SEPTA is considering cutting 26 routes to improve on-time service

The goal is to encourage riders to return to mass transit by making it better and faster.

A bus leaves the Midvale depot in Nicetown

A bus leaves the Midvale depot in Nicetown. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

SEPTA officials plan a major redesign of the region’s bus routes in an effort to provide better on-time service and draw more riders back to mass transit. The transit agency is in the midst of a listening tour to hear how riders feel about the proposed changes.

The current incarnation of the plan would cut down SEPTA’s 125 bus routes to 99.

“Even though the number of routes goes down, the number of frequent routes, meaning routes running 15 minutes or better, seven days a week between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. is going up,” said Dan Nemiroff, Manager of Planning Programs at SEPTA. “This was in response to a lot of complaints and comments over the years, as well as some survey work we’ve done in support of this project, that that frequency is one of the key priorities for our riders.”

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The redesign didn’t happen overnight. “We started thinking about it because ridership was going down. We wanted to reverse that trend,” Nemiroff said. “We started to think of ways to generate more interest in the bus network and redesign it so that it was more useful for people.”

The changes aren’t going to make everyone happy, admits Nemiroff, but he urged people to scrutinize the plan before getting upset that their stop is being eliminated.

“Most of the route segments or the portions of routes that have been removed from the the proposal are being, you know, accounted for by an extension of another route or rerouting,” he said.

An extensive public input process is underway, with SEPTA reaching out to affected groups to offer them a chance to weigh-in on the plan.

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“We have a lot of different events planned over the fall,” Nemiroff said.

So far, 15 in-person events are planned along with eight virtual community conversations. “These are all going to be geographically focused so people can come and talk to us about things that we’re proposing in their neighborhoods or in their communities,” he said.

The first round of hearings will run until mid-December. The final plan won’t get a vote before SEPTA’s board until next year.

If approved, routes wouldn’t change for about a year.

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