SEPTA has shared a drastic vision of the future. The transit agency serving Southeast Pennsylvania threatens to shut down nine of 13 regional rail lines and implement other cuts if the state does not provide more funding.
The shortfall in SEPTA’s budget for capital investments is unprecedented, said Rich Burnfield, SEPTA chief financial officer. The agency is running rail cars “put in place when Gerald Ford was president,” he said.
The aging regional rail lines require the most expensive repairs, SEPTA officials said. Without those repairs, the agency anticipates closing nine lines and truncate others closer to Philadelphia over the next decade.
It’s estimated those changes would displace 89,000 riders a day — adding up to more than 40 million rides in a year. Right now, SEPTA’s ridership is at an all-time high.
Pennsylvania’s Senate this summer passed legislation that would provide SEPTA with an additional $500 million — enough, say SEPTA officials, to avert a true crisis. But the deal has stalled in the Pennsylvania House, which is expected to take up the issue again this fall.
The state Department of Transportation is also urging the House to act on funding officials say is urgently needed for bridge and road repairs.
“What we’re seeing from SEPTA is not having enough resources for our transportation system […] It is another unfortunate reality that we’re looking at with the shortfall in transportation funding,” said Erin Waters, a PennDOT spokeswoman.
House Republicans’ spokesman, Steve Miskin, dismissed SEPTA’s announcement as “the agency’s semi-annual sky is falling PR effort.”
“The fact is SEPTA is locally managed. The decisions are locally made and the contracts are locally negotiated,” Miskin said. “This is an issue that is in local control.”
He said there has been work over the summer on transportation planning, adding that lawmakers are considering how to fund the “critical needs of Pennsylvania infrastructure.”