With leased railcars finally on hand, SEPTA announced a new schedule Sunday night to improve service that has been rocky since a third of its rail fleet was pulled from service more than a week ago.
The new schedule - effective for Monday's commute - adds trains and stations, with tweaked stops and arrival times throughout SEPTA's 13 Regional Rail lines - promising some relief for commuters dealing with crowded cars and bypassed stops.
The full schedule, including a list of specific changes, can be seen on PDFs at www.septa.org/service/contingency.html.
The changes likely to benefit riders most, said Matthew Mitchell, vice president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, are three additional trains from both Glenside and Bryn Mawr and two added trains on the Manayunk/Norristown Line.
SEPTA said it is adding 18 passenger cars and three locomotives leased from other transportation agencies. Riders may see some unusual logos on the sides of their morning trains, including Amtrak and NJ Transit.
"With the additional capacity" from the leased cars, Mitchell wrote in an email to his organization's members, " . . . they've been able to make some significant improvements to the weekday schedule."
SEPTA didn't implement all the changes the DVARP recommended, he wrote, advising that riders will likely still see delays of 10 to 20 minutes.
The cost of leasing the vehicles wasn't available Sunday night, but in a Friday interview, SEPTA general manager Jeff Knueppel said some of the agreements would cost SEPTA about $8,000 a day for a five-car set.
The additional cars "should have a big impact," Knueppel said.
Riders have been experiencing delays and packed trains since SEPTA pulled all 120 of its newest railcars, Silverliner V's, from service because of a flaw found in most of the cars' load-bearing beams.
The removed Silverliner V cars represent about a third of the Regional Rail fleet.
SEPTA has said it is looking increasingly likely that the flaws, cracks in the cars' equalizer beams, can't be fixed with temporary welds and new parts will probably be needed. That means scheduling problems could persist until at least Labor Day.
Along with Amtrak and NJ Transit, SEPTA is leasing cars from the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service. SEPTA personnel will operate the rented cars, and will handle maintenance of the MARC cars. Amtrak and NJ Transit will continue to manage maintenance on their cars being used by SEPTA.