A petition has been started in hopes of convincing SEPTA to restore rail service to the West Chester area, a means of transportation that could change student commutes to campus and into Philadelphia.Service was discontinued in 1986, a tough period for SEPTA economically, when rail maintenance was impossible to upkeep. However, over 20 years later, John Mckinstry, a faculty member of the Westtown Friends School, has begun a project to urge SEPTA to restore their rail service as times have changed since the 80s.
“Many of us remember when there was regular rail service to West Chester from Philadelphia, with stops at Williamson School, Cheyney University, Westtown, WCU and West Chester,” Mckinstry said. “It was very easy to get into and out of Philadelphia, and making all the connections to the airport and intercity rail service.”
Mckinstry addressed a variety of factors that support the restoration of rail service.
“The price of oil and gasoline has gone to heights few could imagine even just a few years ago, so that private car transportation is having an impact on people’s budgets,” he said. Mckinstry pointed to the rising price of oil on the global market, a factor that could eventually cause more and more people to rely on public transportation.
SEPTA now has a different form of funding, according to Mckinstry, so that “they can start thinking more strategically, rather than living from day to day on limited budgets. Thus, they can respond to the fact that Septa’s rail traffic has been growing over the last few years.”
The faculty at Westtown School also took rising environmental concerns into account when drafting the petition. The amount of pollution created by cars driving from the West Chester area into Philadelphia and vice-versa is much greater than that of an operational train.
“Railroads have a?much smaller carbon footprint compared to bus and car transportation,” Mckinstry said.
Before taking the petition to county and state officials, Mckinstry hopes to gain the support of students and other interested parties in order to make a strong presentation to the powers that be.
“We have gotten a very positive response from WCU faculty.” Faculty members here at WCU are interested in the petition for personal transportation to and from campus as well as creating more diversity on campus through more accessible public transportation, according to Mckinstry.
SEPTA is aware of the petition and the desire for rail service to be restored to West Chester and the surrounding area, but they are not the decision-maker in the situation. It is the county that needs to have the interest and therefore make a deal with Septa as the agent, according to Mckinstry.
Mayor Richard Yoder of West Chester has interest in the petition, even as a part of making West Chester the home of a new minor league baseball team, and rail service would help in allowing fans to come to the games.
“The most important thing is that each student signs the petition, and also they should feel free to write their own individual letters to elected officials,” Mckinstry said.
Restored rail service to WCU could greatly increase students’ ability to access Philadelphia and reduce the dependency on Septa’s bus service.
With a large portion of comm
uter students here, rail service could revolutionize the daily commute.
Shane Madden is a fourth-year student majoring in history with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at SM590676@wcupa.edu