Ask SEPTA: Joe Casey answers your questions about the end of tokens, return of the larger Route 14 buses, and Broad Street Line service

SEPTA SEPTA GM Joe Casey answers readers questions about the lifecycle of the token system. Credit: Rikard Larma.

Every three weeks, SEPTA general manager Joe Casey will address public transit questions submitted by Metro Philadelphia readers. Anything from frequency of trains to funding to cleanliness and more is fair game. Ask Casey whatever you like by emailing City Editor Christina Paciolla at [email protected], who will then forward along your queries.

Question #1 – When will SEPTA stop using tokens? Lamont McManus

Joe Casey – SEPTA has a contract with Xerox to implement a new contactless fare instrument system. Pilot testing of the system will start at the end of this year. Once we determine that the pilot is a success, the public launch will begin. We will encourage our customers to move to the new fare instruments and passengers using a SEPTA smartcard with stored value will travel on transit at the discounted token and transfer fare rates. After a significant percentage of our passengers have electronic fare cards in hand, we will start to reduce the availability and sale of tokens.We will continue to accept tokens until the new fare system is fully tested and installed on all surface vehicles and all the turnstiles and fare dispensing machines have been replaced on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines. We will give our customers plenty of advanced notice regarding when they will no longer be able to use tokens to pay their fare.

Question #2 – Why did SEPTA remove the 60-foot articulated buses from most Route 14 weekend trips, which now have severely overcrowded 40-foot buses with many standees? Nikola Sizgorich

Joe Casey – SEPTA’s fleet of articulated buses is aging. In order to assure reliability on Route 14 weekend service, articulated vehicles are presently assigned to weekend trips with the highest ridership. The good news is that a new fleet of articulated buses should begin to arrive shortly to replace the older ones. Once they arrive, we plan are to restore Route 14 service to 100% articulated bus operation.

Question #3 – The Broad street line runs fine between Walnut and Olney, but between Olney and Fernrock TC, the trains take a long time to reach FernrockTC.

Joe Casey – The Broad Street Line operates Local, Express and Ridge Spur Service. During the weekdays the Local and Express trains originate out of Fern Rock Station every 3 minutes during peak hours. The scheduled running time for a local train from Walnut Locust to Fern Rock is 23 minutes which includes 4 minutes running time from Olney to Fern Rock. As northbound trains leave Olney Station they must all merge through a series of complex switches and eight “traffic” signals which govern the safe movement of trains back into Fern Rock Station in anticipation for their next southbound trip out of Fern Rock 3 minutes after their arrival. The train may stop momentarily based on the displayed signal as it leaves Olney as it waits for trains ahead to depart the station to safely berth the train. Our Dispatch technology allows us to monitor and track every train movement and 15 minute delays are not common occurrences at Olney or anywhere along the Broad Street line. Many incidents such as equipment failures, signal or power problems or police activity could cause such a delay but the trains on the BSS are on time more than 97% of the time.