SEPTA Board: ridership increases 7 percent; Art program debate continues

SEPTA ridership improved for a fourth consecutive month in June.

CFO and treasurer Rich Burnfield told the SEPTA Board, at its monthly meeting Thursday, that the city transit division saw ridership improve 7 percent over last year. Suburban transit ridership was up 4 percent and regional rail ridership, up 6 percent.

Burnfield attributed the gains to regional unemployment declines and late school closings last year because of the winter snowstorms.

The SEPTA Board approved the authority’s fiscal year 2011 service plan, which adds a Route 72 bus along Cheltenham Avenue in Cheltenham and Olney. Also approved was a series of contracts that were reviewed by its administration and operations committees last week, including a change order on a contract for Art in Transit program work that drew debate among board members.

Michael J. O’Donaghue, a Montgomery County appointee, questioned the value of Art in Transit, which provides for art installations at public transit stations, given SEPTA’s constrained finances. Rina Cutler, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, rose to the program’s defense, saying that communities value the installations.

The board voted to cancel its August meeting, with plans to meet again in September.

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