During the board meeting on Thursday, February 25, the SEPTA Board will vote on a budget resolution to spend $40 million intended for running buses and trains on planning a controversial rail construction project in Montgomery County which is years away from completion.
At SEPTA there are two piles of money: one for operations and one for capital projects. The operating budget pays for things like salaries of bus operators, while the capital budget pays for the buses they drive or the parking lots that SEPTA builds.
The CARES Act is an economic relief package which provided transit agencies with $25 billion to deal with losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the CARES Act, SEPTA received $643 million dollars for “targeted operating budgets”– this is money from the federal government intended to pay the workers who keep SEPTA running. On Thursday, the board will vote to use CARES Act funding to pay Amtrak for track leases, and will shift the money earmarked for track leases to the King of Prussia rail project.
While this financial maneuver may not violate the law, it does ignore the intention of the CARES Act. This money was intended to keep transit running through the crisis, not for planning new construction projects. SEPTA riders have dealt with reduced service and crowded buses through the pandemic. The solution is to grant all SEPTA worker overtime requests and run as much service as is necessary.
A budget is a statement of moral priorities. With a yes vote SEPTA Board members are saying they think construction projects are more important than rider safety.
Current SEPTA board members:
- Pat T. Deon Sr., Bucks County (Board Chair)
- Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr., Montgomery County (Board Vice Chair)
- John F. Cordisco, Bucks County
- Thomas Babcock, Delaware County
- Mark H. Dambly, Delaware County
- Kevin L. Johnson, Chester County
- Joseph E. Brion, Chester County
- Robert D. Fox, Montgomery County
- Michael A. Carroll, Philadelphia County
- Deborah Mahler, Philadelphia County
- Obra S. Kernodle, IV, Appointee of Governor Tom Wolf
- VACANT, Senate Majority (Republican) Leader Appointee
- William J. Leonard, Senate Minority (Democratic) Leader Appointee
- Martina White House Majority (Republican) Leader Appointee
- John I. Kane, House Minority (Democratic) Leader Appointee
(This post will be updated with the results of the vote. In the meantime, join the TRU)