SEPTA unveiled two potential transit options for their Bus Revolution Project at a public meeting on Tuesday, April 19th. The debut of these plans mark the transition to Phase 2 of SEPTA’s “Bus Revolution,” where SEPTA staff will engage with public transit riders to assess the support of each option.
“Right now the bus system is confusing and has lots of stops where no one lives or works, but these have been stops for 50 years so they still exist,” Will Tung, a member of 5th Square’s Transit Committee, said. “Just by cleaning up the stops and changing the routes to better target the people who actually ride the bus could lead to more people riding the bus.”
The main goal of SEPTA’s Bus Revolution is to streamline the bus system by considering where bus stops are located and how frequently they run. This work should make riding the bus faster and more reliable for frequent users and offer an alternative to ride-sharing for single trips, according to Bus Revolution documents.
The SEPTA Forward team has spent the past year conducting market research and analysis on ways to improve the existing bus system.
“Our system has a very short average distance between stops, meaning buses have to slow down and stop very frequently,” Dan Nemiroff, SEPTA’s manager of planning programs, said. “Our buses also have to drive in the flow of traffic with other cars, which makes it a slower option for most people than just taking an Uber.”
Both of the proposed plans make changes with two different models in mind. SEPTA will ask transit riders to offer feedback that will help them decide between building a bus system that relies on faster buses that arrive to high traffic stops frequently or a bus system with convenient stops and short walking distances to passengers’ destinations.
Network Option 1 provides frequent bussing to the areas with the highest density of bus travel. This option features fewer total bus routes, but the routes are located along the busiest areas of the city and roads with the highest average speed. In this plan, there are more stops with a maximum of just 10 minutes between bus arrivals. This means that bus trips would be faster overall, but they may be more crowded and require a longer walk to and from the destination.
Network Option 2 features more total bus routes and stops, and is focused on bringing the buses to the riders at the shortest distance. This option features waits of more than 10 minutes between buses, but does not centralize routes and stops into areas of high traffic. This option would mean that most people would have a shorter distance to walk to their stop, but may have to wait longer for a bus to arrive.
SEPTA has a detailed map of the new network options available for the public on their website. They are looking for feedback from their ridership on the network designs in an online survey. To find the map and the survey visit https://www.septabusrevolution.com/.
The SEPTA Bus Revolution is a project that has been in the works for some time now, and community members and activist groups also have been advocating for various changes to the bussing system.
“I’ve rode the bus for more than 30 years now, and I know the buses need some changes,” South Philadelphia resident Kamarr Johnson said. “Lately it’s been dangerous, with people getting in arguments and fights, and there’s no security anywhere to be seen.”
Network Option 1 would likely be better suited to the needs of someone like Johnson. By bringing stops closer together, SEPTA will be able to have more security on hand at stops to handle any potentially dangerous situations. It would also result in having more passersby present at stops to hopefully deter criminal behavior.
At the same time, fewer routes and more frequent buses will mean fewer transfers, especially when traveling between high-traffic destinations.
“There also is the issue of changing buses,” Johnson said. “I have a senior pass, so I don’t have to pay for the bus anymore, but if I did, I’m not sure how much I would ride the bus because I have to get off and pay again just to switch buses.”
Advocate groups, like 5th Square’s Transit Committee, have been pushing SEPTA to make needed changes to the bus system for years. .
“The expectations we have of the Bus Revolution is to make the buses faster and eliminate some of the old bus stop remnants from the past,” Tung said. “We want to see more people riding the buses, and it needs to become somewhat of an alternative to a car for that to happen.”
5th Square and their members would likely find Network Option 2 more desirable. Network Option 2 would eliminate the redundant or unnecessary bus stops while focusing on making service easy and convenient for their devoted rider base.
SEPTA plans to assess these two plans until the end of 2022, at which point they will make a decision on whether to either implement one of the plans or develop a new plan that finds a middle ground between the given options.
Residents can give feedback on the two network options at SEPTA’s Bus Revolution website. Staff will also survey riders at bus stops and train stations. SEPTA will be conducting surveys for the next 2 months before reassessing the data to decide on a final plan.
“There’s never enough engagement for us,” Nemiroff said. “We are going to spend two months after we release our initial plans gauging feedback from riders, and by the fall of 2022 we should be drawing up a final plan to be voted on by City Council and board committees. We hope that we can implement our changes by Ffall of 2023 if approval goes smoothly.”
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