All options are on the table as SEPTA tries to cope with one-third of its train car fleet taken out of Regional Rail service Tuesday, officials said.
Borrowing train cars from nearby transit agencies like NJ Transit or Amtrak is among the possibilities, SEPTA spokeswoman Carla Showell-Lee said, adding that senior management officials were meeting Tuesday morning to discuss how to keep the Regional Rail system functioning at a level that last year provided 37 million passenger rides.
In the last 15 years, ridership has grown by 50 percent, with consistent annual growth, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said.
NJ Transit confirmed that officials from both transit agencies are discussing SEPTA leasing NJ Transit train cars.
“All of NJ TRANSIT’s rail cars would technically be compatible with SEPTA’s system, however, multi-level cars would be restricted to staying on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Trenton and 30th St. station for compatibility reasons," NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith said. "Under regulations, SEPTA crews are not qualified to operate NJ TRANSIT equipment. So in the event of any lease agreement, NJ TRANSIT crews would need to operate the equipment.”
For the interim between long-term fixes to 120 out-of-commission Silverliner Vs and those possible short-term Band-Aid solutions like borrowing train cars or even asking Amtrak to transport SEPTA passengers at shared stops, Showell-Lee stressed alternative routes for commuters.
Those include the Norristown Hi-Speed Line -- which will have expanded parking starting this week -- and the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines.
An overflow parking lot at the Norristown Transportation Center will be open starting Wednesday, providing 500 free spots. A parking lot at Festival Pier along Columbus Boulevard will be opened to commuters, who can then hop on the nearby Spring Garden stop of the Market-Frankford line.
SEPTA management will analyze ridership patterns Wednesday to determine additions solutions to Regional Rail's train car shortage, Busch said. Tuesday, being the first day after a summer holiday weekend, isn't a reliable sample day.
Shovel-Lee said agency officials are hopeful that riders will persevere and remain rail commuters despite the unexpected headache.
"Anything like this causes concern, but we're hoping to manage this and keep our riders," she said. "It was about safety and our riders can respect that."