During this unprecedented time, GVF is eager to help its partners by providing them with the latest information and resources regarding COVID-19.
One of the ways GVF is committed to helping its partners is through offering informative webinars. GVF has hosted several webinars to date. During the latest webinar, GVF, along with close to 40 attendees, welcomed Leslie Richards, General Manager of SEPTA. Leslie provided an update on SEPTA services and other COVID-related initiatives. Throughout the call Leslie stated how much she admired SEPTA employees for continuing to show up to work and provide essential services to those who need them. She stated that SEPTA have one of the lowest employee absentee numbers compared to other public transit agencies across the country. She does not want people to forget the impact the crisis is having on SEPTA employees on a personal level.
When asked about SEPTA’s financial situation, Leslie stated there has been constant communication with several elected officials regarding funding and conversations have been positive. SEPTA is set to receive $643 million from the CARES Act stimulus, but she does not believe this will be enough to get SEPTA through the crisis and come out of it healthy.
Looking at the fiscal year, SEPTA is set to be $150 million short when only looking at revenue to June 30th. When asked if SEPTA would flex capital funds over to the operating side, Leslie stated that SEPTA has never had a large capital program and that it would not help the organization substantially.
SEPTA’s major concern is around decreasing ridership and what public transportation is going to look like post crisis. Once the crisis is over, it is very unlikely ridership will increase to where it was before due to the impact of social distancing. SEPTA may look very different post crisis – possibly providing only essential services as a public service, which would require them to seek different types of funding.
Leslie provided an update on the King of Prussia Rail project saying that it is still front and center one of the most important capital projects and that SEPTA is working to see what makes sense at this time to keep the project moving.
Since social distancing has drastically reduced traffic in our region, SEPTA has been working closely with PennDOT Acting Secretary of Transportation Yassmin Gramian to push construction projects forward. With the lack of congestion there is a real opportunity to accelerate projects. Leslie feels strongly that infrastructure and transportation construction projects would be a great way to improve the economy during this time.
The day of the webinar, it was Leslie’s 100th day as General Manager at SEPTA . She mentioned that a big part of her message was going to be focused on equity and sustainability, but since the crisis she feels SEPTA’s responsibilities lie with helping vulnerable communities and to truly make a difference in the lives of those essential workers.