Reforming SEPTA

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

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Reforming SEPTA

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Thu May 24, 2018 5:42 pm

From years of reading this forum and news about SEPTA organization, there have been some problems: the agency's connections with DelDOT have limited Wilmington/Newark service and to date have yet full integration (fares, transfers) with the DART bus network have been still lacking. There has been criticism that the suburban counties holding the seats on the SEPTA board have more influence on suburban service (Rail Division) over the Transit Division in city limits, resulting in bias toward suburban operations. The following is my opinion/commentary:

Reform SEPTA into a federal agency (perhaps via an interstate compact, or not as the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is an example of not such a compact).

The board of SEPTA (or successor regional agency) would be:

1 member appointed by the President of the United States
1 member appointed by Governor of Pennsylvania
1 member appointed by Governor of Delaware
1 member appointed by Mayor of Philadelphia
A fifth member (Chairman) appointed by the four members

Each member shall be subject to pay and employment rules of their appointed jurisdiction.

Ex officio members: Governor of Pennsylvania, Governor of Delaware, Mayor of Philadelphia, PennDOT secretary, DelDOT secretary and the counties in the SEPTA region.

Provision would be made to allow New Jersey* to join the agency at a later date and possible DRPA integration as well.

(*NJT local/commuter bus service in Camden/Philadelphia area would be the main interest for the agency, along with the AC Line.)

The focus would be on integration and quality service in the region. Unification of a single fare system, revenue sharing between local/state/federal levels and improvement on quality service. The unification of multiple states into one agency on the transportation area has been done (WMATA, St. Louis Bi-State). Today's SEPTA system has already gone a long way from the integration of PTC, PSTC/Red Arrow, PRR and RDG into one. This would be a single great step further.
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Re: Reforming SEPTA

Postby mcgrath618 » Thu May 24, 2018 6:59 pm

While this sounds good on paper, I am inclined to believe that it would not work very well in practice.
SEPTA, in its current state, is a pseudo-gubernatorial, pseudo-private company that draws its funding from revenue, tax breaks, and federal/state funding. To make it entirely run by the government would likely end up in more poor decisions, if how Amtrak has been behaving lately is anything to go off of. Plainly put, Philadelphia has a bad history of dirty government deals (cough cough 30 million dollars cough cough)
I think that SEPTA should be structured so that each chairman can only serve a tenure of ten years, with no re-elections. When you have resigned from your position, you retain some influence over the doings of the agency, but the main power is invested in the board. I also think that there should be more public input on decisions like cut services and truncation.

Also, I think SEPTA should be given control of the AC line from NJT. It makes no sense for them to have a line separated from all the others.
I also feel like around here, no one uses it as much as they should simply because it isn't related to SEPTA. The name NJT carries little to no weight around Philly, save those who use the buses or commute regularly to New York. I feel like if your average Joe heard that SEPTA had a line that goes to the Jersey Shore that avoids all that traffic I'm sure he'd jump onboard.
As far as diesel service goes, if we are to believe that SEPTA is currently actually serious about restoration to Pheonixville and Quakertown, perhaps this isn't too far fetched either. Those hybrid Siemens engines would do very nicely.
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Re: Reforming SEPTA

Postby bikentransit » Thu May 24, 2018 11:02 pm

mcgrath618 wrote:While this sounds good on paper, I am inclined to believe that it would not work very well in practice.
SEPTA, in its current state, is a pseudo-gubernatorial, pseudo-private company that draws its funding from revenue, tax breaks, and federal/state funding. To make it entirely run by the government would likely end up in more poor decisions, if how Amtrak has been behaving lately is anything to go off of. Plainly put, Philadelphia has a bad history of dirty government deals (cough cough 30 million dollars cough cough)
I think that SEPTA should be structured so that each chairman can only serve a tenure of ten years, with no re-elections. When you have resigned from your position, you retain some influence over the doings of the agency, but the main power is invested in the board. I also think that there should be more public input on decisions like cut services and truncation.


Or like Chicago where the railroad and surface lines are totally separate agencies. In some states, the public transit entity is under the jurisdiction of the state DOT. PennDOT has nothing to do with SEPTA or any of the other transit agencies in the state. However there would be some advantage to PennDOT running the regional rail system, namely adding corridors throughout the state so Philadelphia isn't the only region in PA with commuter train service. SEPTA as a railroad is a failure. They've put all their resources into gadgets and nothing into expansion/restoration of inactive lines they OWN. The demographics have changed. The 422 and 309 corridors have grown dramatically, yet not an ounce of effort to restart service. The 95 corridor is and forever will be choked in traffic and all of the Reading lines are at capacity while SEPTA converted the Newtown line into a bike trail and gave up a track in West Trenton to CSX (and what a butchery they did up there!!!).

There does need to be a rotation of board members. How long has Charley Martin and Pat Deon been on the board? TOO LONG!

mcgrath618 wrote:Also, I think SEPTA should be given control of the AC line from NJT. It makes no sense for them to have a line separated from all the others.
I also feel like around here, no one uses it as much as they should simply because it isn't related to SEPTA. The name NJT carries little to no weight around Philly, save those who use the buses or commute regularly to New York. I feel like if your average Joe heard that SEPTA had a line that goes to the Jersey Shore that avoids all that traffic I'm sure he'd jump onboard.
As far as diesel service goes, if we are to believe that SEPTA is currently actually serious about restoration to Pheonixville and Quakertown, perhaps this isn't too far fetched either. Those hybrid Siemens engines would do very nicely.


Sounds nice, but SEPTA would bustitute it. Since Cherry Hill/Camden is a suburb of Philly, it would be practical to have some type of commuter service that augmented the infrequent NJT trains from Lindenwold to 30th Street with a new stop at Aramingo Ave, Richmond Street and Frankford Jct. But why stop there? Philly should take over PATCO or at least get rights to operate in their tunnel again all the way to 15th & Locust.

We do need change. SEPTA's ideas and methods are old and tired run by folks who've been holding onto their jobs for 50 years. They've plugged millions into new stations, track, cars and bridges yet keep beating the infrastructure decay dead-horse.

Here's a good tip for SEPTA management (I'd bet they read this): When you redo subway stations, how about plugging the water leaks in the ceiling first? Everything under it will last a lot longer, and the slippery floor tiles won't always be wet and more slippery.
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Re: Reforming SEPTA

Postby NorthPennLimited » Fri May 25, 2018 6:52 pm

Too many cooks in the kitchen = no accountability.

Have the Commonwealth run the railroad with 1 president / CEO at the top elected by the heads of the DOT served by SEPTA. PA, NJ, DE

Split the railroad from the city transit division, and allow the city transit division to be run by a board of directors with one voting member from each county served.

Below the president, you have an Executive Vice President of Finance, an EVP of Operations, an EVP of capital projects, a Chief Mechanical Officer, Chief Engineering Officer, an EVP of Human Recources / Labor Relations, and an EVP of legal department / government affairs.

Each department head reports directly to the president / CEO and is responsible for their own departmental budget and performance metrics.

The more fat that is trimmed from management layers ,and less political appointees removed from decision making process (research Silverliner V procurement), the more accountability you put on the top brass. The net benefit: decision making becomes more streamlined. Funding will continue at current federal, state, and local county percentages, but the county commissioners will meet with the President / CEO twice per year in an open, public, forum to discuss operational concerns, funding, ridership needs, and growth predictions (based on solid, fact-based information from sources like US census data and DVRPC data). The suburban county commissioners will create a 6-month score card of SEPTA's operational, fiscal, and ridership performance to be reviewed with the president and submitted publicly to the states annually. The president / CEO's contract will expire annually based on the 6-month reviews and recommendations of the 3-states.

The decision to renew the president / CEO's annual contract will be based on the vote of each state governor's appointee (hopefully from their respective chairmen of DOT).

I think this management structure would increase accountability of senior SEPTA management, renew the faith of the ridership, and foster responsible growth of public transportation in the Philadelphia metro area and possibly beyond.

I also firmly believe people who live in the suburbs and commute to the city should be relieved from city wage tax, and instead, pay a percentage of gross taxable income to the state DOT fund to pay for maintenance of highways and public transportation. Why pay wage taxes into a city where you have NO voting power? Instead, you should be helping to subsidize the infrastructure you utilize to commute to work (paid for by federal tax dollars). I also think states should place a stronger tax on trucking companies who use state highways. They have no operating costs except equipment and labor. We (John Q Taxpayer) pay for all they infrastructure they utilize.
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Re: Reforming SEPTA

Postby scotty269 » Sun May 27, 2018 12:56 pm

NorthPennLimited wrote:Too many cooks in the kitchen = no accountability.

Have the Commonwealth run the railroad with 1 president / CEO at the top elected by the heads of the DOT served by SEPTA. PA, NJ, DE

Split the railroad from the city transit division, and allow the city transit division to be run by a board of directors with one voting member from each county served.

Below the president, you have an Executive Vice President of Finance, an EVP of Operations, an EVP of capital projects, a Chief Mechanical Officer, Chief Engineering Officer, an EVP of Human Recources / Labor Relations, and an EVP of legal department / government affairs.

Each department head reports directly to the president / CEO and is responsible for their own departmental budget and performance metrics.

The more fat that is trimmed from management layers ,and less political appointees removed from decision making process (research Silverliner V procurement), the more accountability you put on the top brass. The net benefit: decision making becomes more streamlined. Funding will continue at current federal, state, and local county percentages, but the county commissioners will meet with the President / CEO twice per year in an open, public, forum to discuss operational concerns, funding, ridership needs, and growth predictions (based on solid, fact-based information from sources like US census data and DVRPC data). The suburban county commissioners will create a 6-month score card of SEPTA's operational, fiscal, and ridership performance to be reviewed with the president and submitted publicly to the states annually. The president / CEO's contract will expire annually based on the 6-month reviews and recommendations of the 3-states.

The decision to renew the president / CEO's annual contract will be based on the vote of each state governor's appointee (hopefully from their respective chairmen of DOT).

I think this management structure would increase accountability of senior SEPTA management, renew the faith of the ridership, and foster responsible growth of public transportation in the Philadelphia metro area and possibly beyond.

I also firmly believe people who live in the suburbs and commute to the city should be relieved from city wage tax, and instead, pay a percentage of gross taxable income to the state DOT fund to pay for maintenance of highways and public transportation. Why pay wage taxes into a city where you have NO voting power? Instead, you should be helping to subsidize the infrastructure you utilize to commute to work (paid for by federal tax dollars). I also think states should place a stronger tax on trucking companies who use state highways. They have no operating costs except equipment and labor. We (John Q Taxpayer) pay for all they infrastructure they utilize.


I think it'd be more fitting for there to be more Senior VPs and less Executive VPs. Ya know, too many cooks... Seriously dude?
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Re: Reforming SEPTA

Postby bikentransit » Mon May 28, 2018 9:50 pm

NorthPennLimited wrote:I also firmly believe people who live in the suburbs and commute to the city should be relieved from city wage tax, and instead, pay a percentage of gross taxable income to the state DOT fund to pay for maintenance of highways and public transportation. Why pay wage taxes into a city where you have NO voting power? Instead, you should be helping to subsidize the infrastructure you utilize to commute to work (paid for by federal tax dollars). I also think states should place a stronger tax on trucking companies who use state highways. They have no operating costs except equipment and labor. We (John Q Taxpayer) pay for all they infrastructure they utilize.


Changing that formula makes sense, but its more complicated then that. If the city lost the ability to tax wages of ANYONE working in the city, that would exempt athletes and other performers, which would be a huge loss of revenue to the city which needs it. Now the city does subsidize regional rail to import workers from the suburbs. What the ratio is of the city's revenue used for railroad subsidy to what suburban workers are taxed is unknown, but if it was equal, I'd say it's a fair deal to continue taxing suburban workers. If the city loses that money entirely, they won't have the revenue to continue subsidizing regional rail, so there would need to be a way to shift that taxation/subsidy.

What may be a bit unfair is that only suburbanites who work in the city pay that tax, but all suburbanites benefit from the existence of regional rail (to an extent). So it's fair game to discuss a different method of taxing wages and subsidizing commuter rail operations.

If we're talking about funding, it would be helpful to know who's paying what in terms of subsidy.

I'm also onboard with North Penn's suggested leadership reform and split of SEPTA. The politics is killing them.
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