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

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Where do Broken Vehicles Go?

John Golden
Public Information Manager

What happens to SEPTA's vehicles once they're no longer in use? Are they destined for the proverbial transit junkyard?

Just because a vehicle has "peaked" doesn't mean it can't roll on for a second journey.

The disposal or reassignment process starts when a communications form, established by SEPTA's Operations Department, is completed. It states pertinent information, such as how long the vehicle has been in operation.

The form is then submitted to the Procurement Department, and verified with a grants compliance officer, as equipment purchased with federal funds must be tracked and inventoried. Based on that information the process of scrapping or selling the vehicle is set in motion.

According to Andy Abdallah, SEPTA's assistant general manager of procurement, every SEPTA vehicle has an established "useful life." As an example most American transit systems expect their buses to have a useful life of about 12 years, but that amount of time can vary.

"Once we are authorized to dispose of the asset we take a look at what would be the best way—whether we're going to sell it for scrap (metal) or whether we sell it as a vehicle that is still operational," explains Abdallah. "I think our folks do a great job with the maintenance and overhauling, so much that we're able to get longer than 12 years out of our buses," adds Abdallah.

The period for the Authority's rail cars to operate on the system is much longer. For example, the Silverliner IVs, which are used on SEPTA's Regional Rail Lines, have been in use for approximately 45 years. Trolleys and subway cars on the Broad Street Line have been in use since about 1982 and the Market-Frankford Line cars have been in operation since 1996.

When the time comes to relinquish the vehicle asset, a decision is made to either donate the equipment or sell it. According to Abdallah, SEPTA is required to dispose of its assets upon reaching their useful life and get market value for that particular vehicle.

"You have a lot of agencies out there that are much smaller than SEPTA, or even schools that may still benefit from the vehicle, since it's still in good running condition and we have donated vehicles in the past. Once in a while we'll receive a request from a specialty museum that is looking for a rail car," explains Abdallah. In that case SEPTA would not be able to donate to the museum, but instead, would need to contact the museum's specific municipality and have their city approach SEPTA explaining the need for the vehicle.

According to Abdallah, SEPTA recently had a request from a museum for a number of Norristown High-Speed Line cars that are still on property, but not in operation.

"We are going through that process now. We have to go to the FTA ([Federal Transit Administration] and prove to them that the vehicle is past its useful life and no longer used by the Authority," explains Abdallah.

So the next time a customer rides in a transit vehicle, just know that it may be getting ready to retire, but it may not necessarily have reached the "end of the line."

Market-Frankford Line-Front St 1974

Market-Frankford Line-Front St 1974

Route 59 Bleigh 1972

Route 59 Bleigh 1972

Route 60 Allegheny & Broad 1970

Route 60 Allegheny & Broad 1970

SEPTA #4233 GM TDH-5304 Byberry Hospital June, 1981

SEPTA #4233 GM TDH-5304 Byberry Hospital June, 1981