Rail fans Liam and Bill McCann get an up-close view of a Broad Street Line car.
Almost every transit authority has them — the buffs who know every detail about every vehicle and piece of equipment ever used by an organization. For the second consecutive year, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) paid tribute to the passion of its rail fans by inviting them to attend its recent annual Rail Rodeo competition.
Sixty rail fans — winners of a special ticket lottery — were treated to a behind the scenes look at SEPTA’s Fern Rock Maintenance Facility, a place few outside of the Authority are able to venture. Based on the attendees’ reactions, it was an experience few will forget.
Previously only open to SEPTA employees and their families, the annual Rail Rodeo allows Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line operators, Regional Rail engineers and conductors and yard motorpersons to participate in various tests of operational and mechanical skill on SEPTA’s trains. The rail fans in attendance were allowed to take part in the competition, riding on the Broad Street Line during the operations test.
A SEPTA employee explains the operation of the Authority's Broad Street Line subway to a young Rail Rodeo attendee.
Rodeo lottery winners were also given the opportunity to ride the newest addition to SEPTA’s rail fleet — the Silverliner V, — “talk shop” with SEPTA maintenance staff, see demonstrations of the equipment that makes the trains run and get up close views of subway cars on lifts.
“Opening up the Rodeo to our rail fans has been a hit,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “I think our employees have enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk to people who share their enthusiasm for the rails and our lottery winners have appreciated the recognition SEPTA has given them by inviting them to an ‘Authority only’ event. Attending the Rodeo gives them terrific bragging rights in the rail fan community.”
There is an epidemic of safety accidents, absenteeism and high turnover among transit’s front line employees and it’s bleeding the transportation industry billions of dollars. But the inoculation may be closer than you think. Employee engagement is the best immunization for what’s ailing the industry.
Video surveillance technology is a vital component to transit and rail operations as agencies recognize the value such solutions offer. A comprehensive system does more than deliver high quality video and audio recordings. Supporting data and software tools increase the efficiency of agencies’ video management operations, substantiate liability claims and investigations, and promote safety for both passengers and operators alike.
In case you missed it, Pope Francis visited America — and was followed by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during his stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. It’s fitting, given Pope Francis’ penchant for public transportation, that transit played a key role in taking the masses to papal visit activities.
A transit authority’s website, contact center tools and social media are all critical touch points for customers as they engage with transit agencies. At this stage in the relationship, the focus should be on informing and educating prospective customers so they have the incentive to provide their demographic information (e.g. email address, cell phone number, social media contact, etc.).
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.