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March 22nd | Posted In Citizenship

All Aboard the Citizen Advisory Committee Train

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Millennials are flocking to the nation’s cities and giving up their cars in droves. Let’s face it: if we had to choose between buying a car or a smartphone, chances are lots of us would choose the phone. Why? Because we—especially those of us who live in Center City—have a plethora of options for getting around, including walking, biking, car-share, rideshare, Uber, and public transit.

It’s no wonder that SEPTA ridership is at an all-time high. Public transit is cheap, convenient, and you never have to look for parking. With a smartphone, the transit routes and schedules are always at your fingertips. And you can email, Facebook, and tweet to your heart’s content without having to worry about getting a ticket for texting while driving.

With so many millennials taking transit these days, it’s time for us to make our voices heard to improve the public transportation system. What’s the best way to do that? By applying to be part of SEPTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC advocates on behalf of customers in the five southeastern Pennsylvania counties served by SEPTA – Philly, Bucks, Chester, Delco and Montco. Philadelphia is currently looking for Philadelphia residents to join the CAC.

The CAC is made up of regular SEPTA riders who have an interest in working with SEPTA to advocate for public transit, and are committed to representing the interests of other riders. The committee’s major concerns are the quality of service, including reliability and frequency, speed, cleanliness, safety and security; fares; policies; financing and planning; and accountability.

As a YIP member, we know that you’re already committed to collaborative engagement and have a proven track record of community volunteerism—why not apply that knowledge to help make this region’s public transit better? You could advocate for things that millennials would like to see in public transit in the future.  According to a recent American Public Transportation Association (APTA) survey of 1,000 millennials, we want more reliability, real-time updates, Wi-Fi everywhere, and a more user-friendly and intuitive travel experience. Or you could advocate for some of the ten changes that the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, called for in her recent article. Or you could push for my personal dream: a circulator bus like DC’s that would run along South Street, N3rd Street, Arch Street, and 23rd Street. [Ed. note: Or how about some useful bus maps at the stops, like this one in London?] At the very least, you’ll have a front row seat for when SEPTA implements their New Payment Technologies.

Oh, and did I mention that you get a free all zones SEPTA pass for being on the CAC?

APTA thinks SEPTA is great, and we heard what Oscar Abello thinks about SEPTA in a recent YIP blog post, but the real question is: What do you think? Apply to the CAC and make your voice heard. The time commitment for the CAC is about 12 hours per month, which includes attending a monthly general meeting, a monthly subcommittee meeting (either Transit or Regional Rail), as well as a quarterly meeting with other City representatives. With Pennsylvania’s recent approval of a transportation funding bill, now is an extremely exciting time to be a member of the SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee.

HOW DO I APPLY?

Go to http://septa.org/partners/cac/membership-application.html to view the application, which is due on April 4, 2014. If you’re under 23, you might also be interested in SEPTA’s Youth Advisory Council.

Christina Arlt is a YIP board member, 17 bus rider, and an all-around transit nerd. You can find her on Twitter @ChristinaArlt. The views expressed in this article are her own, and not necessarily the views of her employer, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

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