Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards will take over as SEPTA’s general manager in January, becoming the second woman to hold the position at the nation’s sixth-largest transit agency.
The SEPTA board voted unanimously to appoint Richards during Thursday’s meeting, confirming a rumor that she would succeed Jeffrey Knueppel, whose departure was announced earlier this year. Knueppel has been general manager since 2015, though his career with SEPTA spans three decades. He will retire Dec. 31.
Richards will take the helm with problems to solve. There’s declining bus ridership, and years left on a redesign for the bus network. SEPTA Key, the transportation authority’s modernized way to pay, comes with a growing price tag, and has yet to be fully implemented on Regional Rail and CCT Connect, SEPTA’s paratransit operation. Ending transfer fees also has been a debate between SEPTA and city officials.
And there will be financial issues. The threat of losing hundreds of millions of dollars now funneled through the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in 2022 has sent officials scrambling for solutions, with taxes and fees eyed.
Richards, a Montgomery County resident, is ready to get started.
“Mobility is a big part of what I do now, and the future of transportation is moving as many people as safely and effectively as possible, and public transportation is at the heart of that,” Richards said. "So the opportunity to lead and work with the sixth-largest transit agency in the country is extremely exciting and, of course, in my own backyard, which makes it even better.”
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