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SEPTA Adds Extra Overnight Subway Service on Labor Day

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    NEWSLETTERS

    SEPTA is adding another round of overnight train service Labor Day despite the staggering cost of running the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines each weekend.

    "There will be an extra night of overnight service for Labor Day, Sunday into Monday," said Manny Smith, a SEPTA spokesman.

    The cost to operate the trains, which run every 20 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, is approximately $47,000 per weekend, Smith said. 

    In comparison, SEPTA spent about $13,000 for the Nite Owl bus service to cover the same time periods, he said.

    The price tag includes staffing, security, maintenance and power costs, and train service warrants more of all those items, Smith said.

    Since the program began June 15, about 14,000 passengers on average use the overnight train service each weekend -- nearly 5,000 more than the Nite Owl buses, according to SEPTA's initial analysis. 

    Ridership peaked at 24,000 during the July 4th holiday weekend.

    Data from the pilot program's first month shows most riders board between midnight and 3 a.m. at stops near nightlife like Girard Avenue, 2nd Street, 13th Street and 40th Street on the Market-Frankford Line and AT&T Station, Walnut-Locust and Lombard-South on the Broad Street Line.

    But the increased ridership has not offset the additional cost.

    "The overnight service has so far been pretty popular among riders who already use SEPTA," Smith said.

    To put a dent into the extra expenses, SEPTA needs people who normally take taxis or other modes of transportation home to hop on the train, which has not been the case so far.

    "There hasn't been any significant difference in drivers' earnings since SEPTA starting running the 24-hour [weekend] subway line," said Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania. "From what drivers have been telling me, it's been pretty much the same."

    SEPTA will determine the future of overnight service on the Broad and Market-Frankford lines after the pilot ends Nov. 2.

    Initially the pilot program was set to end Labor Day, but SEPTA extended the program so it could account for riders who are away in the summer months. 

    "We really want to see how students and other residents in the area find the service to be once they return to their normal patterns," he said.

    Even if the dollars do not work in SEPTA's favor, there is still a possibility weekend overnight train service will continue.

    "SEPTA isn't necessarily in the business of making a profit," he added. "We are a public service agency."


    Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.