Casey responds to transit planner’s criticism

SEPTA general manager Joe Casey shot back at a prominent transportation planner critical of recent regional rail changes.

In an open letter to Casey, Penn emeritus professor Vukan Vuchic blasted the authority’s move away from the regional rail numbering system he helped devise, saying that and other recent changes had caused rider confusion and degraded the quality of the transit authority.

Casey responded with his own letter on Monday, saying that ridership had increased after the implementation of the nomenclature change and that customer satisfaction among regional rail riders was at an all-time high.

“There is no indication that the rebranding program cost any customers,” he wrote.

Casey also pushed back on Vuchic’s assertion that SEPTA had ignored the transit planner’s advice, writing that “every courtesy was extended to you by senior staff on many occasions discussing the renaming topic, or more specifically the history and background of the Center City Commuter Tunnel.”

“If the Authority is not willing to advance new initiatives,” he added, “then we will become irrelevant to our customers and the region.”

Casey also said that the original regional rail line pairings never met the needs of regional rail riders, saying that it’s “incomprehensible” to believe that taking regional rail would be the fastest way to travel between Paoli and Doylestown — which were on opposite sides of the old R5 regional rail line.

He did admit that replacing signage at all of SEPTA’s 153 stations was a “challenge” and said SEPTA was focusing its efforts on key stations.

Casey’s letter also included a letter by Freddie M. Williams, general chairman of United Transportation Union Local 61, which represents regional rail conductors and some customer service staff, saying that his members have noticed that the number of riders traveling the wrong direction on trains has decreased since the name changes.

Vuchic, who is currently in Europe, has promised to release another open letter detailing his concerns about the implementation of the new smart card fare collection system.

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