Some big changes are on the docket for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) Paoli-Thorndale line, which is the most traveled and perhaps most degraded line in the SEPTA system, as part of the agency's Reinvesting in Our System platform.
Changes and upgrades are expected to include train car upgrades, scheduling improvements, and station updates. According to SEPTA, which has been making targeted and widespread investments in overall system improvements over the past several years, the line is responsible for more than 23,000 daily weekday riders, a figure that represents a 25% increase since 1997, yet in that time no equipment upgrades or switch-outs have taken place.
SEPTA’s General Manager Jeff Knueppel has stated, “I’m not going to be satisfied until we get this line to 90% on-time performance.” In 2018, on-time stats had the line at 84%, and this is defined as any train less than six minutes late to a given station.
As for specifics for precisely what and how these changes will be performed, SEPTA remains in the planning phase, but officials have suggested that improvements will employ a revision of the data provided by cellular modems that were installed on trains in this line in 2017. Moreover, SEPTA’s fleet will be upgraded with the purchase of more modern cars to replace its present Silverliner IV fleet, which comprises two-thirds of its carriage assets. Some of these new procurements will be double-decker cars, which will increase capacity. SEPTA recently purchased high-powered electric locomotives, which will be employed as well.
Knueppel said, regarding the present self-propelled Silverline IV fleet, “As Nixon was leaving, those were coming in.”
SEPTA is currently working with Amtrak, which owns the line, to institute improvements swiftly. Paoli/Thorndale is also handicapped by an inability to run trains in reverse routes, due to an outdated signal system. Over the next five years, Amtrak will be upgrading the signaling system to give it bidirectional capacity, as well as replacing the air-switch machines with more reliable machines bearing electric switches.