Ask SEPTA: Addressing Regional Rail frustrations

Free rides start on Regional Rail for SEPTA Key-toting seniors
Charles Mostoller

I have been a regional rail passenger to Center City Philadelphia since 1986, and live on the Warminster line. There is a huge frustration level with the 2450 6:16 pm train from Suburban Station to Warminster by all the regular riders. It is late arriving to Suburban every single day and that is not an exaggeration. The conductors never have any explanation for why it is so late every day. I have missed or been late for my orthodontist appointments, board meetings, dinner plans, etc. This is unacceptable. Once a month late is one thing, daily is another. Please advise.

Jeffrey Knueppel:Recently, performance on all our Regional Rail lines has been below acceptable benchmarks. SEPTA has reviewed the service of our lower performing trains and we will be making schedule adjustments effective Dec. 13 to improve our reliability.

We have looked into the recent on-time performanceof Train #2450; our on-time performance committee hasanalyzed its performanceand found that it is being delayed on an earlier trip coming from Wilmington. There are a number of trains which operate on different branch lines which can result in service issues. SEPTA is currently working on making changes to Regional Rail schedules for the new December 2015 schedules, with one of the focus areas being the Warminster Line trains.Weappreciate your patience while SEPTAmakes these adjustments.

Given that NPT [New Payment Technology, recently named SEPTA Key] for the Regional Rail system is at least a couple of years in the future, why can’t SEPTA make some temporary adjustments to its fare policies so they’re less complicated and more equitable? In particular, it makes no sense to impose a surcharge on riders who are forced to pay onboard due to a lack of both vending machines and sales offices. This is an especially serious issue at the airport where arriving passengers are making one-way trips and can’t possibly buy tickets in advance from another station. It’s also a political problem; every time I’ve used the Airport Line I hearcomplaints from visitors about being forced to pay extra. Is this really the first impression that our city’s guests should have?

JK:One of the major goals of SEPTA Key, our new payment system, is to simplify our fare structure and make it more customer friendly.

As we work toward implementation,we have endeavored to make uniformfare policies for bothtransitand Regional Rail operations. Transit operations have generallyhad a higher on-board cash farethan pre-purchased fare instruments.This policy has operational benefits in that it reduces on-board cash collected, speeds boarding timeand yields more efficient collection. Regional Rail operations have adopted this policy for similar reasons – and to encourageriders to avail themselves of thelower cost of pre-purchased fares.

The Regional Rail fare credit was established as a method for customers who are unable to purchase in advance to get a refund of the on-board fare differential. As the Airport Line serves both airport employees and travelers, fare collection presents a uniquechallenge. We will review your suggestions and determine if any short-term changes can be made to fare policy on this line prior to NPT implementation.

There’s issues with the Route 50 bus #20423. It’s late or doesn’t show up. When we try to get on the 50 coming from Parx Casino, the driver has an attitude about picking us up.

JK: We understand your frustration that the bus has been late on various occasions. We have researched the performance ofthe Route 50 bus and this specific stop location; our review indicates that congested traffic conditions are impacting the route’s performance. As a reminder, this particular trip boards on the opposite side of the street in order to provide additional service to businesses located at Red Lion and Decatur Road. We have made the route supervisor aware of your concerns. We have asked him to make sure that bus operators communicate with passengers, and stressed the importance of customer service. We will continue tomonitor the route’s performance and determine if adjustments are required.

What is wrong with the West Trenton Line? It cannot seem to get to Suburban Station on time on any given workday Mondaythrough Friday. Wecansend man to the moon but the West Trenton line cannot get to Suburban Station on time for its customers to get to their jobs.

JK:We have looked into the recent on-time performance of Train #6327 and understand your frustration that the service performancehas not been up to our standards.

SEPTA has constructedan additional track and put into place Positive Train Control (PTC) signal upgradeson the north end of the West Trenton Line to separate passenger and rail freight operations between the Woodbourne and West Trenton stations.

This segment of the West Trenton line is owned by CSX and had seen a significant increase in freight traffic. The additional rail traffic led to congestion and delays, particularly during commuter rush hours resulting in the need for upgrades to the infrastructure. Initial schedule changes were madeto address the construction relatedschedule issues but have not achieved the desired level of service reliability.

With construction impacts coming to an end,SEPTAwill make additional schedule changeson Nov. 9for the West Trenton Line as wework towards to improving the on-time performance. We will closely monitor operations on the line after the schedule change to determine its impact on performance.