Septa has no specific date to return service to Chestnut Hill West regional rail line. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

by Kate Dolan

SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill East Regional Rail line will resume service on Monday, June 29th, on an adjusted schedule while the Chestnut Hill West line remains suspended indefinitely.

The Chestnut East line, which serves Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, will run hourly on weekdays, and every two hours on weekends. The return to service comes as Philadelphia’s recovery from COVID-19 enters the Green Phase of reopening and SEPTA projects an increased demand for regional rail service as people return to work.

“What this schedule will be is kind of an interim step,” said SEPTA Chief Press Officer, Andrew Busch. “It’s not service all the way back.”

The Chestnut Hill West line, with stations in West Mount Airy, Germantown and Chestnut Hill, will remain suspended for now without a specific date set for a return. SEPTA is waiting to see how next week’s new schedule accommodates demand and will evaluate from there.  

“We will look to see how ridership comes back — right now it’s very low, only about 5-10% of what we normally would get,” said Busch. “We’ll see what happens once we move to these new schedules and see how many people are coming back.”

Both lines have been suspended since April 9 when SEPTA implemented its Lifeline Service Schedule, which limited service across all modes of transit including trollies, buses, subway and regional rail, to protect SEPTA operators, employees, and riders. As of June 25, there have been 301 confirmed cases of COVID0-19 among SEPTA employees.

SEPTA has been in contact with regional employers and businesses to estimate the transportation needs of the workforce over the course of reopening to determine what level of service accommodates travelers while also protecting employees and riders.

Maintenance and construction projects on the west line’s tracks were able to advance over the last three months while the train has not been in operation and wrapping up that work is a priority, said Busch. With COVID-19 severely limiting demand and the proximity of the east and west lines, “it makes sense to continue that work, to make sure that’s finished.”

“A lot of people who would normally take Chestnut Hill West can use the east line as an alternate,” he said. “So for the time being, we’ll just operate the one line.”

Regional rail riders are required to wear face coverings and can expect social distancing measures to be in place, including seats blocked off leaving essentially every other seat open, and markings in aisles indicating where to stand. Cleaning will take place regularly all day on trains. Station buildings, ticket windows and restroom facilities along the east line will remain closed for the time being.

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