How do riders want SEPTA to spend its money? On ADA-compliant trolleys and trains past Elwyn, to name a few

This rendering shows the double-deck passenger coach being built for use on SEPTA's Regional Rail system by CRRC Corporation Limited. (CRRC)

This rendering shows the double-deck passenger coach being built for use on SEPTA's Regional Rail system by CRRC Corporation Limited. (CRRC)

SEPTA wants to take Regional Rail to another level, with double-decker trains. Chinese manufacturer CRRC won SEPTA’s favor with a $147 million bid three years ago and is currently working on the 45-train order for delivery in 2021.

SEPTA representative Andrew Busch said the trains were ordered to address ridership demands.

They’re among the in-progress capital projects the transportation authority is keeping in mind as it develops a new capital budget for FY2021. On Wednesday, SEPTA invited the public to give input on a list of projects, to gauge what ought to be prioritized.

It’s an opportunity for riders to comment and make suggestions on projects that SEPTA may have missed, said Catherine Popp-McDonough, the agency’s director of capital and grant development.

Michael Noda of Francisville, a volunteer for local political action committee 5th Square, said he was pleased to find SEPTA is in the process of restoring Regional Rail service from Elwyn to Middletown Station in Delaware County. Service beyond Elwyn was terminated in the 1980s.

Construction is in process through 2021. The project is expected to bring renewed infrastructure— including bridges, track, and signals, plus a new parking deck for 580 cars.

“Seeing shovels in the ground is [good],” said Noda, a former resident of that area.

Kwame Mils-Wilson uses a wheelchair and hopes to see trolley modernization, which promises Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, come to fruition. The West Philly resident said that despite living near the Route 10 trolley, he can’t use the service because it fails to meet ADA accessibility standards. The only trolley he took was the Route 15, and those were pulled temporarily and replaced with buses. Mils-Wilson said he wants SEPTA to prioritize the work that needs to be done now to upgrade the system.

“I don’t see why I got to take at least two buses to get downtown [when] instead I can just hop on one trolley to get me downtown,” he said.

The estimated $1.55 billion trolley modernization, along with the King of Prussia Rail project and 15 new electric passenger rail cars to replace the Silverliner IV cars, hang in the balance as officials seek a way to pay for them.

SEPTA’s capital budget last year was a little over $675 million. The next budget also is expected to be in the $700 million ballpark. Last year, vehicle acquisitions and overhauls, financial obligations, and right-of-way and track improvements were the top three expenditures, totaling about $361 million. SEPTA Key took up about $39 million.

In addition to capital projects, SEPTA plans to focus on SEPTA Key, vehicle acquisitions, and financial obligations — such as debt service and leases — in the next budget. A public hearing on the capital budget and program is set for April 29, and a vote for board approval is set for May 28.

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