Late appeal for SEPTA through-service

April 22, 2010

By Anthony Campisi
For PlanPhilly

While there was nary a word about the impending cut in state transportation funding, University of Pennsylvania engineering professor Vukan Vuchic made a last-ditch effort to save the current regional rail identification system at Thursday’s SEPTA Board meeting.

Vuchic, who helped design the regional rail system, has adamantly opposed eliminating line numbers and renaming lines according to their terminal stations.

He repeated those points to the board, saying that “we are ahead of everybody” in having a regional rail network that provides suburb-to-suburb train service through Center City.

Despite 40 years of working with SEPTA, Vuchic said he has a “fundamental disagreement” with the authority, adding that the change will make through-service travel on regional rail almost impossible — turning the system into a more traditional commuter rail network in which passengers can only travel from the suburbs to Center City and back.

He said that SEPTA never capitalized on through service properly, failing to market it and scheduling trains that change lines midway through their runs.

Long-time transit advocate Lorraine Brill echoed Vuchic, saying she remembered protesting SEPTA in the 1980s to get it to run trains through the then-newly constructed Center City Commuter Tunnel.

She added that commuters aren’t confused by the current system, and that SEPTA’s concerns about accommodating infrequent riders and tourists would be better served by providing them with better information about the system at SEPTA stations.

SEPTA is planning on making the switch July 25.

In other news, SEPTA saw its first year-on-year ridership increase in March for the first time in 12 months. Ridership was up 1 percent. Operating costs were also up because of snow-related issues.

SEPTA ran a $4.1 million deficit in March and has a fiscal year-to-date deficit of $29.3 million.

The board also approved a series of contracts that had been reviewed by its administration and operations committees.

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