Many Lingering Questions Around SEPTA’s “Bus Revolution” Remain

SEPTA is going forward with its “Bus Revolution” plan to change bus routes. While SEPTA has yet to release the results of its investigation into the spate of accidents that have plagued riders, drivers, and everyone else, those pushing the route changes are not waiting. Nor are SEPTA’s fears that its lack of funding will create a “doomsday scenario” for the system, a reason for the “Bus Revolution” advocates to rethink spending millions for route changes. Those pushing the “Bus Revolution” continue moving forward regardless of the other issues and problems. SEPTA published this notice on its web page:

“SEPTA will conduct public hearings regarding changes to the bus network in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. These changes are proposed as part of SEPTA Forward: Bus Revolution, the authority’s first comprehensive redesign of its entire bus network.”

Members of the public may attend hearings in person or join a virtual hearing. These hearings will occur throughout the SEPTA service area during September 2023. All locations are ADA accessible and along an existing SEPTA bus route.”

The first hearing will be September 12th from 5 to 8 at SEPTA’s Center City Headquarters, 1234 Market St.

As of now, SEPTA has not published the new recommendations. All that is available to the public is an almost impossible-to-understand amalgamation of maps, computer graphics, and a list of proposed route changes. For example, SEPTA states route 27 will be “Updated and simplified”; route 30 will be combined with 43; route 38 will be “updated, more frequent, combined and a new route.”

How is any rider supposed to understand what that means? How can any rider testify at a hearing if they don’t know what the hearing is about?

But more troubling are SEPTA’s conflicting statements. Its web page says, “Thank you to all the riders who provided feedback and comments on SEPTA’s updated draft bus network this summer. We are using your comments to prepare recommendations for bus service improvements. Recommendations will be available later this summer (the target date is August 2023). But as of today, August 28th, all the information posted and circulated to riders about the bus route changes is dated “Spring of 2024”.

Either SEPTA’s statement that it’s using public comments to make changes isn’t true, or SEPTA is holding hearings on changes that have yet to be released to the public.

The problem with the process goes beyond SEPTA not telling the riders what the recommended changes are before the hearing.

SEPTA has not published nor publicized any information about the hearing. Will the riders be able to ask questions? Will they be guaranteed questions? Will they be able to cross-examine SEPTA’s witnesses?

At the hearings, who will represent the riders? SEPTA and its out-of-town consultants will undoubtedly have lawyers and experts for which the riders are forced to pay. SEPTA has not said if the riders will have a lawyer representing them. And if so, how was that lawyer picked, and do the riders have any say over the positions taken by the people appointed to represent the riders?

Hall Monitor has asked SEPTA’s press office the following questions:

When will the new bus routes be released to the public?

What changes have been made since the last “Bus Revolution” version was published?

Were the riders of bus routes being eliminated told directly or through advertisements on the buses on the route that their route was being eliminated?

Will riders who ask questions at the hearing be given answers?

Who will represent the riders at the hearings?

How many riders have opposed the proposals?

How many riders have supported the proposals?

Can the Philadelphia Hall Monitor review the public comments?

Tune in Wednesday at 6:pm Comcast Channel 66, Fios Channel 29 to hear SEPTA’s answers.

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