Post-Pandemic SEPTA: Regional Rail Needs a Get-Moving Kick in the Caboose

SEPTA Regional Rail service post-pandemic
Image via Simon at Creative Commons.

As Philadelphia and its suburbs reawaken after a pandemic-induced slumber, SEPTA continues to lag behind. The regional rail system is specifically behind in its return to normalcy, writes David Murrell for Philadelphia Magazine.

While the transportation agency has brought back a bulk of its services, some notable gaps remain. They includes the rail options, which are nowhere near pre-pandemic service levels.

Currently, the Cynwyd Regional Rail line sits dormant, and the Chestnut Hill West line provides no weekend service. Meanwhile, the Main Line Paoli-Thorndale connector runs only every two hours on weekends.

The slower return of commuters, many of whom still work remotely, accounts for much of the rail service scale-down. Regional Rail ridership, bringing commuters from the distant suburbs to Philadelphia, is down to just 20 percent of what it was 16 months ago.

Surface lines, however, those typically shorter rides on inner-city trolley and bus routes, are back to 90 percent of usual services.

According to SEPTA’s latest $1.5 million operating budget, the transportation agency plans to bring back many — but not all — of its routes. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic is a distant memory, perhaps as much as 20 percent of pre-pandemic Regional Rail service will be permanently mothballed.

Read more about SEPTA in Philadelphia Magazine.

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