Digging Into SEPTA’s Problems

Philadelphia’s transit agency faces some structural challenges as it struggles to reorganize its services and bring back ridership.

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January 22, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


SEPTA bus stopped in front of Independence Hall, Phialdelphia, Pennsylvania

DuskyJay / SEPTA Bus

At a hearing on Monday, Philadelphia’s city council will discuss the proposed changes to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) bus routes, which manages public transit in the city and beyond. Matt Sullivan reports on the story for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to Sullivan, “Much of what is possible is going to depend on developing and funding bold plans to increase SEPTA’s ridership, and that means pressing for improvements systemwide.” Beyond bus route adjustments, “it’s crucial that agency management reexamine its professional standards for outside contractors, become a better partner with its own workforce, and firm up its shaky commitment to transit equity.” Sullivan describes the agency’s troubled partnership with its Key Card contractor, as well as its history of labor disputes. “Just as the agency should be pressed to do better by riders, it should be pressed to do better by its workforce,” Sullivan writes.

Additionally, “SEPTA management must commit itself fully to transit equity, ensuring all communities have access to great public transport that gets them where they need to go.” Sullivan suggests starting with an end to transfer fees, which impact low-income riders the most. “It’s no mystery which transit riders live in West Philly, North Philly, and along Kensington Avenue, and the Pew study makes it clear that the fare structure amounts to de facto discrimination.”

Friday, January 20, 2023 in The Philadelphia Inquirer

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