Councilman Johnson calls for safety hearings on SEPTA

Citing SEPTA’s string of sidelined rail cars, Tuesday’s derailment of a pair of out-of-service Market-Frankford Line trains, and a trolley collision in January, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a resolution at Thursday’s City Council session to bring SEPTA officials to hearings in early March to discuss safety.

Johnson, who chairs city council’s transportation and public utilities committee, told PlanPhilly he’s interested most in hearing from SEPTA officials about their response to fix the recent string of problems. “We want to look at the overall plan to address those issues.”

“We want to get to the bottom of the issues, what their plan is going forward, and [make] sure the public is aware of it,” Johnson added.

SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Public and Government Affairs Fran Kelly said the transit authority welcomes the opportunity to “make our case.”

“It’ll give us an opportunity to tell what we are doing so people understand, once again, that safety is a top priority for this authority,” said Kelly after SEPTA’s annual board meeting on Thursday. “That starts at the top and goes all the way through.”

Johnson also said that significant drops in ridership had him concerned. PlanPhilly reported last month that SEPTA ridership was trending down even before some of the more recent problems, including November’s strike, kept passengers away. SEPTA is running a $22.4 million deficit seven months into its Fiscal Year 2017.

In addition to SEPTA, Johnson said he expects to call representatives from the city’s Office of Emergency Management to discuss their plans for responding “if there is a real catastrophe.”

At Thursday’s SEPTA board meeting, Pasquale “Pat” Deon Sr. was re-elected as SEPTA chairman and Thomas Babcock was picked as vice chair.

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