Ask SEPTA: GM Joe Casey answers your questions

Credit: Metro file photo
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 christina.paciolla@metro.us, who will then forward along your queries.

Ask SEPTA is part of our new column series, which also features political columnist Matthew Turner and lifestyle columnist Kathryn Quigley. The columns run each Monday in our Metro Philadelphia print edition and online.

Question: Despite the recent alarming news of service realignment if the Republicans in Harrisburg don’t pass Senate Bill 1, and we should all take this very seriously, I do have a question in regards to SEPTA’s dedication to provide real-time predictability through Next To Arrive for buses and trolleys. When will SEPTA have a countdown clock at certain bus stops, or provide the data that could be integrated into a mobile app, which displays the amount of minutes until a bus arrives at a given intersection? Anonymous

Joe Casey: SEPTA provides real-time, or near real-time, data for buses and trolleys on our website, as well as via an API which can be utilized by third-party developers for no cost at all. This data provides the location of the vehicle when last polled and allows our riders to reasonably estimate the arrival of its vehicle.

However, due to the age and limitation of our current infrastructure, we can only poll our vehicles’ locations every three minutes, which is not frequent enough to provide accurate count-down estimates. We’ve tested various prediction systems and have found that they do not provide reliable estimates, again due to the frequency of the polling cycle.

Q: Do SEPTA trains or buses have smoke detectors? I was on the El train and one of the passengers was smoking. Is the no smoking policy enforced? Rhonda Harrison, West Oak Lane

Casey:

Most SEPTA vehicles, such as our Silverliner V trains, buses and the Market-Frankford Line cars, have detection equipment for fires and/or fire-related smoke, but are not equipped with detectors for cigarette smoke.

SEPTA employees may request someone smoking in a prohibited area  to extinguish their cigarette; however, the smoking policy is enforced by the Transit Police.

Smoking on a SEPTA vehicle is punishable by up to a $300 fine.

Q: Why does the express schedule for the El start with a B train and not an A? Mandy David, Olde Kensington

Casey: The purpose of the A and B trains on the Market Frankford Line (EL) is to help speed our customers’ rides during the rush morning and evening hour to and from Center City.

They are limited stop trains, both stopping at heavily utilized stations while alternately stopping at less utilized stations according to data collected through ridership analysis.

If you board at FTC, the express service begins with a B train; however, if you board at the 69th Street Transportation Center, the express service begins with an A.

This helps to balance out the service between the two directions.

Send your questions about SEPTA services and other issues about the transit agency to christina.paciolla@metro.us. They will be forwarded to Joe Casey, who will answer them in a special column here.

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Follow City Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter: @cpaciolla
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