SEPTA adjusts expectations on regional rail ridership

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By KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The continuing effects of COVID-19 on the Philadelphia region has forced SEPTA to adjust expectations for the return of regional rail riders and for restoring more train service.

SEPTA’s Andrew Busch said ridership on the trains is still only about 10% to 15% of pre-COVID-19 levels.

“Originally employers had been looking at around this time to bring people back,” he said. “That got pushed back as we went through the summer. So we’re looking at January, probably, for more people coming back. We expect that’s when we’ll increase service levels.

“We’re staying in close contact with Center City employers and outside to see when they’re going to bring people back to office spaces.”

Busch says ridership is a little better on buses, subways and trolleys, but it's still considerably lower than normal.

“We’re getting close to 40% of our pre-COVID-19 ridership,” he said. “So that’s kind of ticking slowly back.”

In the meantime, Busch encouraged those who have used regional rail in the past to check out some important changes.

“We know that a lot of regional rail riders haven’t been on the system in some months,” he said. “And obviously we don’t want them to come back and be confused about anything related to how they pay for SEPTA.”

Busch advised going directly to septa.org and catching up on how to get a SEPTA Key card.

In the meantime, he said CARES Act funding from the federal government is helping to keep SEPTA operations going.

But that’s projected to run out by June, and Busch said the transit authority will need more than a return of riders to make up for the losses it has sustained since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.