Victoria Paul only has two hands. So when she's about to jump onto SEPTA, one hand is used to get out her transit card, and sometimes the other is used to cover her nose.
"Just like puddles of, I don't know if it's pee or whatever, but like coming into it, I have to hold my breath," Paul says of liquid she often encounters at stations or in tunnels.
One out of two SEPTA riders who took a survey conducted by NBC10 Investigators answered that the transit agency is "not so attentive" or "not at all attentive" to cleanliness on its expansive multi-county system of trains, buses and trolleys.
Only 13% who answered the survey believe SEPTA is "very attentive."
It's not that SEPTA isn't trying. The transit agency gave NBC10 a ride-along look at its cleaning and maintenance operations.
The job isn't easy, said Chrystalle Cooper, the agency's chief officer for the Broad Street Subway and Market-Frankford Elevated lines.
"This is one of our challenging areas," she said while touring stations and underground pedestrian tunnels recently.
Cooper added that it's not your typical trash collection. "It can be dangerous. And that's why our employees have biohazard training."
Hundreds of riders took NBC10's 18-question poll conducted through Survey Monkey and promoted through social media.
The questions probed riders' feelings on major issues including cleanliness, safety and the ongoing implementation of the Key card across SEPTA's transit system. (The full survey and responses appear at the bottom of this story.)
In addition to its cleaning program, SEPTA officials took NBC10 on tours of its daily homeless outreach efforts and public safety procedures.
The Key rollout, which has taken years and ramped up in the last year to include 1.5 million cards to riders, was not given high ratings by survey takers. However, commuters did positively respond to a question about using the new transit card.
"I think change is always difficult," Deputy General Manager, Rich Burnfield, a decadeslong employee of SEPTA, said in an interview. "This is the only SEPTA project that impacts all of our customers."
Key card use continues to grow by the month, with all riders of Regional Rail expected to use the Key by late summer or early fall 2020, officials have said.
Still, there are subway, trolley and bus riders who still buy rides with cash. Even tokens, which are no longer sold, still are used by some riders.
Here is part 1 in the series:
Here is part 2 in the series:
Here is part 3 in the series: