PlanPhilly.com has an article today that details SEPTA’s plan for double decker coach cars for its regional rail service. The article shares that the use of regional rail has doubled over the past 15 years and grew over two percent in 2014. Independent of this story from PlanPhilly.com, we were told that the Manayunk/Norristown line, which makes stops in Whitemarsh Township and Conshohocken, is one of the lines with the most growth. SEPTA projects to have the double decker coaches in service in 2018.
Below are the pertinent paragraphs from the article:
Trolleys may take some time to get here, but rail aficionados have plenty to look forward to in the nearer future. SEPTA regional rail riders should start seeing bi-level coaches, like those used by NJ Transit and Boston’s MBTA, on the area’s busier lines sometime in 2018.
Over the last few years, SEPTA has been overhauling its locomotives for some regional rail lines, replacing some of the old AEM-7 locomotives reaching the end of their effective lives. The regional rail uses a combination of Silverliner V self-propelled cars – no locomotive needed to push or pull – and trains of coaches driven by locomotives. SEPTA has replaced eight old locomotives so far with newer models and has plans for another five. The newer locomotives will be powerful enough to pull the bigger, heavier bi-level coach cars.
Those bi-level cars will be ADA compliant on the first level and, will each increase the number of seats somewhere between 20 to 30 percent over the 105 seats on a Silverliner V car.
Regional rail has seen a 50 percent increase in ridership over the last fifteen years, said Knueppel. And it increased another 2.6 percent last year. During rush hours, the trains are packed. And simply adding more coach cars isn’t an option on most lines – they already stretch the length of the suburban stations they serve. Reducing headways – the wait time between trains – is possible, but difficult, especially on lines that share track with AMTRAK or CSX. Hence, the decision to build up.
There will be some work required before regional rail will be ready for the bi-level coaches. But the infrastructure upgrades and fixes are largely minor. SEPTA recently completed a study that confirmed that its tunnels and overpasses were tall enough for the bi-level cars. “Other agencies had to deal with dropping track down and drainage issues,” Knueppel explained. “Luckily for us, we can fix it up in the air, because the clearance issues are not that significant.” SEPTA will be able to raise some catenary wires up to make room.