Leased fleet to cost SEPTA $257,035 a month

Regional Rail riders board in Ambler. SEPTA's removal of Silverliner V cars because of a possible defect has meant delays and packed trains.

SEPTA estimates it is spending $257,035 per month to lease train cars from regional transit agencies to help alleviate the loss of one-third of its Regional Rail fleet, which were pulled from service July 1.

After more than a week running on a modified Saturday schedule, the transit agency expanded its offerings Monday to get closer to normal weekday capacity. General Manager Jeff Knueppel said the new interim schedule still left some passengers stranded and train cars overcrowded Monday morning. He added that SEPTA is still looking into more equipment-leasing options.

"A lot of changes went into place today. We're still seeing delays on the railroad," he said. "It is the kind of situation that is going to continue on, and crowding. But we continue to work toward making things better."

The new schedule added trains and stations, with tweaked arrival and departure times for the 13 Regional Rail lines that connect Philadelphia to its suburbs. 

Knueppel said SEPTA is still encouraging customers to switch to trolleys, subways, and buses, which have not faced overcrowding even as train platforms grew so packed that police had to intervene.

SEPTA said it is adding 18 passenger cars and three locomotives leased from other transportation agencies.

Two of the three leased train-car sets went into operation today, and the third will be added tomorrow, Knueppel said.

Per week, SEPTA is leasing five coaches from the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service for $19,462 per week; one locomotive and eight coaches from NJ Transit for $15,570 per week; and two locomotives and five coaches from Amtrak for $16,375 per week.

"And we are investigating other leases of equipment," he said. "I think our people are traveling tomorrow to another location looking at potential coaches for us to lease."

 

The cost of the leases has been somewhat of a moving target.  In a Friday interview, Knueppel said the lease agreements would cost SEPTA about $8,000 a day. Monday afternoon, spokesman Andrew Busch calculated it at $257,035 per month.

Busch said an earlier statement by SEPTA's Director of Media Relations, Carla Showell-Lee, that the agency would spend $757,300 per month on the leases was incorrect.  "It was a miscalculation on our part," Busch said.

Today, SEPTA counted 574 commuter trains running, a 4.6 percent increase over the 549 trains running last week.

Before the fleet shortage arose, SEPTA ran 788 trains on an average weekday.

Riders have been experiencing delays and packed trains since SEPTA pulled all 120 of its newest rail cars, Silverliner V's, from service because of a flaw found in most of the cars' load-bearing beams.  The agency's engineers say there's no quick fix, so the shortages could last through the summer.

The full schedule, including a list of specific changes, can be seen at www.septa.org/service/contingency.html.