Ask SEPTA: Joe Casey answers your questions on unruly passengers, tokens, subway interior

A 20-year-old man reportedly was texting his friend when he was struck and killed by a SEPTA train in Abington on Monday. Credit: Metro file photo A 20-year-old man reportedly was texting his friend when he was struck and killed by a SEPTA train in Abington on Monday.
Credit: Metro file photo

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: What is the tall (about 6 ft. high) metal post wrapped with a garbage bag material doing at University City station? It is located near the bottom of the stairs near the South St. bridge and has been that way for months. Can it be unwrapped? Can it be removed? Mike Cradler

Joe Casey: The tall metal post at University City Station near the South Street bridge is a Customer Assistance Phone. They are being installed at future NPT fareline locations at the five Center City Regional Railroad stations. Customers will be able to use the phone to ask questions about their smart cards or fare equipment. The Customer Assistance Phones will be unwrapped, staffed and put into service once the our new Central Zone Office is staffed which is expected to occur by the beginning of next year.

Question #2: I have often wondered why the bus drivers won’t ask passengers to move back. So many times, I have had buses pass me by because the front of the bus is jam-packed with people standing, yet the back is sometimes so empty there are even seats available. Jean DeBellis

Casey: All operators are instructed to remind passengers to stand behind the yellow line, move toward the back of the bus and exit via the center doors. We are aware that not all passengers wish to move back, and some passengers requiring the use of the kneeler/ramp often will remain in the front of the bus to make their exit from the bus more manageable. Operators are instructed to exercise patience and conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times especially when giving instruction to our passengers. For their safety, operators are trained not to be confrontational and to report repeat offenders to their supervisor. SEPTA will be initiating the next phase of its Passenger Etiquette Campaign in Fall 2014 and this and other courtesy issues will be addressed.

Question #3: Over the years, prior to becoming a senior citizen, I have amassed a cache of Septa tokens. Due to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Lottery, I can ride all of SEPTA’s vehicles free of charge with the exception of the their railroad. I am still employed and use the railroad five to six times a week. Will SEPTA permit “cashing-in” these tokens and applying their worth to a smart card when they become available or do I have to take a monetary loss? Anthony Parone

Casey:With the transition to the SEPTA smart card, customers will continue to be able to insert tokens into the Fare Kiosks located at the Subway/Elevated rail stations and obtain a quick trip media ticket. In addition, tokens will continue to be accepted on buses and trolleys during the initial roll-out of the smart card. SEPTA will provide our customers with advanced notice regarding when tokens will no longer be sold or used to pay their fare.

Question #4:I have noticed recently that fewer deadbeats are getting kicked off the regional rails and it disturbs me greatly. I pay each month for my Trailpass. Why is it that deadbeats and con artists who board the trains knowing they have no way of paying the fare are allowed to ride for free? Chas Chad

Casey: SEPTA Regional Rail conductors diligently attempts to collect all fares. Situations do arise where a passenger either does not have the ability to pay their fare or they refuse to pay it. In these instances, conductors are asked to evaluate the situation and take appropriate action. If a rider legitimately cannot pay a fare due to not having the means to do so, the conductor will let the passenger continue to ride, but will issue the passenger a form that is to be completed and returned to SEPTA with the proper fare. In the case of a passenger that refuses to pay a fare, the conductor will put the passenger off the train at the next stop. Conductors are urged to use discretion in these situations, before they remove someone from a train. However, they also are trained to do everything within reason to collect all fares.

Question #5:When will the interior of SEPTA subway stations be upgraded so it’s pleasant for people to be there? Right now, black walls and dark ceilings create a very depressing environment. Perhaps, a special lighting and a touch of art would be a solution that does not require a lot of money to spend? Oleg Bulshteyn

Casey: Most of our subway stations do have lighter colored ceilings and walls, except for the track area where we often run a dark color up to mid-height of the wall. It would be labor intensive to have brightly painted track area walls due to the constant need to clean them. We have been experimenting with brightly colored plastic panels in the track area that we could clean and maintain easier than paint and hope that this will achieve a more appealing station atmosphere.