Slower bus or longer walk? SEPTA asks riders

SEPTA is redesigning its bus network.
Metro file

SEPTA is turning to riders for guidance on how to redesign the Philadelphia region’s more than 120 bus routes.

Earlier this week, the transportation authority launched a survey as part of its bus network redesign, dubbed “Bus Revolution,” a three-year project to reimagine routes, schedules, stop frequency and other factors.

The online poll focuses on trade-offs, asking participants, for example, whether they would prefer a shorter walk to a slower bus or a longer walk to a faster bus.

“Bus Revolution is about listening to members of our communities and designing a system that meets their needs,” SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie Richards said in a statement.

SEPTA is offering an incentive — anyone who answers the questions can enter to win a $25 Visa gift card. A total of ten prizes will be awarded.

Representatives from the authority said the survey can be accessed in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, and phone calls are also going out to residents.

After a few basic questions about a participant’s ridership patterns, they are asked about the biggest challenges and problems with SEPTA’s bus routes. Options include bus frequency, reliability and accessibility.

If the rider checks off more than one problem, they are prompted to weigh the issues based on importance.

For the trade-off questions, participants can use a sliding scale to indicate how strongly they feel about a particular answer.

The trade-offs deal with dedicated bus lanes; whether respondents prefer a slower bus route with an indirect path compared to a further away, faster bus; and if they would like to see more high-frequency buses with fewer total routes or more routes with less high-frequency buses.

Officials said the poll is the first of multiple phases of public input. A later survey will ask riders to “design their own” transit system, according to a Bus Revolution engagement plan.

SEPTA has also been hosting talks and in-person events to gather feedback.

Pop-up events are scheduled Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Cottman and Torresdale bus loop, Oct. 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Cheltenham and Ogontz bus loop; and Oct. 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Darby Transportation Center.

At the same time, SEPTA is conducting a “State of the System” analysis of all bus routes. Results are expected to be released by the end of the year.

Next summer, the authority plans to publicize multiple scenarios to get additional feedback, and, not long after, draft recommendations should be released. The bus route redesign will go into effect in 2023.

Bus Revolution coincides with a reimagining of the Regional Rail system, beginning with a year-long public input process, an initiative SEPTA leaders announced a few weeks ago.

Last month, the transit agency unveiled a proposal for new signage and maps grouping the Market-Frankford, Broad Street and Norristown High Speed lines, as well as trolley routes, under the “SEPTA Metro” banner.

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