More than a month after closing due to deteriorating conditions, SEPTA’s Somerset Station has become a point of pride for the authority.
SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said the Market-Frankford Line station is now a model for other stations in the system.
“Somerset is our model,” said Richards. “We want all of our stations to look like Somerset.”
The general manager highlighted the station’s turnaround in a testimony at a city council hearing about the city’s efforts in Kensington.
“I don’t know if any GM has ever been able to relay that message before, but I’m telling you I’m proud to be the first,” said Richards.
In late-March the authority closed the station for two weeks after urine and syringes left elevators at the station in severe disrepair. The closure brought attention to the homelessness and drug addiction that plagues Kensington.
Outraged community members rallied against the closure, citing poor communication on SEPTA’s part. Members of local community groups banded together and demanded involvement in the reopening process, calling for transparency and a plan that would ensure the station would not fall back into the disrepair that led to its closure.
Richards and other officials obliged, offering updates and plans for the more than $1 million effort. Two weeks after its closure, SEPTA reopened Somerset with a clean station, without the usual crowds of people gathered at the station with nowhere to go.
While there is a police presence at the station, the authority brought on social workers to address homelessness and addiction.
The authority also plans to introduce a program that would offer paid work to community members as elevator and platform attendants to help keep the station in good condition.
Kensington resident Carlos Miti said he uses the station two to three times a week for trips such as doctor’s appointments or shopping.
He said the station “looks clean,” that “they’re taking care of it,” and that SEPTA police being there is a big help and “way overdue.” However, Miti says the question is how long will it last. He said SEPTA usually maintains these types of changes for a couple of months then it’s over.
But Richards said the authority is working to “make sure that the rest of our system looks like Somerset … that is our goal moving forward.”
“It looks fantastic,” she said. “And we are doing everything we can to keep it that way.”
SEPTA has begun similar work at nearby Allegheny Station. Starting today the authority will close the station overnight from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for deep cleaning and repairs.
WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.
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