Transit woes to linger through Democratic convention


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia area’s hobbled transit agency expects most of its sidelined commuter rail cars to remain out of service until at least Labor Day, but officials do not expect the problems to have a major impact on the Democratic National Convention later this month.

A week ago, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority sidelined 120 Silverliner V cars, a third of the coaches in its regional rail system, after defects were found in the suspension systems.

“It’s not looking good for a quick repair or return to service,” SEPTA’s general manager, Jeff Knueppel, said Friday.

The rail system linking Philadelphia and its suburbs typically transports about 65,000 riders each way per day. With 13,000 fewer seats, the trains have been carrying about 35,000 to 40,000 people per day.

The shortfall has resulted in many delays, standing-room-only cars and morning trains having to skip stops nearest to downtown Philadelphia after reaching maximum capacity.

But SEPTA said it expects to add 1,700 seats Monday as transit officials close deals to lease three train sets from New Jersey and Maryland transit services and Amtrak.

Knueppel said the transit service should be able to handle the extra traffic during the July 25-28 convention because riders are expected to largely use the rail system during off-peak hours.

To get back and forth between downtown Philadelphia and the convention site, the Wells Fargo Center, delegates and others will be able to use the city’s subway system.

Convention committee spokesman Lee Whack said the committee has worked closely with SEPTA to secure additional travel opportunities along the Broad Street line, which runs from downtown Philadelphia to the Wells Fargo Center.

“They have committed to running an increased level of service and additional trains,” Whack said.

Philadelphia also has expanded other travel options for convention-goers by settling a dispute with the Uber ride-hailing company and permitting it to operate legally in the city through the rest of the summer.

SEPTA has not pinpointed the cause of cracks found in beams used to distribute the weight of the new rail cars to their axles.

Knueppel said the defect is costing SEPTA millions of dollars in leasing, employee overtime costs, weekly travel credits and refunds to monthly regional rail pass customers.

The agency’s legal team is reviewing its contract and warranty agreements with South Korea’s Hyundai-Rotem, the Silverliner V’s manufacturer.

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