PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA is preparing to resume regular service despite stay-at-home orders. That includes no more free rides for bus and trolley riders. But SEPTA employees have mixed feelings about the plan.
A month ago, SEPTA reduced services down to a lifeline schedule. The aim was to protect riders and operators.
But according to past and present SEPTA employees, the reduced service and elimination of trolley and bus fares backfired.
“There was an issue, an overcrowding issue,” said Michael Bente, a former bus driver and current SEPTA cashier.
“You only have homeless people and derelicts, pretty much are the majority that are riding the buses,” said Joe Bryant, who was a SEPTA bus driver for 18 years.
With fewer transit vehicles on the road and free rides, many workers felt that the lifeline service actually led to an increase in nonessential riders.
“We want everybody, when things reopen, to come back to a clean and a safe system which allows for social distancing,” SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said.
Starting May 17, SEPTA now says they will resume a regular schedule with increased service, return to front-door boarding and fare collection.
“We will be putting markers down on our vehicles so that people understand how far apart they need to be,” Richards said.
SEPTA says the move will help them be ready for when Gov. Tom Wolf decides that it’s time to fully reopen Pennsylvania.
Bryant, a former SEPTA employee and current advocate, feels more needs to be done to protect operators before regular service resumes.
“People can’t understand why the system is being opened back up,” Bryant said.
But others support the return as a way to reduce crowding.
“I definitely do agree that having resumed regular service is a step in the right direction,” Bente said.
SEPTA is strongly encouraging its riders to continue wearing masks and to take only essential trips. As with any schedule change, expect initial delays.