PATCO Making Improvements in Wake of Train Evacuation

A week after smoke forced the evacuation of one of their trains in Center City, PATCO officials say they are now making changes to help keep riders safe and informed.

On February 10, a six-car train traveling from Philadelphia to New Jersey was stopped at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge after smoke started to fill two of the cars.

Passengers were left in the dark with little to no information on what was happening before they were then slowly evacuated from the train, a process which took over an hour.

PATCO officials say a short on one of the motors on the train, likely caused by the cold weather, is what led to the smoke.

Officials with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) determined that PATCO was not in violation of any of their requirements during the incident. However, several passengers complained about PATCO's handling of the situation, particularly the evacuation delay, lack of communication, and overcrowded train.

With those complaints in mind, PATCO officials are working to make vast improvements for their customers.

On Monday, PATCO officials told NBC10 they were working to get cell service in their tunnels so that riders could receive emergency message emails as well as access to Twitter and Facebook.

"Communications have been such a big concern," said Andrew Sharpe, a member of the Delaware Valley of Rail Passengers(DVARP). "They were not doing that for the past month and riders definitely feel it."

PATCO is also making the effort to fix the problem of overcrowded trains. Construction on the Ben Franklin Line between 11 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Tuesday causes passengers who are there between those hours to wait longer and pack into fewer trains.

"We were stunned by what we were hearing," Sharpe said. "Monday was a very bad day for PATCO riders. In the morning we had people actually passing out on the trains at the stations because of overcrowded conditions."

Now PATCO officials say they're working to reschedule the construction times to prevent that from happening.

Finally, PATCO officials say they will monitor and respond to what riders are complaining about and reporting on social media.

Of course, talk is one thing, action is another. Sharpe, whose job is to make sure all train riders are treated right, says he will keep a close eye.

"We cannot have these conditions happen again," he said.

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