SEPTA proposes service plan changes

March 8, 2010

By Anthony Campisi
For PlanPhilly

SEPTA announced proposals for seven bus route changes and one new route at its annual service plan hearing last Friday.

The authority is contemplating changes to Routes 12, 97, 103, 105, 106, 118 and 139.

It is also proposing a new Route 72 that would run from Rising Sun Avenue and Cedarbrook Plaza along Cheltenham Avenue in Olney. The service would operate off peak on weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and all day Saturdays to serve shoppers along the corridor. Charles Webb, head of SEPTA’s service planning division, said that the limited service would help the authority assess demand and that the service could be expanded to peak hours in the future.

SEPTA is also considering temporarily redoing routes 43, 52 or 64 to serve the West Parkside Industrial Park. The authority is relocating the Parkside Loop to a spot south of 50th Street and Parkside Avenue, which will provide better service to the industrial park in the long run.

Following is an overview of the proposed route changes. You can see PDFs of all the service change proposals below.

* Route 12: SEPTA wants to extend the Route 12, which travels from Southwest Philadelphia down to Society Hill, down into South Philadelphia and the Columbus Commons shopping center on Snyder Avenue. The city proposed the route change.
* Route 97: The SEPTA operations staff has suggested that the authority add service between Barren Hill and Chestnut Hill. Currently, buses travel down the route during their runs but don’t serve passengers.
* Route 103: SEPTA wants to shift the route near 60th Street Terminal to capture greater ridership in Highland Park.
* Route 105: SEPTA is considering a change to Route 105 in the face of weak ridership along City Avenue. The authority has commissioned a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission study of Lancaster Avenue that it hopes will shed more light on ridership demand in the area to help with service planning.
* Route 106: SEPTA service planning is proposing extending the existing Route 106 from Ardmore Station to Paoli Hospital and the Paoli Industrial Park in off-peak service.
* Route 118: SEPTA wants to make a minor change to shift the route one block west in Media.
* Route 139: The authority is considering cutting service to the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick and is evaluating extending service along Township Line Road to Limerick Crossing.

Although SEPTA doesn’t have any money budgeted for the changes, they will be reviewed later this month when the tariff process kicks off to determine fares. Another public hearing will be held in April, and any changes that get funding will be voted on by the SEPTA Board in June or July.

Though SEPTA has been asked by Fairmount residents for better access to University City employment centers, the service planning division is still looking at its options and is planning on recommending a change next year.

Service planning staff has also pushed off a decision on defining so-called “lifeline routes.” This new category of routes would be considered to provide essential transportation service even if their ratio of farebox revenues to operating expenses fell below SEPTA’s threshold.

Webb said he hopes to have a lifeline route proposal next year.

SEPTA also released its annual route performance review at the meeting, which shows the operating ratios of all bus, trolley and rail lines.

Seventeen routes in the City Transit Division and 11 in the Suburban Transit Division fell below SEPTA’s operating ratio standards in fiscal year 2009.

On the City Transit side, Route 60 had the highest operating ratio, recovering 64 percent of its expenses from farebox revenue. Route 77 had the lowest, with an operating ratio of 12 percent.

At 50 percent, Route 305 had the highest operating ratio among suburban routes, and Route 306 had the lowest, at 7 percent.

Among regional rail lines, the R3 Elwyn had the highest operating ratio, at 67 percent, and the R8 Chestnut Hill West came in at the bottom, with 34 percent.

Check out the attached annual performance review — raw data SEPTA gives on how much money each of its routes is losing and on each route’s ridership. Also included at bottom are PDFs of all the route changes.

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