SEPTA presents corporate roadmap

SEPTA’s board will vote Thursday on the fiscal year 2015 operating and capital budgets. In April, SEPTA presented its fiscal year 2015 service plan, and in January, SEPTA released its “Catching Up,” capital improvement plan. Now the authority has yet another plan.

Tuesday, the authority presented a strategic business plan aimed at self-improvement and increased accountability and transparency. The five-year business plan is a framework that puts all the other plans in one place and aligns them with three themes: innovation, integration and renewal.

“We are at an interesting crossroads for the authority,” said Byron Comati, Director of Strategic Planning.

Comati said the transportation funding provided by Act 89 was both “interesting” and necessary, and it allows for more creative thinking, which, Comati said, is reflected in the business plan.

The plan identifies a wide array of performance metrics and benchmarks that will help SEPTA analyze its business process, customer experience, financial efficiency, infrastructure state of good repair & reliability, safety & security, and employee growth.

SEPTA will use these metrics to evaluate its progress and will share that information on a new online portal – a move toward increased accountability and transparency.

The plan is macro, Comati said. It does not detail initiatives but does more to set the direction SEPTA is heading in and establishes tracking metrics.

“I think of it sort of as a corporate roadmap,” said Erik Johanson, SEPTA strategy and sustainability planner. “… One of the key driving forces of this plan is to operate more like a business.”

The new business plan will allow each department to come up with its own plans within the corporate framework. SEPTA is also looking to City Stat – a program of the City of Philadelphia in which monthly meetings are held with each department.

“I think we can replicate that here,” Johanson said.

Additionally, SEPTA will build new business partnerships. Chief Financial Officer Rich Burnfield said SEPTA is working to align its New Payment Technology payment system with the City’s future bike share system and potentially with the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s payment system. 


For each of six performance areas (business process, customer experience, financial efficiency, infrastructure state of good repair & reliability, safety & security, and employee growth) the strategic business plan identifies multiple metrics to monitor progress.

For instance, under business process, SEPTA wants to reduce its carbon emissions by 10 percent, increase its municipal waste diversion rate to 20 percent, and more.

When it comes to state of good repair, SEPTA is paying careful attention to the mean distance between failures (MDBF) of its vehicles. Today buses and trolley buses travel an average of 7,954 miles before having a mechanical failure. By 2019, SEPTA will replace some of the aging fleet and hopes to increase the MDBF to 10,875. City trolleys travel an average 5,634 miles before failing. By 2019, SEPTA hopes to increase that MDBF to 7,500.

The business plan’s safety and security metrics will aim to protect both SEPTA customers and employees.

“We’ve experienced a dramatic reduction in operator assaults, but I think we can all agree 65 is too many,” Johanson said.

Each of the six overarching categories identified has multiple performance metrics that SEPTA will monitor and share. Since this is a working draft, SEPTA might not use all of the metrics presented this week.

“We went all in with what we presented today because we think it’s easier to scale back,” Johanson said.

Greg Krykewycz, a senior transportation planner at Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), cautioned SEPTA that many of the metrics may be out of its control, so while it is important to measure performance, he suggested that SEPTA adjust targets as time goes on and be clear about what it can and cannot control.

SEPTA is soliciting more comments and suggestions and will accept those via email at through June 20. 

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