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SEPTA harnesses partnership power at 2014 Constituent Services Day

Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager

How does an agency like SEPTA go beyond our website and customer service lines to keep every passenger in our 2,202 square mile service region informed? We partner with the offices of every elected official in the region to share information and resources that keep the riding public informed.

Last week, a large group of the region's elected leaders and their staff assembled at SEPTA's Headquarters in Center City Philadelphia for the Authority's fifth annual Constituent Services Day. "This program is a reverse of what we work to do for them," explained Constituent Services Coordinator Rochelle Culbreath. "On this day instead of going to visit them in their district offices, we invite them to our offices and brief them on the hot topics that are affecting our agency." As part of this year's program, the legislative leaders participated in a briefing regarding upcoming policy changes and refinements to the Customized Community Transportation Program (CCT) and took part in an extensive demonstration of the New Payment Technology (NPT) program that will be rolled out to SEPTA's stations and vehicles later this year. "It answered a lot the questions that we've received about tapping in and out of the system on Regional Rail," said Tom Kohler, an aide to Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County. "It's nice to be up to date on this", he said.

Officials also spent part of the program meeting with SEPTA Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel who detailed the "Catching Up" capital improvement plan which is heavily financed by new state funding support provided by the recently passed Act 89 legislation. Starting this year, the program will help SEPTA begin construction and maintenance projects that will improve the system's state of good repair.

"Keeping these officials and their offices informed, and up -to-date is one of our highest priorities" says SEPTA Assistant General Manager for Government and Public Affairs Francis M. Kelly. "Because they are in close contact with members of their communities, many of our riders contact them first about issues involving transportation. When we keep them informed about SEPTA, they can almost serve as satellite offices for the riders." Real-time information like that is a key reason that many of the participating legislators said they enjoyed participating in the annual Constituent Service Day event. "This is my fourth year attending, and every time it's all new," said Lee Taliaferro who serves the office of Representative Maria P. Donatucci whose district covers Philadelphia and Delaware County. "Getting this information is important for us because SEPTA is always doing something new for the passengers every year."

Beyond the main points covered in the meetings of the day, elected officials were also able to ask questions regarding specific issues that affect their districts. "We have a lot of seniors in South Philadelphia who ride SEPTA", said Alisa Borovik of State Senator Larry Farnese's office. "From NPT to wheelchair accessibility, this information is something we can begin to share with them right away." Although SEPTA's Community and Government Affairs Team is just a phone call or community meeting away for most of these legislators and their teams, everyone agreed that connecting face-to-face about the critical issue of transportation for the residents of the Delaware Valley was time well spent.

SEPTA Assistant General Manager for Public & Government Affairs Francis Kelly opens the 2014 Constituent Services Day.

SEPTA Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel gives an update on the Authority's capital plan.

Legislative staff participates in a briefing on SEPTA's New Payment Technology Program.

They were also invited to participate in a demonstration of the upcoming fare card & fare gate technologies.

A look at a mock-up of a future SEPTA station entrance once NPT equipment is fully deployed.