J W. Palmer

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - track, land use - planning, mode - rail, mode - mass transit


Transit services, Transit, Traffic mitigation, Track rehabilitation, Track maintenance, Strategies, Strategic planning, Ridership, Railroad commuter service, Rail maintenance, Public transit, Priorities, Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Patronage (Transit ridership), Objectives, Mitigation measures, Mitigation, Mass transit, Maintenance of way, Losses, Local transit, Impact studies, Goals, Elevated mass transit, Elevated guideways, Downtime, Commuter rail


From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) undertook two major rail infrastructure projects that required disruption of service: one on the Market-Frankford Line and the other on the regional rail or commuter system (called Railworks). The decisions on how the rehabilitations would be carried out and passenger service provided resulted in significantly different approaches. In addition, lessons learned from the Frankford Elevated reconstruction were applied to the Railworks project, to mitigate both neighborhood impacts and losses of ridership. The decisions that went into the alternate approaches used on these two projects within the SEPTA organization and the actual results of the strategies pursued are evaluated. The evaluations that went into the decisions for the Frankford El reconstruction and the Railworks project - as well as the strategies used to minimize the impact on communities and riders - are reviewed. In addition, the ridership trends before, during, and after the projects are presented with an analysis of the factors that affected those trends. The following conclusions were reached: (a) the management of track outages or track time creates a very high potential for excessive risk cost (in this context, risk cost is the premium contractors include in their bids to cover unknowns); (b) the division of responsibilities in rail transit capital programs impedes the optimization of track time; (c) the capital funding environment is not effective in recognizing the ridership and thus the fare box impact of track outages; and (d) contractors need to be sold on the projects and included in the strategies used for providing service during the rehabilitation process.