First Silverliner V train has its inaugural run

Arriving only a few minutes late, the first of SEPTA’s new Silverliner V train cars pulled into Suburban Station this morning, carrying SEPTA officials, members of the media and a few surprised passengers.

The train, which consisted of the first three of 120 new railcars currently under production, left Suburban Station at about 8:30, making a run along the Bala Cynwyd line while stopping to pick up riders on their morning commute.

The ride, both to and from Center City, was smooth, with no visible technical and mechanical difficulties, which have slowed production of the cars.

An automated public address system and electronic displays announced upcoming stops and gave information on connecting service.

SEPTA officials and transit advocates alike were delighted by the performance of the new cars.

Thaddeus Robinson, a member of SEPTA’s advisory council on disabilities, said the cars provide easier access and provide more room to maneuver for people in wheelchairs.

Aissia Richardson, chairwoman of SEPTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee, said the cars are “light at the end of the tunnel” for SEPTA, which has coped for years with aging infrastructure and outdated vehicles.

The few fare-paying commuters on the trip were similarly impressed.

Chris Willman, who lives in Morton and took the train out from Suburban Station and back for kicks, praised the smooth ride.

He also said passenger amenities had been greatly improved. The benches of previous years have been replaced by differentiated seats, giving riders “a little modicum of personal space.” The dreaded middle seat has been eliminated because the seats are grouped in pairs, and there are wider isles for walking.

And Hedy Cerwinka, who won a free monthly TrailPass for being one of the first riders on board, said the trains would hopefully increase transit ridership.

“We love people taking public transit,” she said.

Cerwinka and her husband, Gene Mele ― who appreciated the new display screens ― take the train into the city every day from Cynwyd, and she said that SEPTA allows her to avoid traffic.

Arriving back in Suburban Station ― only 10 minutes late ― the train punched through a banner laid out across Track 0, as the riders disembarked and SEPTA general manager Joe Casey, in a short press conference, declared the start of a “new era” for the financially strapped transit agency.

Even the train engineers ― who battled SEPTA over the size of their front cabs ― seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Thomas Gordon, the train’s engineer and a 24-year veteran of the authority, said the Silverliner V was “leaps and bounds” ahead of its predecessors.

Casey said SEPTA was expecting nine additional cars to be delivered by December, with another nine or 10 rolling off the assembly line every month after that.

Though riders during rush-hour on heavily used lines won’t see the Silverliner V until more cars arrive to make a six-car train, SEPTA has posted a schedule of designated Silverliner V runs here.

Contact the reporter at acampisi@planphilly.com

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