Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

City Controller: SEPTA Should Get Rid Of Student TransPasses

City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report this morning about crime on SEPTA's subways that said half of all serious incidents are committed by juveniles. Butkovitz said "truants are free to roam the transit system" because Philadelphia School District student TransPasses put no limit on the number of rides from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Butkovitz recommends the School District use only subway tokens until SEPTA can find a way to limit the number of rides a student can take each day.

City Controller: SEPTA Should Get Rid Of Student TransPasses

City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report this morning about crime on SEPTA's subways that said half of all serious incidents are committed by juveniles.  Butkovitz said "truants are free to roam the transit system" because Philadelphia School District student TransPasses put no limit on the number of rides from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Butkovitz recommends the School District use only subway tokens until SEPTA can find a way to limit the number of rides a student can take each day.

You can read his report here.  We've also posted his news release on the topic below.

Butkovitz Releases Audit of Subway Security
Recommends SEPTA, City and School District do more to ensure rider safety

Controller Alan Butkovitz released his audit of SEPTA’s subway system entitled: “Subway Safety: Protecting Our Citizens”. Butkovitz began his statement by remembering Sean Conroy who was murdered in the 13th Street subway concourse last March.

Butkovitz stated, “As a result of Sean Conroy’s tragic death, my office conducted a comprehensive review of SEPTA’s subway security and the authority’s ability to protect commuters who ride the subway.”

Butkovitz added: “Youth violence and homelessness are significant security challenges for both SEPTA and city police. Fifty percent of all serious crime on the transit system is committed by youth. Disorderly conduct crimes increased over thirty per cent since the introduction of the student TransPass. It is estimated 15,000 Philadelphia school students are reported as truant by the School District.

Truancy and crime on the transit system are connected. As reported in The Inquirer just two weeks ago, the students who attacked Sean Conroy had a significant number of truancy infractions. In the last school year, the number of truants detained by police increased 4 percent. In the last two school years, the number of students removed from the transit system in truancy sweeps increased at an average annual rate of 8 percent.

With the advent of the student TransPass, truants are free to roam the transit system from 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. There is no limit on the number of rides.

“Until SEPTA establishes a new fare system that can limit the number of daily rides, we highly recommend that the transit authority eliminate the student TransPass and return to tokens and paper transfers. We also recommend that SEPTA explore smart card technology to facilitate the monitoring of transit usage and to eliminate the need for weekly TransPass distribution”, Butkovitz stated.

Butkovitz also stated, “We would also like to publicly urge the School District to do its part to tighten up its disciplinary policies regarding student behavior on public transportation – as well as ensuring that school policy and practices do not create unnecessary risk on public transportation. Inadequate planning by the School District has put the riding public at risk. During our review we found that students assigned to CEP-Allegheny, a charter school for violent and disruptive students, were making a four-mile, cross-town trip to the Kendrick Recreation Center in the middle of the school day. The students were making this trip because their school lacked a gymnasium.”

In March 2008, six CEP-Allegheny students who were on their way to Kendrick brutally assaulted two classmates; one of the victims had his forearm fractured. Prudence would seem to dictate that every effort be made to limit travel time on public transit by high-risk students -- not extend it.

Butkovitz also stated, “ On overall security, we found that SEPTA has no Memorandum of Understanding with the Philadelphia Police Department to clearly define enforcement responsibilities and eliminate all gaps and duplication in security coverage, especially in emergency situations. This is a basic measure to ensure the coordination of all entities involved in providing safety to our citizens.”

“Homelessness is another major problem in the subway concourses. Both SEPTA and Philadelphia Police spend an inordinate amount of time and resources escorting the homeless from the transit system”, Butkovitz added.

In the first quarter of this year, officers escorted 17,000 homeless people out of the transit system. Instead of performing this function, Philadelphia and SEPTA police officers could be better utilized in fighting crime.

Butkovitz recommended that:

SEPTA initiate crime mapping, rollout its new CAD system as soon as possible, and provide its officers with PDAs. All three devices will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of management information and staff deployment.

City should install surveillance cameras in the city’s subway concourse and enclose the phone wires in conduit to make them tamper-resistant and mark the phones with florescent red-and-yellow paint and strobe lights to make them easier to locate.

City should consider installing security kiosks in both the Market Street and Broad Street Concourses. The placement of kiosks on the Temple University campus reduced crime in the vicinity by eighty percent.

Butkovitz concluded, “ Crime and public safety on our transit system are major quality-of-life issues for the hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians who use the subway and elevated systems each day. It is critically important that SEPTA, the City of Philadelphia and the School District move quickly to address the issues raised in our audit report.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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