Shortage of Philadelphia transit cars expected to continue

AP News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2017 7:07 PM
Shortage of Philadelphia transit cars expected to continue

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia transit officials say they expect a shortage of cars to continue at peak hours on a subway line where cracks were found on a support beam on two subway cars.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority took dozens of cars out of service after a crack was found on a main load-carrying beam on a car on the Market-Frankford line, which runs as a subway downtown and is elevated in west and northeast Philadelphia.

General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel said Monday morning's rush hour was not as crowded on the line as feared, perhaps because people decided not to ride the system due to the problems or took off following Sunday night's Super Bowl.

"We prepared for a lot worse situation than we saw," he said. "I'm not saying it wasn't crowded, but we didn't see crowding conditions that caused a lot of problems."

He said only 16 trains were running during the morning rush hour rather than the usual 24, and that number was expected to rise to 18 by the evening rush. Sixty supplemental buses were available but only eight were used. Of the total 218 cars, 108 should be available by Monday night. Kneuppel said about 144 cars are the "bare minimum" needed for peak-level service.

Kneuppel said some of the cars have motor vents welded onto the beam, and cracks appeared to have developed on either that vent or the weld and then spread about eight inches into the 23-inch-wide beam. Beams with no vents welded to them have shown no sign of cracks.

Inspections have turned up 58 rail cars with cracks in the vent area and two with cracks in the support beams, but since the cars are used in married pairs, one compromised car can also make the second car unusable, Kneuppel said. He said he couldn't estimate how long repairs would take, saying dealing with fractures is a specialized area and the agency doesn't want to rush safety-related efforts.

Kneuppel said he expected heavier traffic Tuesday, and supplemental buses would again be available. But he said SEPTA is in a better position to deal with problems on this line than any other because there are more spare cars available, and the problem has a lower rate of occurrence than the defect that prompted the agency to take about one-third of its regional railroad fleet out of service last summer.

"I'm hoping that every day that goes by, we'll have more cars out there," he said.