SEPTA FY ’22 budget is expected to increase ridership – WHY

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The budget proposed by SEPTA includes many more resources over the next few years for the forklift modernization project compared to previous budgets. Although this down payment is a positive development, the budget still provides for deferring the vast majority of expenditure to this crucial project for years.

The failure to secure the preferred location for a new cart installation demonstrates how dragging its feet to modernize SEPTA’s cart installations puts the entire project at risk. The planners were working on this project for years, with insufficient progress. It is time for the agency to give this project the budgetary and logistical support it deserves.

Although the regional train represents only a small fraction of all SEPTA trips, and ridership come back more slowly than other SEPTA modes, the SEPTA commuter train system continues to operate receive a disproportionate share financing of the capital budget. More worryingly, the investments seem uncoordinated and unrelated to a longer-term vision.

SEPTA Strategic plan recently identified the need for a regional rail master plan that will move the system beyond its suburban rail roots. In the meantime, SEPTA should improve the dismal level of service currently supplied during off-peak hours, enforce tariff parity between the modes of transit at the heart of the system, and invest in capital improvements like boarding upgrades that will immediately increase accessibility and move towards a more efficient operating model in the future.

It is not enough for SEPTA to simply have survived the pandemic. SEPTA’s heroic work providing transit for essential workers during pandemic exposed how much the whole region depends on public transit. But for Philadelphia to prosper, public transit must be more than a “last resort” mode of transportation. Members of the SEPTA board should consider any adjustments they can make to the proposed budget at its June 24 meeting to regain and increase its ridership across the region.

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