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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coming Attraction

Thanks to the tighter turning radius of my (relatively) new wheelchair, I've been able to avoid harrowing episodes boarding Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) regional rail trains like I experienced last summer. Still, it isn't that easy to board the 40-some-year-old trains, which must be entered at either end, requiring me to make a sharp turn to enter the seating area. The doorways are barely wide enough and the thresholds difficult for a wheelchair to climb.

But that's all about to change. Today, I had the opportunity to board a mock-up of one of SEPTA's fleet of 120 new Silverliner V cars (pictured above, courtesy of Steve Ives, contributing writer at, and I was impressed, to say the least. Boarding the side-entry car was a snap. A SEPTA employee had to put down a ramp to bridge the gap between the platform and the car, but this apparently won't be necessary when the new fleet is phased into service late next year. But the doorways were nice and wide. Once inside, there was a dedicated wheelchair seating area, with a fold-away bench seat. I was told that there will also be tie-downs as well.

While SEPTA's current train cars may claim to be wheelchair-accessible, the new cars truly will be. Then, if I run my nurse over while boarding the train, it can be concluded that I am simply a lousy driver!


Steve Ives said...

I never thought about what a hassle it has to be navigating the doors and vestibules on the current trains. The layout seems to be much more favorable for everyone. Whaddya know - SEPTA actually makes an improvement over something from the 60s.

P. Hilferty said...

Hey Josh,
Your post is very interesting. If you are ever looking to rate a public transportation system based on accessibility, I recommend starting with the Metro in Washington, DC. Not only is it in a beautiful city, it is also extremely easy to access. Many stations throughout the city have elevators, and the cars on the system have been side entry for years. The Metro is also very clean (for a subway) and feels safe. I am glad Philadelphia is getting with the program... finally.


Krysta said...

I almost choked on my lunch just now, reading that SEPTA is actually upgrading trains AND is interested in rider input! Having taken SEPTA for more than a decade when I lived / worked in Philly, I can say this is LOOOONG overdue. Keep me posted on this surprising development!