Ask SEPTA: GM Joe Casey answers your questions on plastic seats, MARC tickets, accordion buses

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.

Q: Would it be possible to run the longer accordion style buses on the #23 Germantown Ave. line instead of the smaller traditional transit buses which aren’t capable of handling the large volume of riders? Hassan Rida, Germantown

Joe Casey: Since there are a limited number of “accordion style” articulated buses in the SEPTA fleet (approximately 10 percent), SEPTA presently assigns them to routes with the heaviest consistent ridership throughout the day. We are currently in the process of replacing all of our 155 articulated buses. We are analyzing bus ridership to determine, contingent on funding, if we need to purchase an additional 25 to 30 units. Ridership figures for several routes, including Route 23, are under review.

Q: During the recession, I commuted to D.C. to work. Our MARC tickets were transferable on two Amtrak trains in the morning and three in the evening. Our monthly and weekly regional rail tickets enabled us to ride the buses with no extra charge. When will SEPTA become more commuter-friendly? Darlene Jennings

Casey: A cross honoring agreement such as the one between MARC and Amtrak is typically entered into when the local transit agency is experiencing capacity issues and has insufficient train cars to handle demand. To ease passenger overcrowding, a local agency may request that Amtrak accept its passengers at select stations where Amtrak also provides service. The local agency compensates Amtrak for this supplemental service. In this region, the only stations served by both Amtrak and SEPTA are Trenton, Wilmington and a few stations on the Thorndale Line. SEPTA provides frequent service to these locations and is not experiencing the capacity constraints previously mentioned. Presently, a cross honor agreement exists between SEPTA and Amtrak to provide transportation, at no additional cost, for Amtrak customers traveling on Regional Rail to/from 30th Street Station, Suburban Station and Market East Station.

Is it possible to change out the El’s nasty fabric-covered seats for easily wiped-down plastic seats like on the BSL? Melissa Barrow, East Passyunk

Casey: The current seats on our Market-Frankford Line cars are inserts are made of a polyester blend. The cars and seats are housecleaned every day and detailed twice a month. If the seats or seat backs are soiled and cannot be brought up to standard, the seat insert is exchanged with a refurbished unit. I’m pleased to report that prototype composite plastic inserts – similar to the Broad Street Line’s orange seats – are expected to be delivered in late November. The prototypes will be tested for “fit, form, color and function.” If testing is satisfactory, over the next few years we will install the new plastic seating in all of the MFL cars until the entire fleet is completed.

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 monthly column here.


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