SEPTA GM Jeff Knueppel to retire in December, PennDOT secretary eyed as replacement

 SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel will retire on Dec. 31, at the end of his contract with the $2 billion-a-year transit agency, officials confirmed today.

Knueppel met with his immediate staff to inform them of the decision last Thursday. SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch confirmed the meeting and Kneuppel’s December exit date in a phone call with PlanPhilly Wednesday.

“It was a planned retirement,” Busch said. “He wanted to give his staff advance notice.”

Knueppel joined SEPTA in 1988. Over his 32 years, he served as an engineer, climbing the ranks of the 9,300-employee agency to become the agency’s assistant GM in the late 2000s. His predecessor, Joe Casey, named him deputy GM in 2012. He ascended to the general manager post, replacing Casey, in September 2015.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Knueppel’s years at the agency’s helm were marked by major investments in positive train control, a safety feature that received emphasis for many transit providers after a deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. He also navigated a series of sometimes-inherited crises, like the detection of a design flaw in SEPTA’s Hyundai Rotem Silverliner V train cars, which abruptly took a large portion of the agency’s Regional Rail fleet out of service. Knueppel also stewarded much of the bumpy and still-ongoing implementation of SEPTA Key, a system of new fare payment technology that was similarly put into motion years before he took the reins of the agency.

Busch said that Knueppel primarily decided to leave to “focus on his family.” He was adamant that the departure has no connection to news of a recent FBI investigation. According to Busch, Knueppel was operating on an extended contract and informed SEPTA chairman Pat Deon in early 2019 that he would not be extending his contract in January, months before news of the investigation broke.

Multiple high-level sources inside the agency said that PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards is being seriously considered as the next GM. Busch said the SEPTA board has not selected a final candidate, much less met to vote on a replacement.

“We don’t have a replacement yet, I know there has been some rumors out there about it,” Busch said. “But the board is still considering candidates, but nothing has been decided.”

Busch said an official announcement about Knueppel’s retirement and successor would be forthcoming in the fall.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal