US Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) appeared with the head of SEPTA under the arch of 30th Street Station, promising to push for more federal funding for mass transit. His effort comes with the news the Commonwealth has stalled on some of SEPTA’s most urgent financial concerns.
After SEPTA outlined a doomsday budget last week that includes cutting nine of 13 regional rail lines to pay for capital projects the agency needs to complete, Casey pledged to start talking with Washington lawmakers about the next transportation funding package.
The current congressional transportation spending bill expires next fall. And additional state funding has been held up in the State House since the summer.
“We need to work now to plan for the kind of capital needs that SEPTA and other public transit departments across the country are going to need in the future,” said Casey.
“If we do the planning now, and we put in place a bipartisan agreement early enough, we’ll provide a measure of certainty so that SEPTA can begin to plan and build toward the future,” said Pennsylvania’s senior Senator.
SEPTA General Mgr. Joe Casey said the region faces a transportation-funding crisis and requires action at all levels of government.
SEPTA lists its urgent needs as replacing aging rail cars and repairs to tracks and bridges.
Without an infusion of funding for SEPTA’s backlog of critical repair projects, the Authority will have to significantly shrink the transit system over the next 10 years, including major reductions in rail service, Casey stated recently at a Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee hearing at Temple University.
Fiscal Year 2014, which began Jul. 1, 2013, represents the fourth consecutive year of reduced capital funding from the state, and the lowest level of capital funding for SEPTA in 15 years. At the same time, SEPTA has seen overall ridership hit its highest levels in over two decades, including an all-time high on Regional Rail last year.
To continue safe and reliable operations, SEPTA will have to implement a Service Realignment Plan that the Authority expects to leave 89,000 daily riders – or 40.7 million annually – without rail service. This is due to the critical, immediate need to modernize SEPTA’s rail network, such as replacement of bridges that date back 100 years or more and purchasing new Regional Rail cars, subway cars and trolleys to replace vehicles that already date back 30 years or more and are well beyond their useful service life.
Without an increase in state funding for infrastructure improvements and new vehicles, SEPTA anticipates having to reduce the size and scope of the rail network over the next 10 years by: Eliminating service on nine of 13 Regional Rail Lines, including Cynwyd in 2014, Media/Elwyn in 2015, and Chestnut Hill West in 2018, followed West Trenton, Airport, Warminster, Wilmington/Newark, Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill East lines in 2023;
Truncating service on the Lansdale/Doylestown Line (2018) and Paoli/Thorndale Line (2023);
Suspending service on the Broad-Ridge Spur of the Broad Street Line and eliminating all express service on the Broad Street Line;
Converting all city and suburban trolley routes to bus, and truncating service on the Norristown High Speed Line.
Casey and SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. detailed these needs and the impact of these pending transit cuts in a letter sent earlier this week to state Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch. In the letter, SEPTA detailed the $6.5 billion needed over the next 10 years to address the transit system’s state of good repair needs. The letter also noted the impact of shrinking SEPTA on regional and state transportation as a whole, as vehicles are added to roadways, increasing both traffic congestion and roadway maintenance costs.