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Forgotten, but not lost

By John Golden
Public Information Manager

December 14 is Lost & Found Day

Since SEPTA's system of trains, trolleys, buses and subways is so vast, it makes sense that the number of items lost or left behind by customers on the system is vast as well.

Each year thousands of items get relegated to the "oh well, I guess that's gone forever" file.

But is it?

According to Chevelle Coaxum, a supervisor in SEPTA's Customer Service Department, just on SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line (MFL), it collects about 4,000 items per year including, on average, about 100 phones per month. Some common items turned in include wallets, purses, IDs, keys, credit cards, as well as, some high-ticket items like laptops and tablets. All total SEPTA collects about 13,000 items per year, system-wide.

The best thing people can do when they lose an item on the system, is actually something before the item is forgotten, and that is to be aware of their surroundings on the specific vehicle.

"When a passenger gets on one of our vehicles, it's important that they make note of the car or vehicle number, direction the vehicle is traveling, and specific time of day," advises Bart McQuoid, SEPTA's assistant director of customer service. "The more information the customer can provide us as to where they were sitting, increases the chances of finding the item," he explains.

It's especially important around this time of the year, as many people come into the city for holiday events and shopping, it's inevitable that someone will leave one of those items behind. So since the holiday season might be a time that items get left behind, it's fitting that December 14 is Lost & Found Day.

Lost and Found Day was officially announced on November 19, 2012, but the concept of having a place where people can come to possibly recover things they have lost dates back 1805, when Napoleon Bonaparte opened the first lost and found office in Paris. Objects found on the streets of the city could be brought there, and those looking for them could go there to see if their items had been turned in.

Since then, the concept has spread all over the world. Transport for London's (TFL) lost property offices collect about 130,000 objects every year, ranging from the obvious choices such as mobile phones and wallets to more unexpected and unusual ones, like wedding dresses, urns containing ashes of the deceased, wheelchairs and even kitchen sinks.

"On our system, sometimes we even find medication, and in that case we'll call the doctor's office listed on the label and advise them where they can pick it up," explains Coaxum. "As far as most unusual items recovered, one time we found a prosthetic leg!"

"And believe it or not, sometimes a bike will be left behind in one of the train cars," adds McQuoid.

If someone loses something on the system, they should call SEPTA's customer service number (215-580-7800), then a Customer Service agent will ask what mode of travel they were on, time of day, direction they were traveling, etc. At that point Customer Service will call the control center and advise of the situation. For example, if a customer was on the Route 56 bus, vehicle #1197, between noon and 1 p.m., then the operator can do a walkthrough at their next stop.

SEPTA also receives a lot of items that customers find on the system and turn in to a SEPTA supervisor, but depending on what mode it is found on will determine where it gets logged.

"Articles left on the MFL get turned into 69th Street Transportation Center and items found on the Broad Street Line are handed in at Fern Rock Transportation Center. If an item is left on one of our buses, it gets turned into their respective districts (depots). And items found on any Regional Rail train get turned into the Passenger Services Office at Suburban Station in Center City," advises McQuoid.

SEPTA has a system for organizing lost items. Articles that are turned in are officially logged by: date found; type of item; location found; and the name of the person who turned it in. It is then tagged and then the customer (assuming he or she reported it lost) is contacted to claim the item. After 30 days, unclaimed items are discarded except for reading glasses and cell phones, which go to charity.

So, if you ever lose or forget an item on the system, don't despair, but do be aware-all is not lost.

For more information about SEPTA's lost and found process, visit

Bikes left behind on the system are tagged and stored at their respective districts (depots).

Smaller items are placed in storage shelves by category.

Reading glasses and cell phones are donated to charity.

A set of gloves left behind on the Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line recently.