SEPTA to restore all-night subway service

Posted: April 16, 2014

SEPTA will restore all-night subway service on Fridays and Saturdays, at least temporarily, beginning in June, officials said Monday.

SEPTA's proposed new operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes several hundred thousand dollars to run the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines all night on Fridays and Saturdays.

Since 1991, subway service has been halted between midnight and 5 a.m., with Nite Owl buses substituted on those routes. Increasing nightlife and residential activity in Center City prompted SEPTA officials to bring back the subway service.

Chief financial officer Richard Burnfield said the program would be an experiment from mid-June until Labor Day.

If ridership and customer reaction is positive, SEPTA could continue the late-night service after Labor Day, Burnfield said.

SEPTA's proposed $1.33 billion operating budget and its proposed $571.8 million capital budget will be unveiled at a series of hearings starting Wednesday.

The only fare increases in the budget are the already-approved boost in cash fares that will take effect once SEPTA's long-delayed "smart card" electronic-fare system is activated.

That system is not likely to be in full use until 2015, so cash fare increases to $2.50 (from the current $2.25) that had been approved to take effect July 1 won't be imposed until the system is fully in place next year, Burnfield said.

The operating budget, up from the current $1.28 billion, includes a planned increase in the workforce from 9,440 employees to 9,526, primarily to support more construction projects.

The budget also assumes a 3 percent increase in labor costs, including wages and benefits.

SEPTA is in talks with its largest unions in an effort to avoid a possible transit strike.

The unions have asked for two annual wage increases of 5 percent, while SEPTA has offered a two-year contract with wage increases of 2 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second.

Workers would have to spend an additional 1 percent of their wages on health-insurance premiums under the SEPTA proposal.

The proposed capital budget, which pays for major construction, new vehicles and repairs, will nearly double from the current $308 million, reflecting additional state transportation funding approved by the state legislature last November.

The new capital budget includes $117 million for new and repaired vehicles, $61 million for power substations, $58 million for communications and signal work, and $43 million for bridge repair. About $21 million will go toward the new smart-card fare system, and $95 million will go for debt and lease payments.

The hearings on the operating budget will be held in each of the five Southeastern Pennsylvania counties:

Bucks County: Wednesday, 2 and 6 p.m., Bucks County Free Library, 150 S. Pine St., Doylestown

Delaware County: April 21, 2 and 6 p.m., Delaware County Courthouse, 201 W. Front St., Media

Montgomery County: April 22, 2 and 6 p.m., Montgomery County Human Services Center, 1430 DeKalb Pike, Norristown

Philadelphia: April 23, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., SEPTA Headquarters, Board Room, 1234 Market St.

Chester County: April 25, 2 and 6 p.m., West Chester Borough Hall, 401 E. Gay St.

Hearings on the capital budget will be April 28, at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., at SEPTA headquarters.

The capital budget is available on SEPTA's website: septa.org/reports/

The operating budget will be available Wednesday at the hearing and then will be posted on the website, Burnfield said.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587 @nussbaumpaul

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