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

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Your Stuff Is Looking For You

Ed Luterbach walked into Passenger Services on Monday morning concerned and flustered. He had just flown in from Minneapolis and had taken the Airport Line into Suburban Station. As he hurried through the train station with his luggage in tow, he made a quick visual check of all his bags and realized his laptop was not there. He had left it on the train.

In town to train a new hire for his food safety business, Luterbach was directed to Passenger Services Office to complete a claims report for the lost item. As he began to tell his story to Gary Deans, SEPTA's Lead passenger Services Representative, John Avent, an assistant conductor on the Airport Line walked into the office. In his hands he carried the misplaced laptop. A very relieved and grateful Lauterbach, tried to offer Avent more than a sincere thank you and a hand shake, but he refused, stating that he was just doing his job.

Deans, who manages the Regional Rail Lost and Found program, reports that he has witnessed hundreds of similar reunions between passengers and their missing property during the 15 years he has been working in Passenger Services. He receives an average of 28 recovered items per day from conductors, cleaners, station personnel and passengers. Regional Rail has an estimated 84 percent return rate on all items and a 93 percent to 99 percent return rate for laptops, cameras, cell phones, identification cards, wallets and purses.

"We are so successful because the program is a strong joint effort supported by our conductors, dispatchers in the Operational Communications Center, the Passenger Services staff and, of course, our passengers," says Dean. "Once we know something is lost or found, it's our job to track down the item or the owner."

Deans reports returning a wedding dress to a grateful bride - on the day of her wedding, and a diamond ring rescued from the floor of a train by determined conductors notified by a tearful fiance.

Unfortunately, not all of the things logged into the lost and found binders can be returned. Eye glasses, gloves, coats, umbrellas, books, keys, lunch bags, walking canes and TrailPasses are turned in on a daily basis and a tag is attached to each item listing the train number, time and location where the item was found. However, unless the owner comes in to claim them, there is no way to know to whom the stuff belongs. Note to the person missing a single patent leather forest green high heeled shoe, your lovely pump is waiting for you in the lost and found storage room at Suburban Station.

Most items are held for 30 days and if no one claims them, they are donated to local charities. Glasses are sent to Wills Eye Hospital, clothes to the Salvation Army and Project Home, books to the Friends of the Philadelphia Free Library and cell phones to Verizon where they are provided to domestic abuse victims at Project Hope.

Property lost on SEPTA City Transit vehicles can also be recovered. People assume that items left behind are gone forever, when it fact they were found by operators and/or other riders and turned in to lost and founds programs maintained at area depots and transportation centers. David Rogers, Senior Director, Southern Division notes that they retrieve an average of 275 wallets and purses each year that were left on buses. Most are turned in with all contents (including cash) intact. They also recovered 50 coats, 75 umbrellas, 3 cameras, 5 iPods, 365 cell phones. The return rate at the Southern Division is currently 50 percent. Chris Valentin, Assistant Director of Transportation at the Callowhill District reports a similar return rate.

Passengers hoping to become reacquainted with their misplaced property can contact Customer Service at (215) 580-7800. After advising the service representative where they believe they left the item, they'll be given the phone number for the office where the item may have been returned and is safely and securely on a shelf, waiting for them.

Ed Lauterbach poses with Assistant Conductor John Avent, who found his laptop.

Regional Rail lost and found manager Gary Dean enjoys his job.

Some of the lost items waiting for their owners.

Deans, with passenger service staff members Charity Hill and Maureen Daly (helping customer).