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March 26, 2020

SEPTA, PATCO reduce services, alter schedules due to coronavirus outbreak

Ridership on Regional Rail trains dropped by 94% this week, SEPTA says

Transportation Coronavirus
SEPTA PATCO train service schedule changes Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

The coronavirus outbreak in the Philadelphia region has reduced ridership on public transportation. In response, both SEPTA have altered service schedules.

SEPTA and PATCO are implementing reduced service and schedule changes this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak across the Philadelphia region.

SEPTA is reducing its Regional Rail service to an “Essential Service Schedule” starting Sunday as ridership has plummeted by 94% this week, SEPTA announced Thursday. The changes will allow SEPTA to continue providing service for those who need to travel while maintaining a safe environment. 

Service on almost every Regional Rail line will run every two hours, while the Airport Line will operate every hour. The Cynwyd Line only will operate Monday through Friday, while the other 12 Regional Rail Lines will continue to provide service every day. 

Buses, subways and trolleys will continue to operate on reduced Saturday schedules as transit ridership was down 70% this week, SEPTA said.

The transportation authority is urging customers only to ride if they are traveling for essential needs, such as going to work, the grocery store or a medical appointment.

"We are pleading with our customers – if you don't have to ride, please don't," SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said. "We need to reserve space on our buses, trains and trolleys for those who need to get to essential jobs or access life-sustaining services."

SEPTA is closely monitoring all services to ensure there is enough space on vehicles for customers to practice social distancing, officials said.

Four PATCO stations will temporarily close beginning Saturday, officials announced. Additionally, both weekday and weekend schedules will change. 

The Ashland, Westmont and City Hall stations in New Jersey, plus the 12/13th and Locust St. station in Philadelphia will shut down for the foreseeable future. The other nine stations will remain open due to the vast number of customers that they serve. The move will help the transportation authority focus on sanitation and law enforcement efforts.

Weekday trains from 12:00-4:00 a.m. will run every hour and trains from 4:00-5:00 a.m. will now operate every 30 minutes. Trains from 5:00 a.m.-11:59 p.m. will operate every 20 minutes.

Saturday trains will run every hour from 12:00-5:00 a.m. before operating every half hour from 5:00 a.m.-11:59 p.m. Trains will be available every hour all day on Sundays. 

“The health and safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority,” PATCO said in a statement. “As the situation concerning COVID-19 continues to unfold, PATCO is monitoring and adjusting service as needed in order to promote the health and safety of its customers and employees. The adjustments meet the demands of current ridership and are necessary in order to sustain the continuity of service for essential riders.”

The transit authority also said that it “will continue to closely monitor COVID-19 developments and ridership levels and will make additional, real-time service adjustments as necessary.”

Pennsylvania has 1,687 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 16 deaths as of Thursday afternoon. The vast majority have popped up in Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania, with 1,031 cases in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

New Jersey now 6,876 confirmed COVID-19 cases of coronavirus, including 81 deaths, as of Thursday afternoon. Only New York has more. South Jersey has 194 positive cases of the virus. 

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