Despite SEPTA announcing the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend that a third of the Regional Rail fleet would be out of service, many passengers heading to work after the holiday were dismayed to find trains crowded and operating on a weekend schedule.
Some trains were late Tuesday. Others were so crowded they had to pass stations without picking up new passengers. Some stations were skipped, some trains were mis-directed, and all "quiet ride" cars were suspended.
Frustrated passengers also dealing with intense humidity took to social media to vent about the “ SEPTApocalypse” or “SEPTAgeddon.” As one woman tweeted, “Don't think Septa has to worry about overcrowding because we'll all be a pile of goo by the time the train shows up.”
But that’s just how it’s going to be until SEPTA can figure out how to resolve the flaw that created a crack in the equalizer beams of nearly 120 Silverliner V train cars.
It’s not as simple as just replacing a part on the trains, which are all under warranty, stressed SEPTA General Manager for Operations Ron Hopkins. A fix will require a redesign so that this type of cracking does not form in the future.
“This is about the safety of our riding public,” Hopkins said. “We want to make sure that when we do bring our cars back in, that people know they’re safe. … We have all resources being dedicated to expediting the analysis and fix.”
But Treasurer Joe Coccio of Transit Workers Union Local 234, which represents more than 5,000 SEPTA operators, drivers, cashiers and mechanics, called foul on the entire ordeal, claiming SEPTA knew about the cracks a month ago.
“The motives behind this week’s announcement go beyond safety concerns,” Coccio said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. "SEPTA management has known about this problem for at least a month. … The timing of this particular announcement, we believe, has to do with SEPTA management’s desire to send this work to a low bidder in China.”
Union officials said mechanic members told them they had reported cracks in Regional Rail cars to management at least 30 days ago. But Hopkins denied their claims.
“If you saw the reaction that SEPTA took when we were notified on the Friday before a holiday and took 120 cars out of service within a 24-hour period, I think we would have had a similar reaction if we had been told a month ago,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said cracks in equalizer bars like those found are specifically mentioned in Federal Railroad Administration regulations as requiring that cars be taken out of service.
While he acknowledged SEPTA is currently in a procurement process for new multi-level train cars, like the double-decker cars used by New Jersey Transit, and that Chinese companies are among the bidders, he said that process will last into fall and had no bearing on the Silverliner problem.
“There’s no correlation between this incident and the procurement of the next multi-level cars,” he said.
Hopkins urged passengers again to consider transportation alternatives while the Regional Rail is on a modified Saturday schedule. Free parking is offered at Frankford Transportation Center and AT&T station, which are both about 20 minutes away from Center City by subway.
In the meantime, SEPTA is offering a refund to Trailpass holders, but you must apply by July 7.
If you want to keep using your pass, you can get a credit on a future purchase made before Oct. 10.
Visit SEPTA.org or see below for details on refunds and credits.
-Anyone with a monthly Trailpass for July or a weekly Trailpass for the week of July 4 can get a refund by sending the pass to SEPTA, P.O. Box 58609, Philadelphia, Pa, 19102-8849. SEPTA asks that you write “Silverliner V Pass Refund” on the envelope. Must send in by Thursday, July 7.
You can keep using your pass and get a credit ranging from $5 to $35 depending on the type of pass. You must present the pass when making a future purchase before Oct. 10.
Weekly Regional Rail TrailPass Credits (passes valid the week that began Monday, July 4):
-Zone 1, 2 and Cross-County Weekly TrailPasses: $5 credit
-Zone 3 and Anywhere Weekly TrailPasses: $10 credit
Monthly Regional Rail TrailPass Credits (passes valid July 1-31):
-Zone 1 and Cross-County: $20
-Zone 2: $25
-Zone 3: $30