Tuesday, SEPTA begins offering express bus service during morning and evening rush hours along some of the most heavily traveled sections of the Regional Rail system. The supplemental service aims to accommodate the increased ridership associated with the end of summer, the start of the new school year. SEPTA also hopes to alleviate some of the pains still being experienced by the removal of the Silverliner V cars, one third of its regional rail fleet.
The buses will take passengers from select regional rail stations to the Broad Street or Market Frankford subway lines. While riders can use their usual monthly pass, they will have the option of just buying a token, a considerable discount over a regional rail fare.
But will regular train commuters give the bus service a try?
Chris Veneziale rides the Regional Rail out of SEPTA’s Ivy Ridge station, near Manayunk. He was aware of SEPTA’s plan but wasn’t clear on all of the specifics. There was a notice outlining the details of the bus service posted near the steps leading from the station parking lot. I passed by the signage when I arrived at the station, but didn’t notice it until I was leaving and I was specifically looking for it. It is entirely possible that passengers in a hurry to catch a train may miss the poster if they didn’t know what they were looking for and where to look for it.
Veneziale doesn’t plan to try the express bus. “I just know that they are planning on running a couple of, I think its buses to subway stops,” Veneziale said. Beyond that, I’m not too sure because I don’t really take the subway, so it’s not something that I, that I’ll, that I think I’ll be doing.”
The buses will pick up passengers from select stations between 6:30-8:30 a.m. for the morning commute, and from 4-6 p.m. in the evening. SEPTA said the service will provide comparable trip times to the Regional Rail, but some passengers doubt the buses will be as timely.
Katie Schuele Katz, for one is skeptical the bus service would get her to her destination as quickly as riding the Manayunk/Norristown Line. She understands the need for additional space but doesn’t see the plan as a viable option compared with the train. “The reason why I like taking the train,” Schuele Katz said, “is its much faster, and sometimes I take the 9 bus, or whatever and it takes way too long to get there.”
Manayunk resident, Andrew Stuber has lived in New York City and Boston. He is frustrated with SEPTA’s treatment of its passengers since the trains were taken out for repairs and said SEPTA’s service pales in comparison to the public transportation systems in those other cities.
“I think it’s stupid that they’re going to do a reduced rate when I should just be able to use my regular pass,” Stuber said, “since other cities do that and it should have been something they’ve been doing all summer, since they knew this train thing was happening.”
In addition to the express bus service, SEPTA is renting more train cars from Maryland’s MARC system. As of this month, SEPTA is renting 48 trains from MARC, NJ transit and Amtrak.
Passengers can get more information about the supplemental service and the Regional Rail on SEPTA’s website: http://www.septa.org/service/contingency.html