The pandemic eviscerated the Philadelphia region’s commuter rail business model. Its long-term orientation toward serving suburban white-collar commuters has completely jumped the tracks. In its wake, SEPTA is scrambling to find its way forward, writes Jake Blumgart for Governing.
Currently, commuter rail lines are a boutique service. It is a transportation network devoid many options on weekends or weekday non-peak commuting periods.
The pandemic and it work-at-home mandates has forced a strategic rethink of SEPTA’s traditional focus. Long-term vision from the transit system must account for the likelihood that core-demographic riders may be gone for good.
To compensate, SEPTA is considering increasing the frequency of trains during non-peak hours.
A report recently released by the city of Philadelphia advocates for a subway-style service that runs every 15 minutes throughout the day.
The cost of such an operation is admittedly a major obstacle for rail operators. However, SEPTA already has electric train lines, which would save the transit authority a significant portion of expenses.
Still, the cost remains high and will most likely require significant cuts in personnel to bring it down to sustainable levels.
Read more about SEPTA’s future at Governing.