May 27, 2022 - News

Weigh in on SEPTA's bus redesign plans

SEPTA buses sit idle at the Frankford Transportation Center in Oct. 31, 2005.

SEPTA buses sit idle at the Frankford Transportation Center in 2005. Photo: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

SEPTA wants your two cents about the future design of its bus system.

Driving the news: The transportation agency is in the second year of a $3 million reconfiguration of its entire bus network, including routes, schedules, stops and more.

  • Dubbed Bus Revolution, SEPTA has developed two options for changes to the system, and now the transit agency wants you to weigh in.

Why it matters: This will be the first comprehensive bus redesign since SEPTA was formed in the mid-1960s.

The big picture: Even before the pandemic, SEPTA had seen bus ridership drop for years. Now, the system must navigate a new reality, with Philly's population dropping and a push toward remote work changing how — and how often — many use public transportation.

  • SEPTA's overall ridership for bus, train and trolley remains mired at 51% of pre-pandemic levels as of April, according to the agency's online dashboard.

Details: The two design options have distinct benefits and tradeoffs. Both have fewer routes than SEPTA's roughly 120 existing offerings.

Option 1: A total of 93 routes operating more frequent, all-day service, with faster trips and wait times limited to 30 minutes or less.

  • Yes, but: This option has both longer walks between stops and more transfers for some riders.

Option 2: A total of 109 routes that include shorter walks between stops, more direct trips with fewer transfers for some riders, and more routes in suburban communities.

  • Yes, but: This option has fewer routes operating all-day, frequent service and longer wait times, in some cases up to 60 minutes.

Of note: Both options include a new microtransit service, a ride-share option similar to Uber and Lyft but for the fixed cost of a bus ride.

  • This option is located mostly in the suburbs in less densely populated service areas.

What they're saying: Dan Nemiroff, SEPTA manager of planning process, told Axios the goals of the bus system redesign are to boost ridership and make the system more effective.

  • The final design will most likely be a blend between both network options, he added.

What's ahead: Beyond SETPA's online survey, the agency is also looking for feedback by hosting virtual community meetings on the plans.

  • The agency will use rider feedback to create draft recommendations for a single plan, which is expected to be revealed in the fall.
  • SEPTA is expected to officially roll out and hold hearings on a final plan next year, with the first changes pegged for fall 2023.
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