SEPTA considering Regional Rail service expansion this fall

The transit agency is working to bring its service back to pre-pandemic levels.

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Regional rail train

A train pulling into 30th Street Station. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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SEPTA officials are considering the best ways to add more service to the regional rail lines.

The discussions are preliminary and depend on funding from outside sources.

SEPTA’s Andrew Busch said the agency’s regional rail lines are one area where ridership has yet to return to pre-pandemic service levels.

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“Buses, trains and the subways are at about 95% of where they were pre-pandemic in terms of how many trips were running every day,” he said. “Regional rail is behind that. We’re at about 77% of the service level we were at pre-pandemic.”

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker said adding service will hopefully bring more stay-at-home workers back into town, boosting the city’s economy.

“SEPTA is our crown jewel. If we want to increase ridership on SEPTA we have to make sure it’s safe and it’s clean,” Parker said.

Busch said the transit agency needs to increase the number of specialized workers required to run the expanded service.

“At this time last year, we had gotten down to a low point of about 170 engineers. We put into place a new training program that added more engineers to the training classes that’s starting to pay off. We’re up to 185 engineers, and we’re projecting that number is going to continue to increase through this year. We expect that we’re going to get at least close to, if not maybe above, our budgeted headcount of 213 by later this year.”

He added they are looking at their current passenger load on vehicles so they can add service in the right places.

“We’re gonna look first at areas where we had to cut back and haven’t been able to add as much back. So that’s evening service. We’re going to look at adding some more weekend service. We know there’s some more demand there for that and then in addition to that, certainly looking at peak weekday service as well.”

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The expanded service is dependent on funding from outside sources, including the state and federal governments.

Federal pandemic money is running out, and without replacement funds, SEPTA has threatened to hike fares and cut service.

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