas of the five-county SEPTA service region, snowfall totals were well over two feet. As a result of forecasted high winds, zero visibility and significant snow, SEPTA suspended service on all modes — with the exception of the Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway-elevated lines, its two busiest routes — beginning at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.
Wayfinding — the science of navigation in public spaces and cognitive load — a term used to describe the intellectual pressure that is placed upon a person during decision making situations — are inextricably linked when discussing the successful use of a public transportation network and to understand how they work together...