As extreme cold weather maintains its grip on the Philadelphia region, SEPTA crews are working to combat the challenges the excessive low temperatures present to the authority’s operations and infrastructure. Below is a summary of some of the main issues SEPTA is facing, and steps the authority is taking to keep operations normal, or as close as possible:
Proactive Measures to Protect Equipment
Train cars for both the Broad Street Line subway and the Market-Frankford Line (subway/elevated) will be stored in subway tunnels overnight to keep the rail cars warmer than they would be if stored at rail yards on a normal night. Crews will start this process at about 10 pm and continue until subway/subway-elevated service finishes for the day at approximately 12:30 am Regular service on these two key lines starts at approximately 5 am, and by storing the rail cars in the tunnels, SEPTA is in the best position possible to roll out service for customers on the morning commute. The Market-Frankford Line has a ridership of approximately 190,000/day and the Broad Street Line approximately 125,000/day, so these are vital parts of SEPTA’s daily operation. In addition, personnel will monitor rail cars that serve other lines, as well as buses and trolleys, at storage facilities and out in service on routes to keep an eye out for, and try to correct, any weather-related problems.
Bridge/Structure Special Inspections
SEPTA’s structural inspection team performs cold weather inspections on structures that may be susceptible to issues in extreme temperatures. These structures include, but are not limited to, our viaducts and longer or heavily skewed steel bridges, tunnel sections and stations that may have water leaks and others. Due to the age and/or physical characteristics of the structures, these receive special inspections during extreme weather events.
Speed Restrictions on Trolley and Regional Rail Lines
During periods of extreme cold, SEPTA places speed restrictions on Regional Rail and the Routes 101 and 102 trolleys for overhead wire and track concerns. Heaters are used on track switches to prevent freezing and crews are in the field to remove ice from overhead wires, or deal with other issues that may come up.
SEPTA also places buses at key locations should they be needed for passengers.
Additional Staffing & Monitoring of Conditions
SEPTA will have additional personnel on-hand in the Command Center at SEPTA Headquarters and also out in the field to monitor conditions, particularly Regional Rail infrastructure and equipment, such as overhead power lines, signals and switches. Due to the age of the Regional Rail system, and the fact that much of it is out in the open and exposed to the elements, extreme weather like this can pose challenges. By having extra staff out monitoring conditions and at the central command center, SEPTA is in the best possible position to identify potential problems quickly and take corrective action to minimize the impact to our riders.
SEPTA Buildings and Bridges staff, including plumbers, HVAC techs and millwrights are also available to cover potential maintenance issues that may occur due to the extreme cold weather. Morning and evening rush are fully covered, in addition to early morning starts to prep and address any issues that may have arisen overnight.
SEPTA will use all methods of communication available to keep customers up-to-date on service status. The best tool for customers is the System Status feature on the SEPTA website, which provides real-time service status and updates on possible disruptions. SEPTA will have additional staff on-hand to ensure this and other online tools are staying updated with the latest information. To access System Status, customers can go directly to www.septa.org/realtime/status/system-status.shtml, or to the homepage, www.septa.org and click on the System Status icon on the left-hand side. This tool is also available on the SEPTA App. In addition, all service advisories will be sent out via Twitter, with simultaneous notices sent to local news outlets by the SEPTA Media Relations staff. Customers are strongly urged to check the status of the SEPTA services they will be using online and/or by monitoring the local news. Riders can also call (215) 580-7800 to speak to SEPTA Customer Service representatives.
For more information, such as schedules and trip-planning tools, customers can visit www.septa.org.