Ask Septa: GM Joe Casey answers your questions, emergency assistance button, regional rail tardiness

Every three weeks, SEPTA general manager Joe Casey will address public transit questions submitted by Metro Philadelphia readers.Anything from frequency of trains to funding to cleanliness and more is fair game. Ask Casey whatever you like by emailing City Editor Christina Paciolla at [email protected] , who will then forward along your queries.

Today on the El I had a very bad experience. Two boys around17 years old came running thru the two El cars and threatened a boy about 14 years of age. They started to hit him when heran into the next car. I pushed the button for help many timesand got no reply. When we got to 69th St. I ran up to the transit police office and told an officer who ran down to try and find them. This poor boy could have been beaten up oreven killed by then. How safe is the El if the emergency buttondoes nothing?

Joe Casey: When you engaged the intercom button to alert the operator you should have received a response at the very next station stop. The operator is required to answer the call after the train is brought to a complete stop and investigate the problem. In your question it is unclear whether 69th Street was the next stop or if the intercombutton was pushed prior to Millbourne. It is regrettable that you and the other passengers had to witness the unfortunate incident you described. We are pleased that you were able to immediately locate a SEPTA police officer at 69th Street. SEPTA has increased the presence of transit officers riding our subway and elevated trains and installed thousands of surveillance cameras in our vehicles and stations. Officers are not on every train but will intercept the train to address a situation like the one you described. Fortunately such incidents are rare. Please note that, in addition to pressing the intercom button, we also encourage our riders to dial (215)580-8111 for safety or security concerns.

Why is Septa Train 9703 to Trenton always late? I work in NYC and live in Bristol. When I started working there in 2012 I usually arrived at Penn Station at about 8:00 a.m. Now, it always misses the 6:46 New Jersey Transit and I arrive at work at about 8:25. All I ask it that it be on time, within two or three minutes of the printed schedule.

Joe Casey: SEPTA’s On Time Performance Committee is currently evaluating Train 9703’s schedule and performance to determine if adjustments can be made, including changing arrival time, without creating additional conflicts or delays to other trains. We realize how important our Trenton Connection is for our customers.

Unfortunately, since 2012 we’ve had to make some scheduling adjustments due to increased traffic on Amtrak’s right of way. SEPTA’s Service Planning and Operations staff work closely with their counterparts at NJT and Amtrak to make the connectingservices as convenient and reliable as possible, with transfer periods of 8-10 minutes being the “general” target range. This allows sufficient time for all customers to be able to switch trains at Trenton Transportation Center. Train #9703 is a popular train operating during a congested time period when Amtrak, SEPTA and NJT all have high travel demand. Small deviations in schedule can cause Amtrak dispatchers to experience a ripple effect that affects several trains. This is why, for now, SEPTA’s schedule promotes the NJT train that departs at 6:57am as the train connecting customers traveling to New York City should plan to use, instead of the NJT train that departs for NYC at 6:46am, just four minutes after 9703 is scheduled to pull into Trenton.

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