The FTA Releases SEPTA Climate Adaptation Report

March 9, 2015

Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a series of reports detailing the extraordinary challenges that transit agencies face in responding to climate change. Disruptions in service and damage to assets associated with extreme weather events in recent years have brought into focus the importance of considering climate variability in agency plans for the future.

The FTA reports are the outcome of a program initiated in 2011 for seven pilot projects across the U.S. to assess transit agencies' vulnerability and risks associated with climate change, the impacts of which vary significantly by region. The reports propose a series of measures and approaches to improve the resiliency of systems and services to extreme weather events, which are occurring with greater frequency.

SEPTA was selected as one of the seven agencies to participate in this FTA program. SEPTA partnered with ICF International, a globally recognized expert in the field of transportation-related impacts of climate change, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the region's metropolitan planning organization (MPO), to conduct an analysis of the climate-related impacts in the Philadelphia region. The report focused on SEPTA's Manayunk/Norristown line, which has experienced several weather-related disruptions in recent years, in large part due to its proximity to the flood-prone Schuylkill River.

Among the FTA pilot program and ICF/DVRPC/SEPTA report's key findings:

- In the Northeast U.S., there has been a 67 percent increase in heavy rain since the mid-20th century

- The Philadelphia region has experience four FEMA major disaster declarations since 2010, during which time Philadelphia has had its first and second snowiest winters ever, its wettest year ever, and its warmest year ever

- Along the Manayunk/Norristown Line, 13 (62 percent) of the 21 recorded floods in Schuylkill River history have occurred since 2003

- There are a series of capital, operating, maintenance, and administrative strategies available to vulnerable, aging systems to upgrade assets and improve resilience against future extreme weather events

SEPTA has already begun to adopt the recommendations of this report. In 2014, the results of this study were used to inform SEPTA's application for funding under the FTA's Emergency Relief Program (ERP) following Hurricane Sandy. SEPTA was selected to receive $87 million for seven climate change resilience projects on the Manayunk/Norristown Line and elsewhere across the system. More information about SEPTA's Climate Resilience Program is available here.

Read the full report submitted to FTA here.