Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Faye Moore and I am the General Manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority -–better known as SEPTA. I appreciate your invitation to come here today to testify on the benefits to SEPTA of the TEA-21 legislation and our thoughts on how the upcoming reauthorization of that legislation can continue the progress we have seen since its enactment in 1998. I am particularly pleased to be testifying before a subcommittee on which our Senator – Rick Santorum – serves. Senator Santorum has been a great friend to public transportation in general and to SEPTA in particular. I look forward to working closely with him as this committee takes up legislation to extend Federal support for transit.
Before I discuss the main topics of my testimony today, allow me to begin with a little background on myself and on SEPTA.
I was selected to be General Manager of SEPTA in February of this year. Before becoming General Manager, I served as the Chief Financial Officer of the organization. I am a Certified Public Accountant. I know that the image of CPA’s has been somewhat tarnished in recent months, but I assure you Mr. Chairman, I am proud of my profession and believe my training is helping me look for value everywhere in our organization and focus us on operating our agency is a sound and responsible manner.
I see our core responsibility to be providing quality transportation service to our customers every day. Working with senior management and all the dedicated men and women who make up our workforce, my goal is to continue to build upon SEPTA’s commitment to quality public transit services.
The five counties that make up our service region rely upon a strong public transportation network to support their economic and social growth and stability. SEPTA’s network consists of a variety of different modes of transit service. We have commuter rail , heavy rail, light rail, streetcars, "trackless trolleys" (known elsewhere as electric trolley buses), buses and paratransit service. Each day, we provide 1,050,000 trips – making us the sixth largest transit system in the nation. Our annual operating budget is $ 822 million for the current year and our capital budget is $ 496 million per year.
Of course, Mr. Chairman, the Federal government is a substantial contributor to our capital budget. So let me turn my attention now to the Federal programs of TEA 21 and how they have helped us make improvements to our system.
First and foremost, TEA-21 has made significant additional dollars available to SEPTA. For example, in the last year of the previous authorization period, fiscal 1997, SEPTA received $ 112 million from the two main formula programs from which we receive assistance – Section 5307 Urban Formula Grants and the Section 5309 Rail Modernization program. In the current year, fiscal 2002, we have received $ 167 million from those two programs. Thanks to the assistance of our congressional delegation, we have also been successful in gaining funding from programs, such as Section 5309 Bus and Access to Jobs, for which Congress earmarks funds in annual appropriations bills.
In addition to increased funding, we also benefited from the creation of new programs in TEA-21. In particular, the Jobs Access Reverse Commute program has produced substantial benefits in our region for current, past and possibly future recipients of assistance from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF). Both of our Senators, Sen. Santorum and Sen. Specter, have played an important role in the creation and annual funding of that program. We appreciate the work they have both done to improve the job prospects of families in our region who are struggling to make ends meet.
The increase in funding and new programs in TEA-21 have allowed SEPTA to achieve some of the key goals we set out for ourselves in the five-year business plan we developed in 1997. Some of the goals we have achieved with Federal assistance in the TEA-21 era include:
We recognize that this Subcommittee and the full Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs worked hard to produce the TEA-21 legislation and I would be remiss if I did not pause after delineating some of our successes under the program to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and all the members of this subcommittee and full committee, for the work you did to make the legislation a reality. As you can see, it has helped to produce real gains in the Philadelphia region.
One issue which has come very much to the forefront in recent months, which none of us foresaw when TEA-21 was drafted, is that of the security of our system. Those of us who operate transit systems were so proud of the way our colleagues in New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC responded to the September 11 attacks on our nation. The events of that day showed clearly the paradox transit faces when thinking about the terrorist threat against the U.S. -- our facilities are targets and escape routes all at the same time. Philadelphia was spared the horrors of that particular day last September. However, we are aware that our city contains historic landmarks, such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and City Hall, which our enemies may view as targets in the future. With that in mind, we have been evaluating our vulnerabilities to attack and the ways in which our system can play a role in any evacuation which may be required in the future.
We have been assisted in our efforts by the Federal Transit Administration, which sent a security audit team to Philadelphia recently as part of its security audit of the top 30 transit systems in the country. Our initial estimate is that the cost of making the necessary security repairs to our system would be $ 100 million.
As you look ahead to the reauthorization of TEA-21, we have some thoughts on how the programs can be improved even more. I know you will be spending many, many hours examining options for program improvements in the months ahead. As you do, I hope you will keep in mind some broad principles which I believe will help produce legislation of maximum benefit to public transportation service in our region and across the country.
Here are the key principles I believe should be part of your deliberations:
SEPTA applies this same principle to the management of its own capital program. That is one of the reasons why we are the only rail property which built its core system without Federal funds and which has never built new or expanded service using Federal New Start funds. Over the life of the Federal program we have always felt it better to focus on modernizing our existing system and adding capacity to it. Going forward, we will be continuing to modernize the Market-Frankford line, buying new rail cars for our commuter rail system and otherwise focusing on preserving – and even improving – the quality of our existing system.
Even with this focus on rebuilding however, we are prepared to respond to new opportunities as evidence mounts that our suburban communities require new rail service to deal with growing congestion on their road networks. With that in mind, we are exploring two promising New Start projects. The Schuykill Valley Metro project would place service much like what you have here on the Washington Metro system on an existing railroad line connecting Philadelphia with Reading in the Lehigh Valley. The Cross County Metro system would also run on existing tracks in our suburban areas and would connect our major regional lines. The result would be vastly improved suburb-to-suburb rail travel options.
Mr. Chairman, before closing, I feel it is important to mention another key issue which is now before the Senate and which may well be included in the upcoming TEA-21 reauthorization. That issue is the fate of Amtrak. As you look at the pros and cons of providing additional assistance to Amtrak, it is my hope you will keep in mind the importance to commuters up and down the East Coast of improving and maintaining the rail infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor. SEPTA operates it busiest commuter lines on Amtrak right-of-way. Together with our colleagues in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, we carry many multiples of the passenger load carried by Amtrak over those tracks each day. As you consider the future of service on the Northeast Corridor, please keep in mind that most of the people using it are customers of the commuter railroads. In the absence of a financially healthy intercity rail operator on that line, the burden on the commuter agencies to maintain service would be impossible to bear.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. SEPTA hopes to work with you and each Member of this subcommittee as you develop legislation to take us through the next authorization period.
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