Several months ago, Citizen editor Larry Platt posed a question we’ve been wondering about ever since: When was the the last time you encountered the city bureaucracy and said to yourself, “Wow, what great customer service?” Since then, we’ve taken a page from private industry and unleashed a team of mystery shoppers to interact with city service providers and report back on their experiences…the good, the bad, and the disfiguring. Stay tuned for more.
Mystery Shopper Test #30: Riding SEPTA while disabled
Method One: The Broad Street Line
- Needing to go to a doctor’s appointment on Walnut Street, I take the Broad Street line from the Oregon stop in South Philly. I use the wheelchair accessible elevator to get on the train platform.
- At the Walnut- Locust station, the elevator is broken.
- I wave down a SEPTA employee for help. She wanders over after a few minutes and says the elevator could take a day to fix.
- I call an attendant I hire for daily tasks, and then wait 30 minutes for her to arrive.
- The attendant manually carries me and my wheelchair up the steps.
- I’m 40 minutes late for my doctor’s appointment.
Time spent: One hour
Result: Not able to complete my trip without outside help—and am late to appointment.
Lightning bolt rating: ⚡️
The Regional Rail
Method Two: The Regional Rail
- To visit a friend in Hatboro, I take SEPTA’s Warminster Line from 30th Street Station. The elevator easily takes me down to the platform.
- The train stop in Hatboro has no elevator, so I am forced to ride to the next stop, Warminster.
- When the train arrives, the Regional Rail employee needed to put the wheelchair ramp down is nowhere to be seen.
- I do a weird jump thing with my wheelchair to bridge the giant gap between platform and train. This time, I’m successful, although sometimes the chair gets stuck.
- I take the elevator down to the station, where I meet my friend with an accessible van.
Time spent: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Lightning bolt rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️
Overall, taking SEPTA while in a wheelchair requires an intimate knowledge of which stations I can get in and out of—but still does not guarantee I can get where I need to go.
Overall rating: ⚡️⚡️