Fernandez Challenges Septa The Councilwoman Wants New Hearings On Plans To Cut Back Regional Rail Service.

Posted: September 16, 1992

City Councilwoman Happy Fernandez is asking SEPTA to reopen hearings on its recently announced service cutbacks, saying the transit authority is trying to eliminate some lines in secret.

In a letter to SEPTA general manager Louis J. Gambaccini, Fernandez said the proposed cuts "fly in the face of common sense" and deserve closer scrutiny. She said SEPTA's presentation in public hearings earlier this month on proposed cutbacks in the Regional Rail division "did not clearly inform me and other concerned citizens on the extent of these additional cuts."

"I feel strongly that these additional service cuts are not minor, cosmetic changes. They deserve public scrutiny," Fernandez, who is chairwoman of Council's Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities, said in her letter to Gambaccini.

SEPTA officials yesterday denied that any cuts or adjustments were being made in secret. They said the hearings would not be reopened.

In a statement issued in response to Fernandez's letter, SEPTA said it has been "up-front from the beginning" and had adequately notified its riders, local officials and others of the "service adjustments."

"Even in its notice of the public hearings, SEPTA advised that there would be service reductions beyond the tariff matters, including adjustments to evening service, mainly on weekends, and the consolidation of some weekday

trains," SEPTA's statement said.

The controversy comes amid a continuing financial crunch at SEPTA, where passenger revenues and operating subsidies from local, state and federal governments are dwindling. SEPTA's operating budget for fiscal 1993, which began July 1, is $65 million lower than original projections.

To bridge that gap, SEPTA has begun trimming employees, services and other costs. Only $15 million of the $65 million shortfall will be made up through service cuts, however, including $3 million on the authority's Regional Rail lines, where the current dispute in centered.

"SEPTA would welcome, thankfully, any increase in income from any source, but since there is and can be no prospect of that in the immediate future, it must reduce costs drastically, with almost no effect on the great majority of riders," SEPTA said yesterday.

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