Public transportation has changed since the pandemic took effect. For Germantown, that means fewer trains and busses operate and entire lines have been suspended due to low ridership and personnel shortages. The Chestnut Hill West Regional rail line was one of many lines suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, and the service has yet to be restored.
The Chestnut Hill West line is a commuter rail that runs through the Northwest Section of Philadelphia, including Germantown. According to an email from SEPTA’s Chief Press Officer Andrew Busch on Thursday Sept.24, the Line was suspended due to low ridership and is now accommodating right-of-way maintenance work by SEPTA and Amtrak.
The email also stated SEPTA’s intentions to restore the line as part of their COVID-19 Recovery plan. But no reopening date was included.
“We have heard concerns about the status of the Chestnut Hill West line, and we would like to reassure riders, elected officials, and other stakeholders that we are committed to bringing service back,”SEPTA General Manager, Leslie S. Richards said in an email.
Residents and The Philly Transit Riders Union have expressed concerns about the line. Germantown resident Sheila Peterson has spent the past several months contacting SEPTA and Councilwoman Cindy Bass’office about the suspension. Peterson has worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 34 years at a South Philadelphia county assistance office. The line was her primary transportation for work. The suspension has inconvenienced Peterson for months.
“I just think it’s a real disservice to the people that are in this area,” Peterson said. “I prefer to train because it’s quicker, it’s convenient. And to me, it has a higher safety factor than coming in contact with standing on a corner, waiting for the bus, and buses are crowded.”
According to the Riders Union, busses are crowded because the Chestnut Hill West line is no longer running. The group started a campaign demanding SEPTA reopen the Chestnut Hill West line and add more busses to the 23 bus route.
Casy Stelitano of the Riders Union said the line’s suspension has dramatically affected ridership on the 23 bus, which operates in Germantown.
“Because of the Coronavirus, there haven’t been as many riders, which is understandable,” She said about the Chestnut Hill West line. “So they’ve closed that line, essentially to save money. But what that has done is created an unsafe situation for folks who have to ride the 23 to get where they need to go. It’s intensifying the overcrowding.”
While SEPTA has provided no details on when the Chestnut Hill West train will be reinstated, General Manager Richards said in an email that it will happen. “We are committed to this service, and look forward to restoring it as we prepare for more riders to return.”