LTK was asked by SEPTA to prepare the Regional Rail Ridership Growth and Fleet Impact Study in 2007, as the Authority contemplated how many new Silverliner V commuter rail cars to acquire. This study was an update of two prior studies, one by DVRPC in 2002 and an update by SEPTA in 2005.
The impetus for the LTK study was SEPTA’s procurement of new Silverliner V commuter rail cars. SEPTA required assistance in projecting future regional rail fleet requirements, thereby assisting SEPTA in determining whether to exercise its option for additional cars beyond the base quantity. Rather than being based on long-term ridership projections using regional models, the study was a targeted look at projected fleet requirements for the year 2015.
LTK examined diverse transportation and economic data from SEPTA, regional planning agencies, Center City business organizations, local universities, states of New Jersey and Delaware, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sources. Detailed interviews with SEPTA staff ensured understanding of current conditions and the factors that have driven regional rail ridership in the SEPTA service area. The study team also reviewed ridership trends in other major Northeast commuter rail markets. More specifically, the study examined:
- Regional rail system data - detailed historical ridership data; current ridership by line, station, direction, time of day; peak period consists and load factors; current parking capacity and demand; planned parking expansions; capital programs for track, power, stations, signals.
- Regional trends – trends and projections in population and employment by county and in the CBD, center city office occupancy, motor fuel supply and price, major development projects (residential, commercial, university).
- Commuter car fleet - fleet size, age and composition; available fleet considering maintenance spares and rehabilitation programs; capacity of new cars.
- Operational constraints - The study translated overall fleet impacts to a train and consist level, considering constraints on consist lengths and/or service frequency such as platform lengths, yard track configuration, traction power limitations on the former Reading Railroad network, and signal system capacity.
The study concluded that modest ridership growth is likely and projected an impact on fleet requirements such that optional cars should be procured with the Silverliner V order. SEPTA’s Board subsequently voted to procure the additional cars.
In related work, LTK was responsible for the conceptual design and specification of the Silverliner V cars. The new electric multiple unit (EMU) cars will replace 73 aging Silverliner II/III cars and provide SEPTA with additional commuter rail cars to fill current car shortages and accommodate anticipated increases in ridership during the next 10-year period. LTK engineers assisted with the technical specifications and prepared a report detailing Silverliner V car performance characteristics, including interior layout and seating arrangements, door control, auxiliary power, propulsion system, and on-board communication features. LTK’s report defines how the new federal strength requirements will affect the car design, addresses ADA accommodations and analyzes the need for single cars versus married pairs or triplets based on SEPTA’s operating needs. Careful consideration was given during program development to SEPTA’s goals for improving operating performance through better acceleration and shortening station dwell time by improving passenger circulation during boarding and alighting.