Leslie Richards, SEPTA’s general manager, spoke highly of the public transportation agency’s record during a recent meeting of the Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce, as she reviewed its response to the pandemic and future improvements.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic “SEPTA never stopped serving customers” as it enhanced its cleaning procedures, had mask requirements, used personal protective gear and a “successful employee vaccination effort,” said Richards.
“There was not one case since Covid began where transit was shown to be a spreader,” Richards told the chamber’s virtual meeting, adding that SEPTA’s vehicles refresh their air supply every two to three minutes, more frequently, she said, than CDC requirements.
The pandemic brought a “dramatic decline in ridership and fare revenue,” the general manager said, with SEPTA losing $1 million a day.
“Our budget is less than half of our sister agencies with legacy systems,” said Richards. Using a significant infusion of federal pandemic relief funds, SEPTA is working to fund a $1.5 billion budget this year and has suspended a fare increase.
Proposed support from the federal infrastructure bill would be “great,” Richards said, “I hope it passes,” but “it’s a one-time investment, it’s not going to fix this problem.”