SEPTA is Changing Its Bus Routes. What Does That Mean for You?

SEPTA transit map

SEPTA has been working on changes to its bus routes for the past two years. A small percentage of the riders have been surveyed, and a smaller number have attended meetings. The challenges of getting information have been made much greater by the COVID pandemic, which limited the number of in-person meetings SEPTA’s consultants could hold.

In 2019 there were 600,000 daily bus riders and an additional 250,000 on weekends. As of today, less than 1% of the daily riders have responded. An overwhelming number of those responses have come from the internet. SEPTA and its consultants are well aware that internet surveys don’t provide accurate information. As it writes, “We (SEPTA) recognize the need to account for a significant digital divide, a range of literacy levels in our region, and an increasing number of people for whom English is a second language.” SEPTA does not state how they interpret the responses to control for the digital divide.

5,806 people responded to the survey, and 333 people participated in the in-person events. Here is the summary that SEPTA published on its Bus Revolution web page: https://www.septabusrevolution.com/

SEPTA’s consultants outline its plan:
• The draft network doesn’t increase or reduce the amount of bus service available. It is the same amount of service organized in a different way.

• The draft network is better coordinated with other SEPTA services. This means more connections between frequent bus routes (10 MAX or 15 MAX routes) and stronger connections to Metro and Regional Rail services.

• It increases the frequency of many bus routes, especially in the middle of the day and on weekend days, but reduces the number of bus routes overall. The draft network has 16 fewer bus routes, not including the 10 bus routes that would be included as mobility-on-demand zones.

And despite many riders saying safety is a major issue, the consultant’s report and recommendations are silent as to what can be done to make it safer to ride.

Hall Monitor will be interviewing Daniel Nemiroff, manager of planning programs to ask some basic questions about the redesign and about some specific routes that are being recommended to be changed or eliminated.

Riders should know that SEPTA will be cutting service on Route 4, the Broad Street Bus, and eliminating the 32 and 47, which connect Center City to other parts. In a virtual meeting with South Philadelphia SEPTA riders, SEPTA’s consultant explained to the riders that if they were unhappy with the longer wait for busses that the plan recommends, they could use the Broad Street Subway Line.

There is no place in the proposed changes that address the safety issue so many people have raised. Nowhere has accessibility been addressed on the Broad Street Line, the “El,” or the Subway Surface cars, which are often not handicap accessible or easy for older people to use, despite SEPTA’s consultant saying it’s an alternative for everyone who doesn’t want to wait longer for a bus.

The meeting did disclose that they have received 1,000 comments. In addition to the survey results. And future meetings are planned. People interested in attending a future meeting can find one here https://www.septabusrevolution.com/get-involved/.

To see what SEPTA is planning to do with the route you use, click here. Draft Network – SEPTA Forward: Bus Revolution. While it is very difficult to understand what the proposed changes will mean to a rider, this is what SEPTA has published. There is a hard-to-read map that shows the changes, here is the link.

How many riders must object to a cut in service before service will be restored or improved? Did the people who recommended eliminating a route or cutting the service ride the bus to see what the riders thought?

The Consultant’s report and its web page stress it wants rider input, but it still remains to be seen if the input makes any difference at all. It may be telling that nowhere on SEPTA’s Bus Revolution web page are the responses to the proposed plan shared with the public. Could it be that many of the responses are calling for changes?

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