SEPTA subway station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 20, 2015.
(The Center Square) – As Philadelphia struggles to recover its public transit ridership numbers to their pre-pandemic level, its transit agency is highlighting what it’s done to improve safety and cleanliness on the subway.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority released details of its SCOPE program to detail its homelessness outreach and policing changes to improve riders’ experience. Since the pandemic hit, Philadelphia has seen a 40% drop in transit ridership.
As The Center Square previously reported, SEPTA has struggled to address crime and cleanliness issues. SCOPE is an acronym for Safety Cleaning Ownership Partnership Engagement.
“Our transit police officers are working side-by-side with outreach workers to connect people to community-based services like housing and mental health care,” SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale Deon and CEO/General Manager Leslie Richards wrote. “Our maintenance staff has redoubled its efforts to keep our elevators, bathrooms, stations and vehicles clean for riders. We have increased the presence of security workers and other attendants to make our system safer for all and easier to navigate.”
Outreach to the homeless has been a major part of the SCOPE program. SEPTA boosted its social service outreach specialists from seven to over 50 to help homeless individuals in SEPTA stations. The agency is also trying to hire police officers to get its police force to 260 officers as it’s budgeted for, though it currently has only 210 officers. To fill the gap until more officers graduate, they’ve hired almost 150 third-party contractors.
“While these auxiliary programs are not replacements for law enforcement, these 145 additional 'eyes and ears' free up officers to focus on law enforcement activities,” SEPTA noted.
The agency also emphasized that it deploys police “strategically at key locations to address the vulnerable population and prevent crime.”
To make stations and trains cleaner, it has also tripled its cleaning budget to almost $15 million and carries out weekend cleaning blitzes to sanitize SEPTA stations.
The agency emphasized that the problem does not rest solely on its shoulders, however. As Philadelphia goes, so goes SEPTA.
“SEPTA cannot solve this public health crisis on our own,” Deon and Richards noted. “But with support and action from diverse partners, we can make SEPTA safe for all and continue to be the economic backbone of the city and region."