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March 16, 2021

SEPTA closing Somerset Station temporarily to fix elevators, confront safety concerns

Transit employees have raised concerns about drug use at the Kensington stop on the Market-Frankford Line

SEPTA Subways
SEPTA Somerset Station Google/Street View

SEPTA riders and employees have complained about unsafe, dangerous conditions at the Somerset Station in Kensington.

SEPTA riders who use Somerset Station soon will need to find an alternate way to access the Market-Frankford Line.

The station, located in Kensington, will be shut down indefinitely Sunday for maintenance repairs. Riders are advised to use the Huntingdon or Allegheny stations for service toward the Frankford Transportation Center or Center City. 

Overnight shuttle buses that operate along the Market-Frankford Line also will bypass Somerset Station, according to FOX29.

The station's two elevators are among the repairs slated to be completed. They are currently out of service and will take months to repair.

"The elevators, due to urination, due to needles being jammed in certain parts of the elevators, have stopped working," SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards told CBS3.

SEPTA riders and employees also have raised safety concerns about the station. There have been issues with non-riders blocking access points. Drug users have long gathered there, as have people experiencing homelessness. 

Kensington community members have requested more cleanings and better monitoring to make the station safer, WHYY reported. The Philadelphia Police Department recently opened a new substation less than a mile away to serve businesses and residents located near the El. 

Still, the Philadelphia Transport Workers Union has called on SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel to do more to address safety at Somerset Station, and on the transit system in general. 

"He has one job and that is to keep everybody safe," TWU Local 234 President Willie Brown told CBS3.

SEPTA said it is considering a number of options to improve safety, including the possible hiring of security guards to protect cleaning crews from any dangers or threats. The transit authority also is working with several city groups to determine how to better help the vulnerable populations who congregate at the station. 

"SEPTA is committed to completing necessary repair work and addressing these complex challenges so that the station can be reopened in a way that ensures the health and safety of SEPTA riders and workers," the transit authority said in a statement to FOX29.

Daily ridership at the Somerset Station has declined by about 60% during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to WHYY. Before the public health crisis, about 2,000 riders used the stop each day. That daily number has plummeted to roughly 800 riders.

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