The air may have warmed up over the last several days but SEPTA is still dealing with residual effects from the recent snowstorm and freezing temperatures that saw about 50 Regional Rail cars out of commission and many delays.
With relatively mild winters the last two years, SEPTA hasn’t had to deal with these issues but snowstorms that drop fluffy snow — and several inches of it — wreak havoc on traction motors.
“The biggest impact is on our equipment,” said Joe Casey, SEPTA general manager. “Some of it doesn’t materialize until a couple of days after.”
Because of the snowfall, temperatures and wind, the traction motors — what moves the axels — short out. The last two weeks, more than 50 cars were taken off the tracks to be repaired. And that’s a big impact on SEPTA’s budget.
“Any time it snows,” Casey said, “it has a significant financial impact.”
It’s not just the cleaning of the platform for safety reasons; some 50 cars had to be repaired so they can get back on the tracks. Mechanics have been working overtime, Casey said, to recover.
Once the old Regional Rail Silverliner IV trains are transitioned to new Silverliner V cars, those weather-related issues should be minimal.
“We’ve always had these problems in the past,” Casey said. “I cringed every time it snowed because of the costs and the traction motor issue. It’s always plagued the authority. Hopefully, eventually, we’ll be able to replace those Silverliners and they won’t be susceptible to these issues.”
Casey just wants to make sure riders are aware of any issues or delays.
"By and large," he said, "I think people understand we have an old system and it's going to take a long time to rebuild it and get modern technology."
Even though preparation is done for winter storms, it's never known to what degree the impact will be.
"Unfortunately, things do happen," Casey said. "Our goal is to get service back to normal as quickly as possible."