Members of Congress: Earmark Funding for Trolley Modernization Today

SEPTA’s trolley network is a vital transit lifeline and is critically important to our region’s economic well-being. Unfortunately, the system is slow, mired by delays, unacceptably outdated, and lacks ADA accessibility.

The Philadelphia region deserves reliable, accessible, and frequent trolley service. 

We deserve a fully-modernized trolley network that will better serve Southeastern PA as we recover from the pandemic.

We call on Congress to authorize direct financial support for SEPTA’s Trolley Modernization Project. We are also asking SEPTA to prioritize Trolley Modernization and increase their capital budget investment allocation for this important project.

Sign this petition and share it with the tag #FundTrolleyMod

The current trolley cars are increasingly unreliable. SEPTA’s main trolley fleet comprises cars built during the Reagan administration. These cars are a decade past their 30-year usable life and are failing in service. When a car breaks down in Philadelphia’s downtown trolley tunnel, as happens regularly, the entire network slams to a halt and delays soar for riders.

The trolley system is very heavily used. SEPTA’s six trolley lines in Philadelphia see more riders than any single bus line or Regional Rail line; five of its 10 busiest surface routes are trolleys. Before the pandemic, almost 80,000 people traveled by trolley each work day. As a result, trolleys reached their capacity limit daily, skipping riders waiting at stops because there was just no more room.

This is a matter of equity and racial justice.  Trolley lines serve lower-income, higher-minority communities, connecting these neighborhoods to opportunities in Center City and University City. The current trolley cars are also not fully ADA-accessible to people of all ages and abilities. This applies not only to people with disabilities who must instead use SEPTA’s inconvenient paratransit service, but also families with small children and the elderly.

Our region’s trolley neighborhoods deserve a modern system. In replacing the aging trolley fleet, SEPTA has the chance to transform the trolley system to resemble modern light rail. This means increasing speed and reliability through off-board fare payment, transit signal priority, and stop consolidation. The new system will also be fully accessible with level boarding and offer capacity capable of handling quickly-rebounding transit ridership. These measures, when taken together, can reduce travel time by up to 20%, particularly benefiting aforementioned lower-income neighborhoods.

This project has larger, regional economic benefits. A functional trolley system is critical for our region’s economic recovery, by serving and connecting people to jobs and amenities. A recent study found that the trolley system is a vital component to the SEPTA network, and Trolley Mod specifically would generate 38,000 new jobs in the region. Neighborhoods that the trolleys serve, in Southwest and Lower North Philadelphia, are some of the fastest-growing in the city, while also ballooning in housing prices. Better transit through Trolley Mod would help keep great places affordable, by lowering the costs of transportation in direct time saved.

SEPTA needs the funding to accomplish this. The price tag for this project is $1.85 billion. But so far, SEPTA only has less than $50 million budgeted for this project for next 12 years. Our region needs the funding to make this important transportation project happen right away. If not, trolley cars taken out of service permanently could spell ridership collapse for the entire network. 

In addition, the City of Philadelphia labeled Trolley Mod as its “top priority for large transit infrastructure spending” in its recently-released Philadelphia Transit Plan.

A renewed and modernized trolley system is within reach if Congress brings needed resources.

Imagine a post-pandemic future with a speedy and reliable trolley system, instead of one marred by congestion and delays. Imagine a new fleet of accessible, modern light-rail-style cars ready to serve for decades to come. Imagine a trolley system that’s far more reliable and resilient, giving opportunity and vitality for hundreds of thousands of Southeastern PA residents.

It's crucial that when it comes to infrastructure spending, we Fix it First. As Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg recently commented, "A lot of what we've got to do is dealing with a maintenance backlog."

Sign our petition TODAY to ask our local members of Congress to earmark federal funding for this important project.

  • Rep. Brendan Boyle (PA-2) Contact Form, District Office Phone: (215) 982-1156
  • Rep. Dwight Evans (PA-3) Contact Form, District Office Phone: (215) 276-0340
  • Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) Contact Form, District Office Phone: (610) 626-2020