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July 05, 2016

At rush hour, Regional Rail passengers say they'll ride out SEPTA storm

Several passengers say they'll see how the week goes before changing modes of transportation

SEPTA Regional Rail
SEPTA Regional Rail Silverliner V John Kopp/PhillyVoice file photo

SEPTA Regional Rail passengers board a train at Jefferson Station.

Ronald Lloyd stood on the platform of Jefferson Station on Tuesday afternoon, patiently awaiting the arrival of the next Malvern Line train.

The train was a mere two minutes late, topping his morning commute, which started eight minutes later than scheduled.

But on a day when SEPTA Regional Rail lines were running as many as 51 minutes late, those departure times counted as a win. Trains were operating on a modified Saturday schedule as safety concerns forced a scaling back of service.

RELATED: Delays, overcrowded trains continue on SEPTA as commute could get worse

"It's a little inconvenient as far as the schedule changes, but so far, so good," said Lloyd, 31, of Narberth, Montgomery County. "I'll see how tomorrow works out, but today – not so bad."

Tuesday marked the first workday since SEPTA pulled its entire fleet of Silverliner V railcars after discovering cracks in the equalizer bars in all but five of the 120 cars. The loss of about one-third of SEPTA's Regional Rail cars caused rescheduled and crowded trains.

It also had some passengers rethinking their options.

Lloyd said he was taking the situation "day-by-day." If he experiences trouble getting to his job as an auditor for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lloyd said he'll take the Norristown High Speed Line to the 69th Street Transportation Center, and transfer to the Market-Frankford Line for the ride into Center City.

 Of course, he'd rather continue taking the Malvern Line.

"I've read horror stories online," Lloyd said. "But, me personally, I haven't experienced it yet."

NoneJohn Kopp/PhillyVoice

An overhead sign at Jefferson Station shows the anticipated arrival times of four SEPTA Regional Rail trains. Some trains were running on time, but many were running late on Tuesday, the first workday since SEPTA pulled 120 Silverliner V cars from use.

As rush hour began Tuesday evening, several trains were running on time, including trains en route to Doylestown, West Trenton and Warminster. Others, including trains headed to Neshaminy Falls, Chestnut Hill West and Holmesburg Junction were running behind schedule.

Most passengers calmly sat on benches or crowded onto the platform for their trains to arrive. Some read books, completed crossword puzzles or scanned their iPhones. Any conversations seemingly revolved around the morning commute or the evening ride home.

"This morning, it was a surprising way to start the week," said Michelle Millard, who missed the news during a busy Fourth of July weekend. "I'm a little apprehensive of how this is going to go for the rest of the summer."

Yet, regardless of whether the delays improve, Millard said she'll continue taking Regional Rail to her job at Mid-Atlantic Retina in Center City.

"I don't really have a choice," said Millard, 29, of Langhorne, Bucks County. "It's just cost prohibitive to drive."

Chris Harbison, 43, also plans to keep taking Regional Rail to and from his home in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia – at least, tentatively. A carpenter, Harbison said his boss let him begin and leave work early Tuesday.

"Let's see what happens this week," Harbison said.

Ryan Parks, 34, of Flourtown, Montgomery County, said he was taking the Chestnut Hill West Line home instead of his typical Chestnut Hill East train. The adjusted West Line schedule fit him better.

"It's just easier to walk a little bit farther and take the West," Parks said. "But I probably have it a lot better than most people."

Most trains departed Jefferson Station with only standing room available – and not much of it.

As trains entered the station, crowds of people craned to read the train number as SEPTA officials provided instructions over a scratchy loudspeaker. Other SEPTA workers stationed on the platforms helped by shouting out the incoming train's destination.

"I've been on it when it's bad weather and snowing," said Pam Cole, 33, of Northeast Philly. "It's pretty similar."

Some people said they would do their best to wait patiently, even if the trains remained overcrowded throughout the summer. Others appeared more annoyed.

"It's frustrating," said one man who declined to be interviewed. "Just put that down."