How a Multifaceted Plan Helped SEPTA Weather Jonas

Posted on February 24, 2016 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

SEPTA staff monitoring the conditions and working on a service restoration plan in Control Center of agency's downtown Philadelphia headquarters. Photo: SEPTA
SEPTA staff monitoring the conditions and working on a service restoration plan in Control Center of agency's downtown Philadelphia headquarters. Photo: SEPTA
 Winter Storm Jonas socked Philadelphia with 22.4 inches of snow in January. In some areas of the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (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.

“Making the decision to suspend our service was not one that was taken lightly,” said SEPTA GM Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “But with the expected white-out conditions, sustained high winds and snow accumulation, we knew we had to shut down the majority of our system, for the safety of our network."

Crews digging out from knee-high snow at SEPTA's Frazier rail yard in Chester County, Pa. Photo: SEPTA
Crews digging out from knee-high snow at SEPTA's Frazier rail yard in Chester County, Pa. Photo: SEPTA

The authority was concerned that high winds would topple trees located near overhead wires, trapping trains and trolleys in inaccessible locations. Bus and trolley operators could have difficulty safely driving in whiteout conditions.

“In the end, it was the snow, not the winds, that most affected our region. We wouldn't have been able to safely and reliably transport passengers," Knueppel said. "Fortunately, we were able to keep the heart of our system, the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines, running throughout the storm, helping essential personnel to get to their work locations.”

A multifaceted communication approach was key in delivering SEPTA’s service plan before, during and after Jonas. Knueppel announced the plan at a press conference at SEPTA’s headquarters, 10:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, the morning before the stoppage. Throughout the weekend, Knueppel and Assistant GM, Operations, Ron Hopkins spoke at press events, at SEPTA’s headquarters and along with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other key city personnel at City Hall and the Office of Emergency Management.

The authority’s Customer Service Call Center was staffed with extra personnel and the Social Media Team answered riders’ questions submitted to the @SEPTA_Social Twitter feed. The Control Center also maintained service announcements on SEPTA’s website and tweeted up-to-the-minute service advisories to the public. SEPTA Media Relations kept local news outlets informed with regular media advisories and phone interviews, tweeting photos of crews at work in the field preparing for a return to service.

Geismar 360 equipment clearing snow off of SEPTA Regional (commuter) Rail. Photo: SEPTA
Geismar 360 equipment clearing snow off of SEPTA Regional (commuter) Rail. Photo: SEPTA

SEPTA has purchased or leased new heavy equipment, such as vehicle managed snow blower and throwers and a brining system, to be better able to manage the elements.

"We tweeted and posted photos online to allow our customers to see how our crews were working around the clock to get our service back, battling extreme conditions,” Knueppel said. "We also created a Webpage to help commuters understand the enormity of snow plowing and removal at our stations and to watch our contractors' efforts in not just clearning snow, but also removing it with front end loaders and trucks."

SEPTA’s Airport Regional Rail Line and trolley routes were operating on Sunday, and, as roads were plowed, so were 35% of the authority’s buses. The remaining 12 Regional Rail Lines, some of which travel on Amtrak territory, operated on Monday, Jan. 25, along with partial service on the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL). The NHSL has a top running electrified third rail, which was buried by drifting snow. Crews used a jet engine to dig out the rail and restore service on the entire route by the start of the service day the following Wednesday, Jan. 27. All SEPTA bus routes were also back in service by Wednesday.

The jet engine-equipped blower clearing snow from the Norristown High Speed Line, which has an electrified third rail.  Photo: SEPTA
The jet engine-equipped blower clearing snow from the Norristown High Speed Line, which has an electrified third rail.  Photo: SEPTA

“This was the fourth largest storm in Philadelphia’s history," Knueppel said. "Our approach was to provide key service in the core of the city for hospital, emergency response and other essential workers, while making prudent decisions for the safety of our network. SEPTA will conduct after-action meetings with feedback from customers as well as frontline employees utilized for the process."

Heather Redfern is the Public Information Manager for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

 
 

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

April 17, 2018

Transit Facility Center Gives Help, Hope to Those 'With Nowhere to Go'

Transit facilities — train stations, bus depots and transportation centers — are often the shelter of choice for people experiencing homelessness, especially when weather conditions make it too dangerous to stay outside.

April 11, 2018

Mass Transit Must Integrate Data, Tech to Be Part of Mobility Landscape

Startups and legacy industries are harnessing big data to transform and revolutionize the ways their services are offered. Among the sectors sitting on the richest mines of data is public transportation, with municipalities and service providers boasting decades of data on urban transportation and mobility.

March 27, 2018

Public Transit Needs a Voice in Automated/Autonomous Vehicle Regulatory Talks

This technology will forever change transportation on a local level and national scale; the time is ripe for public transit agencies and OEMs to be more visible in shaping the outcome of these discussions, regulations, and laws.

March 22, 2018

Lyft and Uber Can Save Transit — if Transit Gets on Board

Bad news for transit keeps rolling in. Transit ridership declined in 34 of the 40 largest metropolitan areas over the past three years. While ridership routinely fluctuates in response to economic upturns and downturns and other trends, this decline seems more profound.

March 7, 2018

Railway cybersecurity must never be taken lightly

Many cybersecurity breaches are traced back to human error, from lack of compliance with security policies to configuration errors. Even the best-trained staff can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of daily alerts that need to be tackled.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close