First big travel day on reduced Market-Frankford after Super Bowl

- Tuesday morning is the first real big test for how SEPTA handles commuters with way fewer Market-Frankford Line train cars.

So far, so good. They expected huge crowds as everyone returns to work and school.

Monday, when changes went into effect, many people had taken the day off after watching the Super Bowl.

FOX 29’s Lauren Johnson reports SEPTA staff is on hand at the Girard Avenue station in Fishtown, directing commuters to either the train platform or shuttle buses brought in if there’s overcrowding.

The supplemental shuttle buses run the Market-Frankford route, like during Night Owl service, during peak hours of 6-10am and 3-7pm, until there is an adequate number of trains.

Fox 29's Bob Kelly reports those buses are affecting other routes.

Friday night, during scheduled vehicle overhaul work, a crack was found on a main load-carrying beam on two subway cars. Then, dozens more were taken out of service for indications of cracks.

It will take rush hour trains more than the usual 10 minutes to arrive. Also, express A/B stop service is suspended, so all trains will make all stops. Bob reports the longer gap between trains and fewer cars on the trains will lead to more crowded platforms and trains.

General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel said Monday morning's rush hour was not as crowded on the line as officials feared.

"We prepared for a lot worse situation than we saw," he said. "I'm not saying it wasn't crowded, but we didn't see crowding conditions that caused a lot of problems."

Only eight shuttle buses had to be used, even though 60 were available.

Knueppel said inspections turned up 58 rail cars with cracks in the vent area and two with cracks in the support beams. But, since the cars are used in married pairs, one compromised car can also make the second car unusable. He said he couldn't estimate how long repairs would take, saying dealing with fractures is a specialized area and the agency doesn't want to rush safety-related efforts.

Only 16 trains were running during Monday's morning rush hour, rather than the usual 24, and that number was expected to rise to 18 by the evening rush.

Of the total 218 cars, 108 should be available by Monday night. Kneuppel said about 144 cars are the "bare minimum" needed for peak-level service.

Kneuppel said some of the cars have motor vents welded onto the beam, and cracks appeared to have developed on either that vent or the weld and then spread about eight inches into the 23-inch-wide beam. Beams with no vents welded to them have shown no sign of cracks.

It's the second time in a year the agency had to stop using trains because of structural problems. Over the summer, a defect prompted removal from service of about one-third of the Regional Rail fleet.

SEPTA is in a better position to deal with problems on the Market-Frankford Line than any other because there are more spare cars available, and the problem has a lower rate of occurrence than the summer's Regional Rail fleet defect.
 
"I'm hoping that every day that goes by, we'll have more cars out there," Kneuppel said.
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