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Lending a Helping Bus (or 30)

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

The hum of the engines quickly turned to a roar as a convoy of 31 SEPTA buses hit the road, headed up the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes from the Frontier District to New Brunswick, NJ. Thirty of the buses are on loan to NJ Transit, to support that organization's rail operations, which were severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

"SEPTA was fortunate to have escaped the storm without experiencing major damage to our vehicles and facilities," said General Manager Joe Casey. "Had Hurricane Sandy followed a different path, we could be facing the same devastating situation as NJ Transit." For that reason, when NJ Transit asked for SEPTA's assistance, Authority Board Chairman Pat Deon and Casey did not hesitate to authorize the vehicle exchange. "If SEPTA were in need of a vehicle loan, I believe NJ Transit would be willing to assist us."

NJ Transit's light rail lines, commuter rail system and Amtrak's Hudson River Tunnels - all vital for the organization's rail service into New York - were significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. This resulted in service suspensions across the State's public transportation network. The SEPTA "loaner" buses will augment the remaining fleet of NJ Transit's operable vehicles and will support shuttle service for riders traveling from New Jersey into New York City.

Each of SEPTA's eight bus districts was asked to relinquish buses for this special mission. All of the selected vehicles have recently received a required 3,000 mile maintenance inspection.

"We do not anticipate that this slight reduction of our bus fleet will cause our passengers to experience any inconvenience or overcrowding," said Casey. "I'm confident that our riders will agree that helping our neighbors in New Jersey, who have limited public transportation options, is the right thing to do."

The bus loan came together in a matter of days - from the time SEPTA was called on Friday afternoon to the time the convoy left Frontier, with a SEPTA and Pennsylvania State Police escort, on Sunday morning.

"I am extremely proud of the job our staff did in pulling this important project together," said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Operations Ron Hopkins. "Everyone jumped in to make sure we could deliver the buses to New Brunswick. From selecting the vehicles to organizing the operators and police escorts, we were able to make this happen in a very short period of time."

The Authority's efforts to assist its sister agency were not unnoticed. Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff telephoned Casey to express his appreciation of the SEPTA's support.

From Frontier, the buses were taken to Suburban Transit in New Brunswick. Suburban Transit is a provider of motorcoach commuter and charter services in Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset Counties. Bus drivers employed by Suburban Transit will operate the 30 SEPTA buses for NJ Transit. The convoy's 31st bus transported the SEPTA operators back to Philadelphia.

TWU Local 234 President John Johnson (center, left) and SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Operations Ron Hopkins (center, right) gathered with SEPTA bus operators before the convoy headed to New Jersey.

Buses from all eight SEPTA districts headed to New Brunswick, on loan to NJ Transit.

Assistant Director of Transportation Bill Thornton (far right) gave final instructions to the bus operators before the convoy took off.

Assistant General Manager Ron Hopkins thanked SEPTA's bus operators for their assistance in delivering the buses to New Jersey.

And they're off! The convoy took off from Frontier to New Brunswick.