On Friday, SEPTA maintenance personnel discovered a structural defect in the trucks (the wheel assembly – similar to the suspension of a motor vehicle) on one of the Regional Rail Division (RRD) Silverliner V railcars. As a precaution, the entire Silverliner V fleet has been withdrawn from service until the trucks can be inspected and repaired, or replaced if necessary. So far, nearly all of the trucks that have been inspected have shown signs of the defect, so it is likely that all the Silverliner V fleet will be out of service for several weeks.
SEPTA has enough Silverliner IV railcars to handle the off-peak service, so service today and on the Fourth of July will run as originally planned. But there will be serious disruptions to rush hour service starting Tuesday morning. Under normal conditions during the peak hours, the system utilizes more than 90% of the SEPTA RRD railcar fleet, and now more than 30% of the railcar fleet is being taken out of service.
Right now, SEPTA is developing a temporary schedule which will go into effect Tuesday. Details will be announced at a press conference this afternoon and posted on the SEPTA web site. From SEPTA: “Starting Tuesday, SEPTA is implementing its modified Saturday schedule that was developed for weather emergencies, with added rush hour trips. Rush hour service will be at 30 minute intervals on most lines. Schedule details are being finalized, and will be posted on SEPTA’s website, www.septa.org, on Monday afternoon.” Some lines (likely Cynwyd, possibly others) may have substitute shuttle bus service or no service at all. SEPTA is also asking Amtrak for help with additional Keystone stops on the Paoli/Thorndale line, but whether or not that service will materialize is unknown right now.
SEPTA is also checking with other commuter rail operators to try and obtain their spare parts to help expedite repairs. However, they expect there won’t be enough out there, and new parts will have to be manufactured. Thus it’s possible that service will not be back to normal until the end of the summer.
This is going to be a hardship for all RRD riders. Here are some tips for getting through the situation.
1—Know your alternative routes. Many SEPTA stations have nearby bus or trolley stops with service that will connect to the subway and elevated lines to Center City. For those of you on the Paoli Line, the Norristown High-Speed Line will be an excellent alternative: use it!
2—Get the SEPTA app for your iPhone, Android or other mobile device. The Next to Arrive feature of the SEPTA app will give you up to the minute information, direct from the control center, on where the trains are and when they will be at your station. And TransitView will show you where all the buses and trolleys are, so you can find your best alternate route.
3—Try and adjust your travel plans so you can ride before or after the peak of the rush hour. Trains will be less crowded then and less likely to be delayed. Ask your employer about flex-time or telecommuting so you can stay out of the worst of the crowds.
4—Use an alternative station for your trip home in the afternoon to maximize your chances of getting on board and finding a seat. If you ride the Airport, Chestnut Hill West, Media/Elwyn, Paoli/Thorndale, Trenton or Wilmington/Newark line, board at Jefferson Station (Market East). If you ride the Chestnut Hill East, Fox Chase, Lansdale/Doylestown, Manayunk/Norristown, Warminster or West Trenton line, board at 30th Street or Suburban Station.
5—Be courteous. Put backpacks and other items in the luggage racks instead of the seat next to yours: every seat will be needed during the rush hour. Offer your seat to older or disabled persons. And look out for opportunities to help your fellow riders by letting them know when the next train will arrive or where to find alternate transportation.
6—Be our eyes and ears in the field. If there are problems at your station, if you have suggestions for where to place signs pointing towards alternate service, or if you have ideas for improving passenger service during this crisis, call or e-mail us, and we’ll forward your ideas to the right people at SEPTA. They really appreciate the on-the-spot information that DVARP members are in a position to provide.
One more helpful thing you can do is try and correct any misinformation you see on social media sites, read in the news, or hear on the train. For instance, there are a lot of people thinking that the Korean company that assembled the trains, Hyundai Rotem, is to blame for the truck defects and they are an example of shoddy foreign workmanship. The fact is that the trucks were built in America by another company on a subcontract from Rotem.
Also urge people to be patient. Right now, the first priority has to be setting up a plan for safely carrying as many commuters as possible while the Silverliner V fleet is out of service. Once that’s in place, we’ll talk to SEPTA about customer service issues like pass refunds. If you have any questions about the situation, please call or e-mail, and we’ll get answers for you.