The Chelten Station of the Chestnut Hill West Line. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

In late January, there was some shocking news from the SEPTA Board of Directors. It was announced that SEPTA is facing a budget shortfall of $240 million as the pandemic relief funds they have used to plug the budget end. To compensate for the deficit, SEPTA is considering implementing a 30% fare increase and a 20% cut to their service.

While there has been no official announcement, the Chestnut Hill West (CHW) line has some of the lowest daily ridership, with only 1,756 passengers. The Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail line was also first in line for permanent closure before federal pandemic relief dollars offered a temporary rescue. In response, concerned residents and organizations from the Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, and Germantown communities have formed the “Save the Train” coalition.

Some of the organizations in this coalition include West Mount Airy Neighbors (WMAN), East Mount Airy Neighbors (EMAN), Weavers Way Co-op, Pomona Cherokee Civic Council, High Point Cafe, and over 15 more.

While the governor is proposing to increase transit funding, it’s far from a sure thing, and the coalition isn’t slowing down.

Chestnut Hill resident Niko Irving says that the CHW line is vital to them because of both convenience and safety. Irving works in Center City and says that while they used to get on the 23, issues of robberies led them to begin taking the CHW. “The 23 is a very long ride that’s about 60-90 minutes.” They say the CHW line gets them there in under half of that time. Irving is one of many who will live with the consequences if the line is shut.

The coalition has recognized that the Northwest region of Philadelphia is experiencing a lot of development that relies heavily on the availability of public transportation. Therefore, they are working towards increasing ridership of the CHW line and other transit services. According to their website, they seek to accomplish this by educating non-users on riding SEPTA effectively, advocating for long-term accessibility improvements, and making a case for greater frequency of transit services to match the community’s needs.

Anne Dicker of WMAN says, “We need to take the train AND the bus. We can help SEPTA get back its ridership by doing our part.” 

The coalition has seen progress since their previous efforts, including a rally where hundreds turned out at the Richard Allen Lane station to organize and advocate for this cause. Governor Josh Shapiro proposed $282.2 million in additional state transit funding in his draft budget to help SEPTA avoid immediate service cuts or fare increases. This would create a more stable and balanced funding system for SEPTA in the future, however Shapiro has to negotiate the budget with Republicans who have a majority in the Pennsylvania Senate.

The coalition has outlined various actions NW Philly residents can take to show support for saving the CHW Line and other transit services running. Some of these actions include:

  • Volunteering to help the group make its case and organize
  • Signing a petition asking State Legislators to fund all SEPTA requests fully
  • Taking a survey to help the coalition learn more about how you do (or don’t) take public transportation — these results will be used to help advocate for improved transit service

For neighbors looking to show up in support, there are a few upcoming ways to participate. The first is by joining the “Take the Train Tuesdays” morning commute, where folks can meet each other and ride the train from the Allen Lane station together into Center City (or to whatever stop you get off). The second opportunity will be the Rally & Ride event at the Chelten Station. This will be a more interactive event where attendees will write letters to lawmakers and be able to learn more about the history of the CHW line — all this while enjoying some music. This happens tomorrow, Saturday, February 24, at 9:30 a.m. Finally, on March 6th, bring out the kiddos (preferably ages 2 through 5) and participate in the “Toddlers Take The Train” event, where folks are encouraged to take the CHW line to the CHW Station for a train-themed storytime at Chestnut Hill Library.

Dicker emphasizes the importance of consistent organizing efforts since many people are unaware of the possible SEPTA budget cuts. She says, “Even though the governor has proposed funding for SEPTA in his budget, Democrats only control the State House — the State Senate is controlled by Republicans — so funding is definitely not assured without a full-court press on the issue from all Philadelphia area representatives.”

To keep up with the coalition and other ways to save the train, visit While there, you can also sign up for their eBlast and receive regular email updates.

Dicker lends a message for NW Philly and all Philly residents, saying that while the CHW line may not be relevant to everyone, “Cuts to SEPTA are planned in every neighborhood in the city. Just because we know that CHW is on the chopping block doesn’t mean that yours isn’t, either. We don’t have time to wait until all the cuts are made public – we need to get the word to Harrisburg to fund SEPTA.”