SEPTA is shuffling equipment and workers to try to deal with chronic crowding problems on Regional Rail trains, as ridership rises and old cars and locomotives break down more frequently.
Even the 120 new Silverliner V cars that have arrived since 2010 to replace 73 old cars have not solved the overcrowding issue.
About 15 percent of SEPTA's rail cars are out of service on any given day, while passenger counts are up 4 percent from last year and 50 percent from 15 years ago.
"The trains are so full that it's even hard to find room to stand," said Katrina Claghorn, a dietitian who commutes daily from Wayne to 30th Street Station. "It started getting bad over the summer, and now the trains are packed when they pull into 30th Street Station on the Paoli line."
Walter Einhorn, a Center City lawyer who commutes from Merion on the Paoli/Thorndale line, said his usual 7:20 a.m. train last week "was short a car both Wednesday and Thursday, and there were people standing everywhere."
"It was so bad on Thursday that there again was no fare collection, at least on the first car where I was." He said the ride home was no better, with at least 75 people standing each day, which he said "is actually fairly typical for that train midweek."
Ronald G. Hopkins, assistant general manager of operations at SEPTA, said maintenance, repairs, and upgrades regularly put about 60 of SEPTA's 396 cars out of commission.
"If everything is in the right place, I can meet our requirements with 64 out of service," Hopkins said. "But we've been kind of teetering on the edge."
He said that crews were working overtime at night to make more cars available and that cars were being shifted to other rail yards to be put into rush-hour service.
Of the 231 self-propelled Silverliner IV cars, which are 40 years old, about 48 are out of service at any given time. About 10 of the new Silverliner V cars are out now, for warranty fixes to floor items and "reliability retrofits," Hopkins said.
The new Silverliners, also self-propelled, have 12 fewer seats per car than the old Silverliners, so a six-car train has 72 fewer seats - 648 instead of 720.
In addition, locomotive problems have frequently sidelined the 30-year-old, locomotive-hauled Comet coaches purchased from NJ Transit for use on several SEPTA routes.
The long-term solution, SEPTA officials say, will be new cars and locomotives to add capacity and reduce breakdowns.
Planners are drawing up specifications for an order of 36 bi-level coaches and 13 new locomotives.
SEPTA expects to take delivery of those in 2017, Hopkins said.
"I'm not happy with seeing standees," Hopkins said. "But it's still a small percentage of our total ridership."