New Jersey

Amid Train Shortage, SEPTA Commuters Pack Onto Trains That Skip Stops

What to Know

  • SEPTA is operating fewer trains due to structural issues on some of its fleet.
  • Problems could return for the afternoon commute.

John Lee left an hour early from his house in Hopewell, New Jersey, to make sure he got into work on time.

"I don't know what to expect," he said standing in the mugginess at West Trenton Station in Ewing, waiting for the 7:02 in to Center City.

He wasn't going to get jammed up on the first day of what SEPTA expects to be a long summer for its riders. The transit agency took one third of its train car fleet offline this past weekend for a structural problem. It won't be until late summer at the earliest that those train cars are back in service. Officials warned of standing-room only rides -- and recommended alternative commutes if possible through at least the end of August. [[385529711, C]]

"I hope it works out for everyone," said Lee, who works for a health care technology company called IntegriChain.

Lee has been riding the train into Center City since Jan. 2015, when IntegriChain relocated from Princeton.

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"I haven't had anything like this he," he said. "It's a longer commute. (But) I like the train. Get to sit down, open the computer." [[385535831, C]]

Compared to his days a few years ago riding NJ Transit into New York City, however, he said SEPTA requires a bit more patience.

"That was more like clockwork," he said of NJ Transit. "This is a bit more of a soft schedule."

By Somerton Station, which is about a third of the ride into Center City along the West Trenton Line, the train was packed.

A rider smiled at the conductor and said, "Here we go. Are you ready?"

"I had my coffee this morning. I'm ready," the veteran conductor said.

By the Forest Hills Station -- not even halfway into the journey to 30th Street Station -- SEPTA made the decision to go express and bypass a slew of Montgomery County stations including Philmont, Bethayres, Meadowbrook, Rydal, Noble, Elkins Park, Melrose Park and the busy Jenkintown stop. [[385531311, C]]

In Jenkintown, where commuters watched seemingly every other train ride past their platform inbound for Center City, a senior operations planner, Tom Philip, acted as guide.

"It's a tough time, but we'll get through it," said Philip, who normally works out of SEPTA headquarters at 1234 Market St. "We're still in the middle of the rush."

And it's only day one. Philip and other officials are manning many of the stations for the rest of the week, trying to alleviate anxiety for the first few rush hours.

Inbound Doylestown, Norristown & Airport trains also skipped stops from Montgomery County stations to Temple University or Center City due to overcrowding.

By 8:35, the last train to pass without stopping was gone. In the next 15 minutes, three trains stopped at Jenkintown to pick up passengers.

The time for standing -- or getting bypassed altogether -- was over.

Jean Taylor, of Elkins Park, ironically missed a couple opportunities to get on a train when shortly after 8:30 two trains came within minutes of each other and stopped for passengers at Jenkintown.

"I was in my car and missed the first one, so I thought there wouldn't be another one since it's running on a Saturday schedule," Taylor, who commutes daily into Center City, said as she waited on the platform shortly before 9 a.m. "I tried to get over here in time, but I didn't make it."

Taylor said she considered going to Fern Rock Transportation Center and catching the Market-Frankford elevated line, but chose Jenkintown instead. Her other options were Elkins Park and Melrose Park, but both stops are serviced by fewer trains than Jenkintown.

"I guess I didn't have it too bad," she said, as she boarded a 9:03 train with ample seating.

SEPTA is tweeting about delays and changes to its routes.

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