SEPTA Sets Regional Rail Ridership Record

Good news and bad news for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Today, SEPTA officials announced Regional Rail ridership has hit a record -- 36,023,000 trips by customers during Fiscal Year 2013, or from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. The 36 million trips represents a 2.2 percent increase.  

"The problem is that although ridership is at its highest point, funding is at its lowest," said Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for SEPTA. "There's a $5 billion backlog of capital projects."

The wear and tear put on the Regional Rail system as a result of the additional ridership must be addressed at some point, according to Williams.

SEPTA officials say improvements are needed on the rails, such as repair and upgrades to the wires, equipment, vehicles and substations, all of which powers the Regional Rail. There's a concern if those issues aren't addressed, losses could be experienced in the future.  

SEPTA's capital budget is projected to stay at about $300 million for the fourth consecutive year due to the decrease in state funding. 

"The region has come to rely on SEPTA for service, but we won't be able to provide it (in the future)" said Williams. "Most of the backlog needs to be addressed through state funding. We haven' t been able to get it for years now."

Despite the capital budget challenges there's been some updates. SEPTA added 120 new Silverliner V rail cars, replacing vehicles from the mid-1960s.

The recent fare increase does not help SEPTA's capital project needs. The July 1 fare increase goes towards SEPTA's operating budget. The cost of a token went from $1.55 to $1.80 and cash fares on transit lines went up from $2 to $2.25. In short, the fare hike is not enough for the agency to meet its needs. 

SEPTA logged 337.3 million trips for the year on its trains, buses and trolleys. Its average weekday ridership is about one million trips.

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