Ask SEPTA: GM Joe Casey answers your questions on communications systems, infrastructure, paint jobs

Ask SEPTA

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: Seeing as the Kawasaki trolleys in the city are retrofitted with interior destination announcements and exterior announcements, and it looks like the Suburban trolleys have been too….are the announcements ever going to be activated on the Suburban trolleys? Also, will the Route 15 trolleys ever have interior destination and exterior announcements? Lastly, will the NHSL cars ever have interior & exterior announcements? -Lorenzo, Cheyney University

Joe Casey: SEPTA continues to enhance passenger information systems on our various fleets. All of the trolleys serving Southwest Philadelphia Routes 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36 have been upgraded with the capability to make automatic destination announcement both interior and exterior and an upgrade is currently in process for the Routes 101/102 suburban trolleys. With the influx of funding recently approved by the state of Pennsylvania, SEPTA will be able to eventually replace its entire trolley fleet. The new trolleys, including the ones used on the Route 15, will have state of the art communication systems installed. We are also evaluating our NHSL fleet and upgrades to the cars’ communications systems may be included in future overhaul programs.

Question: The new capital improvement plan includes the purchase of new trolleys/streetcars for the routes 10, 11, 13, 15, 34, 36, and 101/102, along with infrastructure improvements. There is no mention of trolleys or infrastructure improvements for the Routes 23 and 56. They were supposed to have returned in 1997. So, 17 years later, now that the funding outlook is more clear, how come they were not added to the capital improvement plan? Erie & Torresdale Avenues are still mostly track, along with Germantown Avenue and 11th and 12th Streets. I would hope these routes return and that the promise of a return was not an empty one. If not, all of the track should be ripped up to spare people’s tires and suspensions on their cars. -Terrill, North Philadelphia

Casey: The Authority has a backlog of $5 billion worth of critical repair needs.The Authority’s ‘Catching Up’ Capital Plan provides for the acquisition of new accessible light rail vehicles (trolleys) for the Subway-Surface routes and Route 15 Girard Avenue trolley and Media/Sharon Hill trolleys to replace the existing trolleys which were acquired over 30 years ago and the historical PCC trolleys. In addition, infrastructure improvements will be made to aging facilities. Restoration of trolleys on the route 23 and 56 is not part of the capital improvement plan. The Authority must continue to focus on those improvements which are required to bring existing assets to a state-of-good repair. It’s a matter of priorities and we simply cannot address all the system’s current needs, including system conversions and expansions.

Question: Every once in a blue moon, transit companies update their paint jobs so their vehicles can have a different appearance to the public. The NABI buses arrived in 1996 with the current scheme (minus the cool black stripe that should have stayed). It’s been 18 years. Is there gonna be any new schemes for SEPTA buses, trolleys and the NHSL anytime soon? Raymond T.L. Phillips, West Oak Lane

Casey: The appearance of our vehicles – the colors, striping, use of the SEPTA logo are all part of our corporate branding program. This identifying branding also appear in stations, transportation centers, our website and other critical customer information resources. Making our multi-modal transit services recognizable for regular riders and new customers is important to sustain our ridership building efforts. With some 2800 vehicles, 280 stations, and almost 30,000 transit stops, changing the SEPTA brand would be an extensive and expensive undertaking. We prefer to allocate our resources to upgrade the vehicle fleet and modernize stations and facilities for our customers. Consequently, there are no plans to change the SEPTA’s current color scheme for our vehicles.


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