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SEPTA to play a vital role in Pa. economic coronavirus recovery, study says

SEPTA officials are counting on the Econsult report to play an important role as it recovers from its own devastating losses.

The Philadelphia skyline is seen from a window of the SEPTA Market-Frankford Line heading westbound on March 24.
The Philadelphia skyline is seen from a window of the SEPTA Market-Frankford Line heading westbound on March 24.Read moreHeather Khalifa / AP

Armed with a new study they commissioned, SEPTA officials are touting the transportation authority’s economic impact on the region as essential to its recovery from the devastating losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

SEPTA is crucial in moving workers and consumers in the growing five-county region, an area representing 32% of the commonwealth’s population and 42% of economic activity, according to the study from Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions Inc.

» READ MORE: SEPTA faces an unprecedented financial challenge. A plunge in Pa. Turnpike traffic may make it tougher.

“When you think about getting the state’s fiscal position back on track, it’s clear that this region has been an outsize contributor and will need to be so again,” said Ethan Conner-Ross, vice president and associate principal at Econsult. SEPTA paid Econsult $40,000 for the independent report, which analyzed data prior to the pandemic.

SEPTA’s capital and operating investments total about $3.43 billion in annual economic impact in Pennsylvania, and support 26,500 jobs as well as $1.9 billion in earnings, the study found. Every $1 spent by SEPTA means a 91-cent return, Conner-Ross said.

SEPTA has planned a $1.53 billion operating budget and $640 million capital budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. The authority will hold hearings on both this month.

SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. “Pat” Deon Sr. said the report will be important to show officials they’re not "throwing money down the rat hole” when investing in the authority.

“Nothing’s more important right now than just making sure they know that without this kind of investment, the opening after the COVID’s over will be crippled," Deon said.

» READ MORE: SEPTA plans to move forward on free transfer, reduced child fare in July, postpone increases amid coronavirus

SEPTA has received $643 million from the CARES Act and faces at least a $300 million loss of revenue through June 2021.

The report also showcases the before-and-after effects of Act 89, the state funding bill for public transportation passed in 2013, which allowed SEPTA to more than double its capital budget.

Philadelphians want to live near SEPTA — population along the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines is growing about twice as fast as the citywide average, according to Econsult. The economic impact study can also be found online.