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.
After acts of terrorism — domestic or international — law enforcement agencies are almost always asked: “How are you ‘ramping up’ your security efforts?”
Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent buying buses and railcars every year. Although the national unemployment rate has declined since the Great Recession, for low-income families and communities of color, the unemployment rate remains in the double-digits and good, family-supporting jobs can’t come fast enough. We need strategies that revive U.S. manufacturing and other industries that can create the kind of jobs we want.
The recently adjourned 2016 Democratic National Convention put Philadelphia in the national — and international — spotlight once again. For the third time in four years, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority transported thousands of visitors to the City of Brotherly Love and its surrounding counties. As with the U.S. Open in 2013 and the World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit in 2015, public transit was a key component for all event activities.
Everywhere, evidence reveals how we’re moving into a less-consumptive, sharing-based society. Whether it’s people’s homes, torrent files or a car ride downtown, sharing is in. As environmentally conscious and economically prudent reducers and re-users, millennials are choosing non-traditional forms of transportation. This behavior has already had a huge impact on the way the transit industry is planning for its future.
How do you replace the institutional knowledge and subject expertise of a 40-year employee? You do it through succession planning, which is especially necessary in the transportation industry where senior level managers often have well over 25 years’ experience.