SEPTA faces delays and workarounds as supply chain issues disrupt repair projects

The transit agency is getting creative with recycling and reusing parts from retired vehicles to deal with supply chain shortages.

A SEPTA worker walks through the 69th Street SEPTA repair shop

A 2020 file photo of a SEPTA worker walking through the 69th Street SEPTA repair shop. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia area transit repairs are facing delays as SEPTA confronts the supply chain issues that have also affected many local businesses and households.

“We’re experiencing difficulty with getting computer microchips, supplies like copper wire steel and lumber,” said Andrew Busch, a spokesperson for the transit agency,

Paint, sealant, and concrete are also in short supply, Busch said.

Not having enough supplies might be bad, but increased prices for the things that are available makes it all worse. The cost of SEPTA’s basic supplies is up by about 25%, Bush explained, forcing them to stretch the supplies they have to last longer and go farther.

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For example, a project to repair some stairs was delayed for several months at 69th Street Terminal while they waited for sealant, according to Busch.

Meanwhile, a MIA paint shipment delayed work for routine maintenance on a parking ramp. With such delays hitting SEPTA across its network, the transit agency is pushing back the timeline for some projects.

Hit especially hard have been long-term projects where the agency must source hard-to-find supplies like steel and lumber. On some projects, they’ve been able to move ahead by recycling used parts from decommissioned vehicles to make repairs.

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According to Busch, making do with what you have is a part of the agency’s DNA.

“SEPTA is used to operating on somewhat of a shoestring budget for its maintenance and construction projects. And that’s just been due to years of having tight funding,” he said.

Busch credited employees who have the knowledge needed to work around a broken supply chain.

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