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May 17, 2021

SEPTA to remove COVID-19 capacity limits in June

Riders must still wear face masks until further notice

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA COVID-19 capacity Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

SEPTA is lifting capacity limits on all transportation modes June 1, but will continue enhanced cleaning of transit vehicles and stations. The restrictions were put in place at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Occupancy restrictions on SEPTA buses, trains, subways and trolleys will be no more beginning June 1, the transit authority said Monday.

SEPTA is eliminating capacity limits — first implemented at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — as vaccination rates increase and infections decrease across the Philadelphia region. 

"Removing vehicle capacity limits to meet increased ridership demand is a major step in the region's recovery," SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said. "We are grateful for our riders who counted on SEPTA throughout the pandemic, and we are excited to safely welcome back those who may be taking the system for the first time in over a year."

All riders and employees will be required to wear face masks until further notice. Mask compliance among customers remains high, the transportation authority said.

SEPTA will continue its enhanced cleaning efforts of all vehicles and stations. Riders are encouraged to frequently and thoroughly wash their hands and avoid traveling on SEPTA when not feeling well.

SEPTA also has upgraded air filters on all of its vehicles. Air fully changes every 2-3 minutes due to a combination of HVAC systems and doors frequently opening for riders to board and exit, the authority said.

SEPTA also is rolling out an Estimated Seat Availability Dashboard that estimates the likelihood of getting a seat on a particular trip. The dashboard is available on SEPTA's website.

Estimates are not a live report of current seating conditions. Instead, the transit authority collects ridership information through automatic passenger counters and assessments by SEPTA traffic checkers. It will continually monitor the number of riders to keep the seating estimates up to date.

The dashboard is available now for most bus routes and will expand to cover all modes of travel. The seat availability data will be incorporated into the SEPTA app later this year.

SEPTA's decision to ease its capacity limits comes as COVID-19 restrictions are being phased out across the region. Pennsylvania is set to end its COVID-19 restrictions May 31. Philadelphia will lift its restrictions June 11.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear face masks in most indoor or outdoor settings. However, they still must wear face coverings when using public transportation.

Pennsylvania's face covering mandate has been lifted for fully vaccinated residents. But unvaccinated residents are still required to follow the mask mandate until 70% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

Philadelphia officials said that they are reviewing the new CDC guidance and should reach a decision about the city's mask mandate in the coming days.

More than 612,000 Philadelphians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the city's health department. More than 4.2 million Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated, according to the state's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.

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