Ask SEPTA: GM Joe Casey answers your questions on quiet cars, El safety, 30th street tunnel

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: Will the Broad Street Subway ever get new LED destination signs for the exterior and stop destination signs for the interior to comply with ADA? It has announcements already, so I just wondering if SEPTA would ever do this before we get new trains. Raymond T.L. Phillips, West Oak Lane

Joe Casey: The ADA requires that our vehicles be equipped with a public address system permitting transportation personnel, or recorded voice messages to announce station stops. To meet this requirement, an automatic station announcement system was added to the 1980s vintage Broad Street Line subway cars. Additional methods, including the feasibility of retrofitting LED destination signs are currently being evaluated. The advanced age of the fleet and the cost of investment would likely dictate that this amenity wait until the Broad Street cars are replaced.

Q: My question has to with safety while riding the El. Is it possible to have more transit police going through the El? There have been more and more people walking up and down asking for money and it’s very uncomfortable because they are in our faces and we have nowhere to go! My mother has also had her phone stolen right out of her hands while on her way home. If there was more of a presence, this would be less likely to happen. Joy Soto

Casey: A uniformed presence provides a temporary deterrent. The Transit Police have been focusing on addressing behavior that improves the quality of your ride. During the first nine months of 2013, they increased the number of citations issued for panhandling, smoking, harassment and similar types of crimes by 274 percent. Some of the tactics being used include the deployment of plainclothes police officers to help capture offenders while they are engaging in the criminal act. The new strategies of the Transit Police have helped reduce robberies, thefts, assaults and other serious crimes by 21 percent on the subway and elevated trains. Soon, passengers will be able to notify the Transit Police via texting of problems occurring on the system in a more timely fashion so that the police can intercept the offenders.

Q: Why doesn’t SEPTA re-open the underground tunnel between 30th Street Station and the Market-Frankford subway station next to 30th Street? It’s been closed for years, and currently, people have to leave 30th Street Station, dodging traffic, and walk outside in all sorts of weather to reach the subway stopLinda Walters-Page

Casey: The tunnel was closed approximately 10 years ago due to customer safety concerns. Even with surveillance cameras, the winding length of the tunnel with its blind corners and its depth, three levels down, would make it difficult to ensure the security of those walking through the passageway. In addition to these safety and security issues, capital costs in the range of $5 to $7 million would have to be invested to refinish walls & ceilings, redo stairs, signage and establish a new head-end within the Amtrak station. We would also be required to install elevators to ensure that the tunnel was ADA compliant. It is, therefore, unlikely that the tunnel will ever be re-opened.

Q: The train car entry points on the regional rail platforms are different for the old train cars versus the new cars. Is there a way to designate “old” vs “new” on the train status monitors so passengers know where to stand and don’t have shuffle around at the last second to board? Maybe you could use different colors on the train number or an asterisk so passengers which type of train is coming? Keith R. Philadelphia

Casey: It would be nice to be able to inform our customers what type of train car so they can try to determine the train car entry points and form an orderly line. However, there are too many variables that make this type of capability impossible. The technology used to produce the digital signage at stations would need to be modified at a significant cost. Also, not all trains, whether old or new, stop at the exact precise location every time, close but not 100%.

Q: The quiet ride car is a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, every day, non-regular passengers board the first car with no clue that it is the quiet ride car. Many conductors do not make the announcement or fail to enforce the quiet car rules. I believe there should be a large, obvious sign over the OUTSIDE entrance of the quiet ride car so passengers know about before they board and they can move to the second car if they want to talk or use their cell phones. The currents signs inside the car are small and not well noticed. What do you think? Keith R. Philadelphia

Casey: SEPTA’s Quiet Ride car policy has been positively embraced by our riders. It provides that serene, relaxing environment that many riders seek. And while most riders recognize and adhere to our Quiet Ride car policies, I agree that there are the occasional riders who either knowingly or unknowingly violate those policies. In order to address that, all SEPTA conductors are instructed to make clear and frequent announcements explaining the policy and identifying which car is the designated Quiet Ride car on that particular train. In addition, as you have pointed out, there is signage on all cars, explaining the Quiet Ride policy and how it works. Unfortunately, we cannot simply designate a particular car as a permanent Quiet Ride car, because there is no guarantee that the car will end up being the first car in a train. The train configuration or consist is determined at the yard. With respect to installing a sign on the outside of the cars, our policy is that, with the exception of train destination signs, we do not place temporary signage on the outside of our cars. This is done in order to retain the outside shells clear of all possible obstructions as they go through their cleaning and vehicle maintenance cycles.

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.

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow City Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter: @cpaciolla

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