A digital tool designed to make riding the regional rail more convenient seems to be having the opposite effect as SEPTA unveils its big schedule changes. Several colleagues at the Inquirer told me about late trains and, possibly worse, missed stops because of incorrect information on SEPTA's smart phone app.
Dan Rubin, an Inquirer editor, goes home via Elkins Park Station, one of three stations, along with Melrose Park and Wayne Junction, that have had significant service shifts. Tuesday night the SEPTA app showed seven trains going to his destination between 5:30 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. from Jefferson Station. He got on one of the West Trenton Line trains, he said, adding it was 23 minutes late.
"As I start to see my street I realized we were flying past it," he said.
The train rode through Elkins Park Station without stopping and he ended up in Jenkintown, where he boarded another train heading in the other direction. On the plus side, the conductor didn't charge him for traveling into another zone. That same conductor, though, seemed unaware that a SEPTA app existed, Rubin said.
The West Trenton Line and Warminster Line now terminate at 30th Street Station, cutting short a route that used to go all the way to Philadelphia International Airport. The two lines no longer stop at Elkins Park, Melrose Park and Wayne Junction during off-peak hours, though a newly structured Airport Line is supposed to serve those stations when the other two don't.
"There are some issues between what's on our web site and what's on the app and we are working to correct those," said Richard Burnfield, SEPTA's deputy general manager.
SEPTA officials gave two examples of the incorrect information that's been turning up in the app. The included wrongly labeled train times and stops that were either ommited or listed for trains that no longer stop at those stations.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said the schedules on SEPTA.org were correct. The app, though, is unreliable. The agency has been having trouble getting the new schedule's info to transfer properly into the app, he said.
"It's not all the schedules but some of them may not be accurate or consistent with what's happening on SEPTA.org," Busch said.
SEPTA officials were meeting Wednesday to determine the scope of the incorrect information and how to fix it.
Further adding to the confusion, paper schedules were printed and distributed with some errors in them. Those are being corrected and the schedules will be reprinted at a cost of $15,000 to $20,000.
SEPTA would notify customers that the app has been updated properly with an alert within the app, as well as customers' Twitter and Facebook pages, Busch said.
When unveiling the new schedule last week officials warned there would be an adjustment period. Meanwhile, the agency reported already seeing results.
"Yesterday, the airport line ran with 97 percent on time performance," Burnfield said Wednesday.
The service had been on time about 83 percent of the time prior to the schedule shift.