Our Take on SEPTA’s New Cycle-Transit Plan

by | May 8, 2015 | Biking in Philly, Connecting Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Network, Featured | 3 comments


septa transitRemember we told you about SEPTA’s announcement at the Philadelphia Bike Expo last fall? All that stuff about new bike parking at SEPTA stations? (If not, read it here.) Well, SEPTA recently released their 2015 Sustainability Plan and it includes the Authority’s first ever Cycle-Transit plan, laying out SEPTA’s vision for “finding new ways to support multimodal transportation in order to grow ridership.”

“For SEPTA, the benefit of better integration with the bicycle network is increased system capacity,” reads the plan’s executive summary. “At a time when SEPTA’s ridership is near quarter-century highs and auto parking lots are approaching maximum utilization, encouraging cycle-transit use can serve as a relatively inexpensive strategy to grow and accommodate ridership.”

Evidently, SEPTA see bikes as a potential answer in areas where car parking is limited, particularly on Regional Rail.

“A key focus of SEPTA’s sustainability programs in 2014 was the development of its first-ever cycle-transit plan, to better serve the growing demand for multimodal commuting and recreational travel,” Public Information Manager Manny Smith recently told Main Line Media News.

Temple Station’s covered bike parking is mentioned as an example of something they would like to deploy in other areas. SEPTA also plans to pilot changes to the interior layout of Market-Frankford and Regional Rail cars to see how feasible it would be to lift the rush hour bans, as has been done successfully in New York and San Francisco.

In short, we applaud SEPTA’s plan for successfully outlining a strategy that will move the agency in a positive direction.  Now that SEPTA’s capital budget is in better condition, we are eager for SEPTA to begin this plan’s implementation.

We encourage you to read SEPTA’s plan and let us know what you think, either in the comments section, or by tweeting at us: @bcgp. For our part, here are the things the Bicycle Coalition would like to see SEPTA move forward with:

  • Partnering on planning initiatives seeking to improve non-motorized access to stations in high-priority corridors by developing web applications showing trails and transit linkages, as well as developing new applications to track bicycle-transit usage. We feel that such new developments would not only help bring SEPTA’s digital interactions with its customers into the 21st Century, but would also help keep cyclists safer when traveling to and from transit.
  • Developing context-sensitive bicycle infrastructure—i.e., bike racks, and protected ones, inside and at SEPTA stations. Specifically, we’d like to see bike cages (similar to what Boston’s Mass Transit system has developed) inside Suburban Station, the South Broad Concourse and 30th Street Station and high-quality sheltered bike parking at Regional Rail stations, as identified here.  Better bike parking will encourage more people to use their bike to commute to a SEPTA station without having to worry about thieves or inclement weather.


  • Integrating with Indego Bike Share to ensure connectivity between transit and bike share. This one is important; we’d like bike share to one day be as accessible for all Philadelphians as SEPTA is today. To do that, it is imperative that users be able to use their SEPTA key cards and/or Indego keys interchangeably through fare integration. In other words, wouldn’t it be cool if you had one key card with money on it that you could use for both Ride Indego and SEPTA?
  • More Bikes on trains: SEPTA says in their report that they’d like to ease restrictions where possible to allow for more peak-period bikes on transit. We heartily support easing restrictions during peak hours and want to encourage SEPTA to take more steps to add capacity on trains for bicycles. And for future rail car purchases, it’d be great if SEPTA specifically ordered trains with dedicated space for bicycles.

train cars

Generally, this report makes clear that SETPA not only sees an advantage working with bicycles, they realize the different roles it can play to grow their network of service.  They want to move in a systematic way to maintain progress in accommodating bikes by working with stakeholders, and increase momentum for bike use on their system. This is good.

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  1. RailPhilly

    Protected bike racks would be good at many stations, especially the center city stations for reverse commuters. Bike cages at outlying stations would be tricky, considering SEPTA doesn’t have enough money to even sell tickets outside of center city.

    Linking SEPTAkey and IndeGo should be a no brainer.

    Better train configurations are essential. The diagram shown doesn’t take enough seats away from MFSE cars. Throughout the day, those cars are choked by passengers, particularly by the ubiqutious doorway standees. They need to remove seats to provide standing areas that don’t choke access to the cars.

    Regional rail cars need dedicated bike racks. Denver’s Silverliner Vs have them, so it’s definitely doable. I’d actually like to see SEPTA go with permanently married 3 and 5 car trainsets, with the middle car containing the handicapped seating, bike racks, and a bathroom. Combinations of 3 and 5 could be combined to make 6, 8, and 10 car trains.

    Also, “non motorised access to stations” must include putting a high priority on modernising stations with high platforms, elevators, crossover bridges/tunnels, and climate controlled ticket offices with waiting rooms. Carrying a full frame bike up through the trap stairs on a Silverliner IV is incredibly cumbersome, and the Vs aren’t much better. Getting wheelchairs, strollers, or luggage into a train without level boarding is just as difficult. The barebones stations of SEPTA’s system contribute heavily to the region’s perception of SEPTA as unreliable and outdated, and severely depress ridership.

  2. Bradley Flamm

    All good suggestions. Thanks for putting these comments together. The only thing I’d add is that bicycle parking at large transit stations and transit centers — whether in Center City or in other parts of the city and the region — will be used by both cycle-transit users and cyclists with destinations at or near transit centers. (Our 2014 study — Perceptions of Bicycle-Friendly Policy Impacts on Accessibility to Transit Services: The First and Last Mile Bridge, available at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1104.html — found close to one in ten respondents who parked their bikes at Philly transit centers didn’t use transit for any part of their trip.) That’s actually a good thing and shouldn’t be seen as an abuse of transit agency investments in bike parking. It just shows there’s a demand for safe, high quality bicycle parking at important destinations in a city. It also suggests that the city, property owners, and businesses should work with SEPTA and contribute to bicycle parking investments at transit stations because some of their tenants, customers, and employees will benefit from them too.

  3. Andy

    I’m glad to see Septa is considering relaxing the restrictions on on-peak hours on the MFL and BSL. Would it be feasable to add a bike car only to each line? It is very frustrating when commuting from CC to NE Philly via a bike as there is no direct route ( Aramingo Ave is under construction). I’ve been on near empty subway cars at 6:00 am leaving center city and have often wondered why i cant take my bike.


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