Why are Philadelphia’s SEPTA trains always late?

On a recent trip back to my college town of Philadelphia, something dawned on me.  Unlike most cities with major rail transit clocks that count down the time until the train arrives, Philly’s SEPTA trains  (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) actually post how many minutes behind schedule each train is.  Does this send the signal to SEPTA employees that being behind schedule is the norm and is accepted?  Probably.  I don’t think they’re lazy or any better or worse than any other region’s transit workers, but there sense of urgency and timeliness is way out of whack.

New York City is testing out count down clocks right now and it is bizarre to me that these two major America cities haven’t gotten this down yet.  London’s Tube has been doing it well for over 10 years.

Yes, I know I am comparing oranges, to pears, to tangerines (or subways, to buses to regional rails) but really it is still the same principle at play.

Still we seem to have this down better than the Japanese (awesome video).

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6 Responses

  1. Septa is lousy. The clocks taunt you because not only are trains late all the time bit if they were supposed to get in at say 10:48 and the sign shows it’s 17 minutes late you get stuck trying to figure out that it’s actual an 11:05 train now.

  2. You know whats awesome about that Japanese video? The fact that the next train, which will arrive ON TIME within the next 7 minutes, will be just as full as the one in the video! Japanese trains can get super crowded, but the train-pusher is more of a novelty YouTube sensation than the norm..

    Japanese trains are always on time, and when they’re not you can get a note from the station master to give to your boss. When they’re not on time, it’s more than likely due to problem the train companies have no control over.

    In fact, you can EASILY check any train time from both cell phones and computers. http://www.hyperdia.com will give you free, easy routes from any Point A to Point B on EVERY train (from regional rail, to subway, to bullet trains).

    Japan TOTALLY has us beat, man, train-pushers or not.

  3. To clarify, I meant our train boarding skills were better than the Japanese, not the train system itself. Japanese definitely beat us, I mean, they came up with the idea of having train pushers!

  4. I never realized how awful the situation in Philly was until I moved out. Chicago’s CTA is not all primrose and pleasantness, but I’m not paying $11 round trip for a 30-minute ride each day of my commute, and if I miss one train, I know another one will be by within 10 minutes. In Philly, my rush hour regional rail was routinely 20 minutes behind schedule–worse on the line out to the Main Line. It still leaves me baffled.

  5. There are a lot of problems big and small but the clocks with the “minutes late” shown send a clear signal to SEPTA employees that being late is acceptable and normal.

    If Philadelphia REALLY wanted to shake off the second city stimga they would stop worrying about the Iggles and Phillies and get themselves a legitimate subway system and a regional rail that doesn’t operate at permanent lateness.

  6. I do say, are this Locomotives powered by steam, if so, they have a weird look to them and where is the mail car located on these. Will my stage coach be waiting at the stationhouse for me.

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