Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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Protected Activities On SEPTA Property Policy


This Policy presents a series of Rules, established by SEPTA, which are intended to specify the scope of permissible use of SEPTA facilities for expressive activities consistent with SEPTA's primary function to provide a fast, reliable and economical transportation system suitable and adapted to the needs of the metropolitan area it serves and its mission to provide service that is accessible, affordable, safe, reliable, clean, and customer focused.


A. "Controlled Area" is an area within SEPTA property in which expressive activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (referenced herein as "First Amendment") are not authorized, and includes without limitation public transit vehicles, platforms, paid areas and restricted areas.

B. "Designated Area" is an area within SEPTA property in which expressive activities protected by the First Amendment are permitted to the extent set forth in these Rules and excludes restricted areas, controlled areas and uncontrolled areas.

C. "Paid areas" means areas of SEPTA property that passengers access after utilizing a fare instrument.

D. "Person" means any individual or organization other than (i) SEPTA, its authorized employees and agents; (ii) SEPTA's licensees, tenants, or concessionaires and their authorized employees, agents, contractors and sub-contractors acting in their capacity as such; (iii) SEPTA's authorized contractors and sub-contractors and designated lessors and their authorized employees and agents acting in their capacity as such; (iv) authorized employees and agents of any other transportation or railroad service that provides a service that connects with or facilitates a SEPTA service acting in their capacity as such; and (v) police and emergency personnel acting in their capacity as such.

E. "Platform" means an area of SEPTA property from which passengers board or exit SEPTA transit vehicles and includes sidewalks adjacent to transit bus berths and boarding islands at SEPTA stations and railway and bus platforms immediately adjacent to moving transit vehicles, stub ends of platforms, trackbeds, driveways, or aprons.

F. "Restricted Area" is an area within SEPTA property to which public access is prohibited and to which access is permitted only by authorized employees or agents or independent contractors of SEPTA, its lessors or other railroads it operates upon, and includes without limitation unlighted portions of train platforms, closed stations, closed station entrances, closed or locked rooms, equipment and machinery rooms, and all portions of stations, paid areas and platforms after the designated hours of closing of such areas.

G. "SEPTA Property" is any property that SEPTA owns and/or operates and/or controls, including areas that SEPTA operates but which are not presently in service, including interchange areas where SEPTA owns and/or operates a service that connects with the transportation service of another operator.

H. "Uncontrolled Area" is an area that is either not owned, operated or controlled by SEPTA, or is owned or operated by SEPTA but leased or licensed to another person.


A. Basic Principles

The Rules presented below shall be interpreted and applied in the light of the following important and compelling governmental interests of SEPTA, including, but not limited to:

1. Protecting the physical safety of patrons, SEPTA employees, and other persons authorized to be present on SEPTA property;

2. Providing a pleasant and comfortable environment;

3. Protecting its patrons from annoyance or invasion of their rights and in minimizing any perceived risk to patrons' personal security in any and all areas of its stations and in its vehicles where patrons represent a captive audience and are unable to avoid unwanted communication or contact with strangers without forfeiting their fare or their position in ticket purchase or other waiting lines;

4. Providing an environment in which its patrons are free from undue distraction from their primary purpose for being there, i.e., of rapidly obtaining information on track locations and bus berths, transit vehicle departure and arrival information, schedule and track changes and its patrons' need efficiently to locate and move onto transit vehicles in a safe, orderly, and expeditious manner;

5. Accommodating passengers with disabilities, including the blind, deaf, and physically challenged, as well as those using wheelchairs and other similar aids, in compliance with law, and in accommodating the special needs of minors, the elderly, the infirm, and other vulnerable individuals using the public transit system;

6. Minimizing extraneous station noise levels so that passengers and SEPTA or other transit personnel may hear public address system and train-initiated announcements of train arrival and departure times, track, berth and platform locations, door closing alerts, schedule changes, emergency announcements and security alerts, so that SEPTA employees and other transit agency employees are not endangered by an inability to communicate orally in an environment of moving transit vehicles;

7. Accommodating the contractual rights of its tenants and concessionaires consistent with the rights afforded tenants in lease agreements;

8. Preventing obstructions to patrons' line of view of overhead or eye-level electronic train and bus information monitors and in preserving unobstructed access by patrons to transit schedule kiosks, informational signing, security and fire alarms, and emergency equipment;

9. Preventing undue apprehension by its patrons of the risk of theft or assault in areas where patrons are engaged in cash or credit transactions, including ATM machines, token/ticket dispensing machines, automatic fare collectors, change machines, cashier's booths and ticket windows, and in other areas of heightened patron apprehension of criminal assault, such as train platforms, paid areas and remote, isolated corridors and passageways;

10. Preserving unobstructed, unimpeded, and orderly flow of pedestrian traffic throughout its stations and particularly in areas adjacent to narrow corridors, passageways, exits and entrances, including headhouses, doorways, roto-gates and other entrance/exit controls, discharge-only areas, ramps, stairways, escalators, offices, lavatories and stores;

11. Implementing rules that entail minimum public cost of enforcement and control;

12. Following applicable building codes, fire codes, noise and air quality environmental criteria, and other regulations;

13. Eliminating and/or minimizing liability to itself and others resulting directly or indirectly from the activities of others on property it owns, operates or controls; and

14. Maintaining clean stations and rights-of-way free of litter, trash and debris.

B. Scope of Application

This Policy and the Rules presented therein apply to SEPTA Property as it is defined above.

1. Amendments

The Rules presented in this Policy may be amended or supplemented from time to time at the sole discretion of SEPTA in accordance with law.

2. Suspension and Modification

SEPTA reserves the right, consistent with law, from time to time to suspend, modify, or revoke the application of any or all of these Rules as it deems necessary or desirable to accommodate its primary transportation function and to comply with legal mandates regarding protected, concerted activity by SEPTA and other transit agency employees.

3. Rules Severable

Unless otherwise specified therein, the order or judgment of a court or other tribunal of competent jurisdiction that any specific provision of these Rules, or part thereof, is invalid shall be confined in its operation to the controversy in which it was rendered and shall not affect or invalidate any other provision of these Rules or the application of any part of these Rules to any other person or circumstances. All the provisions of these Rules shall be deemed severable.

C. Rules Prohibiting Interference With Transit Services

1. No Obstruction or Interference with Transit Service or Pedestrian Traffic

No person may perform any act on SEPTA property which obstructs, unreasonably interferes with, or impedes the safe and efficient provision of transit service, or obstructs, unreasonably interferes with, or impedes the flow of pedestrian traffic.

2. No Panhandling

No person shall panhandle upon SEPTA property.

3. No Commercial Activities

Except as provided in Sections III.C.4 and III.C.5 of these Rules, no person shall engage in any commercial activity upon SEPTA property. Commercial activities are defined to mean any activities that propose a commercial transaction. Commercial activities include:

a) The advertising, display, sale, lease, or offer for sale or lease, of food, goods, services, or entertainment (including the free distribution of promotional goods or materials); and

b) The solicitation of money or payment or acceptance of donations for food, goods, services or entertainment.

4. Permits Required for Solicitation

a) Solicitation of charitable, religious, or political donations, or sale of goods or solicitation or acceptance of donations for goods to benefit charitable, religious, or political causes or organizations shall be permitted only in specified locations within designated areas, subject to the following requirements:

(1) Persons desiring to engage in such activities are required to obtain in advance a permit, written application for which shall be made to:

Director of Facilities
SEPTA Real Estate Department
1234 Market Street, 10th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

(2) Permit applications on forms provided for this purpose by SEPTA shall legibly set forth in writing the name, address, telephone number of the person or persons who seek the permit; the date(s), place(s) and time(s) during which permission is sought; the name, address and telephone number of the affiliated corporation and/or organization, if any. Permits will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis in numbers to be determined by SEPTA as appropriate for each particular station location, date and time;

(3) If granted, permits will specify the exact location, date and time for which permission is granted. Activity by the applicant shall be strictly limited to the scope of the permit sought and granted. No applicant shall be allowed to sell, dispense, or give away food or drink of any kind at any time; and

(4) Proof of registration with the appropriate state charitable solicitation office shall be required in the case of organizations required to register in the state where the law requires such registration for activities occurring therein.

b) Subject to written contractual arrangements with SEPTA, advertisers may secure permission from time to time, upon payment of a fee established by SEPTA, to conduct lawful advertising and promotional activities, including distribution of free product samples, in certain discrete, specifically identified locations created by SEPTA for this purpose in the interior of Suburban Station and the Market East Station. Permission for use of these locations shall be subject, inter alia, to the following conditions:

(1) The locations shall be for a specified duration not to exceed 14 days;

(2) The opportunity to use the locations shall be made available on a first come, first serve basis;

(3) Both commercial and non-commercial advertisers shall be eligible to apply for permission and the fees charged for use of the locations shall be the same for commercial as for non-commercial users;

(4) Permission shall be sought and granted in the manner specified in section III.C.4 of these Rules; and

(5) Permits shall authorize such conduct only with the specific geographic limits of the locations. Conduct of such activities outside the locations shall be deemed a violation of these Rules, shall result in the immediate forfeiture of the user's permit and shall be subject to all of the provisions of these Rules.

5. Sale of Newspapers and Other Written Materials

Sale of newspapers, magazines, books, periodicals, and other written or recorded material protected by the First Amendment and not within the provisions of Section III.C.4 of these Rules, including the sale of newspapers or other written material through "honor" boxes or other similar units shall be permitted only in specified locations within designated areas, subject to the following requirements:

a) Persons desiring to sell such items, are required to obtain in advance a permit following the procedure set forth above in Section III.C.4 of these Rules;

b) Persons desiring to sell such items may be required to pay a licensing fee in accordance with SEPTA's Licensing Fee Schedule which SEPTA may establish from time to time. If in effect, the Licensing Fee Schedule will be supplied on submission of a completed permit application form. By submitting a request for a permit, a person agrees that nonpayment or late payment of the licensing fee constitutes sufficient cause for revocation by SEPTA of the permit;

c) Persons presently selling such items without a permit on SEPTA property shall be afforded ninety (90) days ("safe harbor period") from the date of promulgation of these Rules, or amendment thereto relating to the activity in question, to submit a completed permit application. With respect to such persons, SEPTA will not require a permit during the safe harbor period applicable to such activity; and

d) Permits under this Section shall be given out on a first-come, first-served basis calculated from the expiration of the safe harbor period, in numbers and at locations to be determined by SEPTA as appropriate for each particular station location, date and time.

6. Rules Regulating Non-Commercial Activity

a) Handbilling/Distribution of Written Materials

Distribution of non-commercial leaflets, handbills, circulars or other written materials shall be permitted upon SEPTA property, except as follows:

(1) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material on any platform or in any paid area or in any restricted area;

(2) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material on or in any public transit vehicle;

(3) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material on steps, stairways, ramps, elevators, escalators or in any station headhouse;

(4) No person shall set up any table, stationary or standing sign, or any similar object;

(5) No person shall obstruct, unreasonably interfere with, or impede the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Distribution may only be conducted a reasonable distance away from any exit or entrance, any stairwell, stairway, ramp, elevator, escalator, turnstile, doorway, headhouse, roto-gate or other entrance-exit control, newsstand, concession, or the entrance, exit or other means of ingress or egress, whether for patrons or for loading or unloading, of any commercial store, or the entrance or exit of any restroom or office. Distribution within fifteen (15) feet of any such area or location shall be presumed to obstruct, unreasonably interfere with, or impede the normal flow of pedestrian traffic and not constitute a reasonable distance;

(6) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material within a distance of less than five (5) feet of any area provided for patrons to engage in cash or credit transactions involving an ATM, automatic fare collector, change machine, ticket window, cashier's booth or window, or automatic token or ticket dispensing machine, or within three (3) feet of a pay or credit telephone;

(7) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material to individuals in ticket or other waiting lines, or in any restroom, or to persons who are using pay or cellular telephones, or in any manner or in any location that obstructs any electronic information monitor, informational signage, or security or emergency equipment or signage;

(8) No person shall distribute or attempt to distribute such material in any manner that involves intentional touching of the torso, head, neck, legs or arm (except the hand) of another with written material or otherwise, approaching or re-approaching any person who has expressed a desire not to be addressed or contacted or a desire not to receive material, or in any manner that involves intentionally insulting, ridiculing, or annoying another or intentionally startling another by sudden or darting movements;

(9) No person shall leave unattended any materials intended for distribution or any bag, carton, luggage, suitcase, parcel, package, container or other material. Bags, cartons, luggage, suitcases, parcels, packages or other material that are left unattended will be deemed abandoned and will be removed and may be disposed of in accordance with SEPTA's sole discretion;

(10) Any person distributing materials shall be fully responsible on a continuing basis for the prompt and proper removal and disposal of any materials rejected, dropped, or discarded by persons to whom material was distributed on SEPTA property; and

(11) Additional restrictions upon distribution may be imposed and the operation of these Rules suspended, in whole or in part, in the event of an emergency or other unusual condition, including without limitation, storms or other weather conditions, strikes or labor picketing or other job actions, floods, transit or pedestrian accidents, maintenance or construction conditions, power failures, war or other condition that, in SEPTA's sole judgment, tends to impede or interfere with the normal and orderly flow of traffic or which create a hazard to SEPTA's patrons or employees or which jeopardize the safe operation of SEPTA facilities.

7. Other Non-Commercial Expressive Activities

Other noncommercial expressive activities shall be permitted upon SEPTA property, subject to the restrictions set forth in Section III.C.6 above and further subject to the following:

a) Unless otherwise specifically authorized in a permit given pursuant to Section III.C.4 or Section III.C.5 of these Rules for use at a specified location, date and time for which permission is granted, no person shall use any device for amplifying voice or any sound of any nature;

b) No person shall create or emit excessive noise. Noise is excessive if it tends to interfere with transit operations, patrons' or transit employees' ability to hear and attend to transit public address system or train-initiated announcements, emergency announcements, or security alerts, or with the quiet enjoyment of transit passengers. Noise at a level of 75 decibels or more measured within one foot of the source of the sound shall be considered excessive;

c) No person shall use any device for the artificial creation of odors or intentionally ignite or burn any substance;

d) No person shall use media devices such as films, slides, bright or flashing lights, television cameras, or videotape or audio recording equipment without SEPTA's advance written permission; and

e) No person shall misrepresent through words, signs, leaflets, attire or otherwise such person's affiliation with or lack of affiliation with or support by any organization, group, entity or cause.

D. Agreement

1. No Assumption of Liability

Any person using SEPTA property for non-transit activities, whether pursuant to these Rules or otherwise, does so at his or her own risk. SEPTA assumes no liability by any grant of authorization or permit. Persons to whom permits have been issued who engage on SEPTA property in the activity for which permits are required shall have in their possession and, upon request, shall show some form of photo ID.

2. Agreement to Abide By Rules

The presence of any person upon SEPTA property shall constitute such person's agreement to abide by these Rules.


A. Sanctions

Any person who fails to abide by these Rules may be requested to comply with the Rules, ordered to leave the premises, evicted from SEPTA's property and/or cited for violation of any applicable state or local law or ordinance.

B. No Effect on Other Laws

Nothing in these Rules shall limit or restrict the force and effect of any other regulations, rules, laws or ordinances applicable to conduct upon SEPTA property, including without limitation regulations, rules, and laws applicable to disorderly persons, loitering, disturbing the peace, and/or obstructing a public passageway. Nothing herein shall be construed to limit or restrict the powers or jurisdiction of SEPTA transit police officers or other applicable police officers.

C. No Unlawful Activity

No person shall engage in any unlawful activity upon SEPTA property.

D. Inquiries

Inquiries concerning these Rules and their application may be addressed in writing to SEPTA's

Legal Division at the following address:
Office of the General Counsel
Legal Division
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Fifth Floor
1234 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3780