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The Campus Lantern

Potential closure of Chestnut Hill West threatens SCH student commutes

Julien Friedland
A sign in support of Chestnut Hill West
A train arrives at Chestnut Hill West (Julien Friedland)

Possible budget cuts may force SEPTA to suspend the local Chestnut Hill West line, jeopardizing SCH student commutes.

Established in 1884, Chestnut Hill West is a ten-station line that runs from 30th Street Station to its terminus at the top of the Hill. Now, with funding drying up, SEPTA is faced with the uncomfortable possibility of discontinuing the line entirely, leaving SCH students who rely on the line upset and concerned.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SEPTA received emergency government funding to fill the revenue gap. While these federal funds are now exhausted, train and bus usage has not returned to pre-pandemic rates. This predicament has left SEPTA with a $240 million shortfall if new funding is not approved by July. “We’re a bit short on the revenue side,” said Andrew Busch, the director of media relations for SEPTA. “Our budget is almost 1.7 billion a year. Those federal funds were always intended to be a one-time infusion.”

Mr. Busch emphasized that “SEPTA hasn’t yet arrived at any decision to cut [Chestnut Hill West] or any other lines. We’re looking at all our services.” However, residents are still worried. The line had already been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic and it is the third least-used rail line in the city. The line has approximately 1800 daily riders, down from 4000 pre-pandemic. That’s over a fifty percent decrease in passengers. Residents and commuters both fear that an already-struggling train line could be a target if SEPTA cuts spending.

Paige Murray, a junior at SCH who relies on the Chestnut Hill West rail line for her school commute, voiced frustration at the potential closure. Murray explained, “I used to take Chestnut Hill West every single day. I live in the city, and my family only has one car. A lot of the time there isn’t any other option for me to get to school.” She isn’t the only one. There are currently 53 actively enrolled SCH student fare card holders in the SEPTA database. “It makes me so sad. I have a lot of friends out in Chestnut Hill and it’s one of my only ways to get to them,” said Murray. “It would just be catastrophic if [the line] was canceled.”

Budget cuts wouldn’t just affect the future of Chestnut Hill West, they would also impact service around the city. “What we have to look at is the possibility of service cuts across the board of up to twenty percent,” explained Mr. Busch. “It would impact frequency. So a bus coming for somebody every fifteen minutes would now be something closer to twenty-five or thirty minutes. Same thing for the subway and regional rail.”

However, Mr. Busch expressed optimism that the line would stay open. Governor Shapiro recently proposed a multi-million dollar increase in funding for SEPTA that aims to fix the organization’s budget woes. Mr. Busch said, “If those [funding increases] are passed, it would eliminate the need for SEPTA to make service cuts. We’re very hopeful and much more positive than we were a few weeks ago.”

A decision is expected by April.

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About the Contributor
Julien Friedland
Julien Friedland, Staff Writer, Editor
Julien is currently a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and this is his first year on staff. Outside of school, he can be found playing golf, reading a book and trying to find the best places to eat. He also likes to play the electric bass.
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    STEVEN KRUPNICKMar 19, 2024 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you. Very informative.