SEPTA has drafted a doomsday plan to eliminate nine of its 13 rail lines and shorten two others, close a subway line, and convert trolley routes to bus lines if the state doesn't come up with more money for public transit this year.
SEPTA general manager Joseph Casey sent the plan to state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch on Tuesday and laid it out for the state Senate Transportation Committee Thursday.
The "service realignment plan" would begin next year and continue slashing service until 2023, when the SEPTA system would be a shadow of its current self.
SEPTA estimates the plan would cost it at least 40 million passengers a year, about 12 percent of its ridership.
Currently, SEPTA is enjoying its highest ridership in a quarter-century and its highest Regional Rail ridership ever.
The dire SEPTA plan was made public as the legislature prepares to return to Harrisburg after its summer recess, with transportation funding high on the agenda.
Faced with Gov. Corbett's proposal for $1.8 billion in additional funding, a $2.5 billion bill approved by the state Senate, or a $2 billion plan offered by House Republican leaders, state lawmakers recessed on July 1 without approving any of them.
Amid wrangling over how much to provide for public transit, how much to increase gas taxes and motorist fees, and linking transportation to efforts to privatize the state liquor business, lawmakers could not come to agreement.
Now, "it's time to pay the piper," Casey said Thursday before testifying to the Senate committee.
"I'm just laying out reality," Casey said. "We can't maintain the infrastructure we have out there forever. . . . This is the consequence of years of underfunding transit."
Casey said the bill approved in June by the Senate, which would provide $510 million more for transit by the end of five years, would provide enough money for SEPTA to maintain its current system.
While that money would not fully fund SEPTA's needs, Casey said, SEPTA could borrow against the anticipated revenue to provide immediate financial relief.
In his letter to Schoch, Casey asked for $6.5 billion from the state over the next 10 years to restore much of the system to a state of good repair. Rail bridges are a particular problem; several major spans are more than a century old and will be closed to trains if not replaced soon, Casey said.
"I'm not going to operate over a bridge if there's a possibility it could collapse," Casey said.
Deteriorating railroad infrastructure, inherited by SEPTA from the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Co., are the biggest drivers of SEPTA's maintenance funding gap. So the biggest service cuts proposed by SEPTA would fall on Regional Rail passengers.
The plan for cutbacks calls for suspending service on the lightly traveled Cynwyd rail line next year, the heavily traveled Media-Elwyn line in 2015, the Chestnut Hill West line in 2018, and the West Trenton, Airport, Warminster, Marcus Hook-Wilmington, Fox Chase, and Chestnut Hill East lines in 2023.
In addition, SEPTA says it would truncate its busiest rail line, the Paoli-Thorndale line, at Malvern in 2023, and end service to Doylestown on the Lansdale-Doylestown line in 2018.
Also, the plan calls for retiring -- but not replacing -- 284 rail cars, leaving the agency with just its 120 Silverliner V cars by 2023.
The doomsday plan also calls for converting trolley Routes 10 and 15, which serve West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia, to bus lines next year and doing the same in 2018 with trolley Routes 11, 13, 34 and 36.
The plan would close the lightly traveled Broad-Ridge Spur subway line in 2018 and end all express service on the Broad Street subway by 2023.
And paratransit service for the handicapped would be reduced.