SEPTA Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel talks about the new overnight weekend subway service at a rally for customers.
Those who depend on mass transit believe that service should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week so that they can get to where they need to go, whenever they need to get there. In New York, MTA customers can hop on the subway 24 hours a day. In Chicago, CTA riders can use the Blue and Red “L” lines around the clock. But in cities like Boston and Philadelphia, major service lines and routes are not always all that convenient in the early hours of the morning — until now.
Two pilot programs recently launched by MBTA in Boston and SEPTA in Philadelphia are exploring the demand for late night service on the agencies’ most popular lines.
In late March, MBTA extended service on its Red, Orange, Green, Blue, Mattapan and Silver Lines, and 14 bus routes by 90 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays. In just the first month of the year-long pilot, MBTA had more than 72,000 late-night subway trips.
In Philadelphia, SEPTA offers 24/7 service on 22 bus routes. But since 1991, the authority has substituted overnight rail service on its Broad Street (subway) and Market-Frankford (subway-elevated) lines — its highest ridership modes —with Nite Owl buses. On Sunday, June 15, SEPTA started a summer-long pilot of 24-hour weekend train service on the Broad Street and Marker-Frankford Lines.
RELATED: U. of Mich. pilots late-night, off-campus route
Low ridership was cited as a main reason why SEPTA switched from train to bus service. However, in the 23 years since overnight train service was halted on the subway lines, Philadelphia’s nightlife has become more vibrant, with new restaurants, sports arenas and other attractions opening across the city. With more people out and about later in the evening, a demand for more reliable late night transportation alternatives was created.
“There has been a late-night renaissance in Philadelphia,” said SEPTA GM Joseph M. Casey. “More people are moving back to the city. And, more people are coming into Center City to enjoy the restaurants, and to experience nightlife venues. To get to these spots, Philadelphia officials, community and business leaders and young people asked SEPTA to run trains after midnight. We heard them and decided to introduce the summer weekend pilot.”
SEPTA will evaluate the weekend late night train program after the summer, examining ridership, staffing costs, safety and other factors to determine if the service should continue.
The extended service initiatives in Philadelphia and Boston are examples of how agencies keep the “public” in public transportation by listening to customers and the community and working on compromises that can benefit all parties.
In case you missed it...
Read our previous blog, "Keeping your drivers on the bus from ‘hire to retire’"
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.