SEPTA will extend a program that positions security guards in stations along the eastern stretch of the Market-Frankford Line as ridership continues to rebound, most pandemic restrictions have lifted, and the city reopens.
The 60 unarmed guards were first assigned in April as part of the transit agency’s response to a surge in open drug use and disorder on the El, and safety concerns raised by riders and SEPTA workers.
Hired under a $1.5 million temporary contract with Allied Universal Security Services, the guards patrol El platforms from 15th Street Station to the Frankford Transportation Center between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. They were initially supposed to be on duty for 90 days.
SEPTA officials will extend the contract beyond 90 days, at least into the fall, spokesperson Andrew Busch said. He said the transit authority has spent just over $1 million of the full $1.5 million authorized by its board in March. Meanwhile, the agency is developing a request for proposals to solicit bids for a more permanent deployment of security personnel on the line and also is considering transit ambassadors throughout the system to assist riders.
“For some customers who are coming back to the system for the first time since early last year, it’s been reassuring to be able to see a guard they can ask questions or get help from,” Busch said. “We want to make sure people see we are doing everything we can to make sure the system is safe.”
SEPTA ridership had recovered to about 46% of its pre-pandemic level by June 30, the agency says.
Data comparing citations for misbehavior on the trains before and after the guards’ deployment were not immediately available, but Busch said it appears they have helped to deter fare-jumping at Market-Frankford Line stations they patrol.
Some riders still complain about conditions on the El, often on social media.
In March, SEPTA closed the Somerset El Station in Kensington for repairs to two elevators knocked out by public urination and piles of discarded needles and syringes, as well as deep cleaning and repainting throughout the station, which had become a refuge for people addicted to drugs and experiencing homelessness.
At the time, residents of the neighborhood, in the heart of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic, protested the temporary loss of a key connection to jobs, shopping, and other needs. SEPTA officials later launched a cleanup blitz at nearby Allegheny Station.