Since the mid-1990's, SEPTA has been obsessed with the construction of "mega stations" based on the park-and-ride approach to commuter rail. This model is a striking departure from the model given to SEPTA when they inherited the railroad system from their predecessors: The Pennsylvania Railroad and The Reading Company.
This shift in thinking also applies to city transit where Transportation Centers now lie at both ends of the Frankford El.
Park-and-Ride facilities are beneficial and a tool for providing facilities for drive-up riders in dense markets. Cornwells Heights, Trenton, Metropark, and Lindenwold are good examples of this application.
Over the years, SEPTA has carefully carved out small stations and even entire lines in favor of magnetically drawing travelers to large stations. This has resulted in more traffic on local roads, congested stations and an undersupply of parking. SEPTA is attempting to build out that next parking spot the same way a highway planner thinks more traffic lanes will alleviate congestion. This is not the solution and is a result of bad planning and the wrong people running these agencies. Reform is needed, and your state needs your help to obtain the needed change.
PA-TEC is the most aggressive advocate for reform and passenger rail service expansion in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
SEPTA has reached their end game in planning the future of the Newtown regional rail line: permanent conversion to a recreational bicycle path. Following 31 years of cannibalism and diversion of funding via SEPTA's long time CFO Richard Burnfield, the end of the line for Newtown has finally arrived. This is the best SEPTA can do for improving transportation in the 21st century, and the 4th railroad under SEPTA's ownership to be sacrificed to rabid tree huggers.
But does SEPTA actually own the land that the Newtown line sits on? Historical maps obtained exclusively by PA-TEC officials call into question the legality of SEPTA's lease with Montgomery County. Certain segments of the railroad were never purchased by the Reading Company. Instead, when the railroad was being built, these parcels were taken by the railroad from adjacent landowners for the express purpose of operating a railroad. When the railroad ceased operation and the tracks removed, the land rightfully would revert back to the landowners from which it was taken from. However, SEPTA's legal deparatment has overlooked this fact and is now attempting to lease land they don't own
If SEPTA is not the owner of all the parcels on which the out of service Newtown line is situated, local landowners whose properties were acquired by the Philadelphia, Newtown and New York railroad in the late 1800's may have standing to challenge the conversion of the right of way from railroad to recreational trail. Should that occur, SEPTA may also lose the ability to reactivate the line in the future, or utilize it for any public transportation service. Newtown Branch land valuation maps can be downloaded here.
While the ownership of the Newtown Branch parcels may be fought in court, this conversion spells the end of any reasonable hope that passenger rail transportation will be restored on this corriodor. SEPTA has chosen to violate the terms of its enabling legislation, as defined by the state legislature, which states that SEPTA will preserve, operate and maintain rail corridors under its ownership. SEPTA's planners, past and present, have ignored their own studies which suggested this corridor to be a feasible investment and a benefit to the region in favor of a scorched earth policy which gradually increased restoration costs over time.
What is certain is that SEPTA has taken no proactive measures to assert their ownership of trail-ized rail corridors, and a popular recreational trail will be impossible to reconvert to rail transportation use, despite obvious needs. PA-TEC rests its case.