On the Move with SEPTA: Transit Tales

Mansha Kohli, Weitzman Masters in City & Regional Planning, 2023

Prior to attending the City Planning program at Penn, I was a management consultant in New York. While I enjoyed the client-facing role and project-based work, my job lacked the ability to create positive change in a significant way. I took a risk and decided to pivot careers – I attended Weitzman to not only deepen my understanding of the different elements that shape the built environment, but ultimately use design to create systemic change in communities.

This summer, I interned at SEPTA’s Strategic Planning and Analysis department. Despite spending a year studying in the MCP program, the idea of working in transit was still very vague to me. I of course understood how crucial public transit is to a city, but I had a limited idea of what working in both transit and the public sector entailed. Regardless, I was excited to immerse myself in a completely new working environment.

10 weeks later, I have a multitude of projects under my belt. As part of the Trolley Modernization initiative, I analyzed ridership data for the T1-5, D1, D2, and G trolley lines. I used the skills I learned in my GIS class to map eastbound and westbound ridership for all weekdays in Fall 2022. The second piece of my work revolved around trolley transfer activity, and using Tableau to determine the top transfer combinations SEPTA users complete. All of this work will funnel into playbooks and strategic plans for Trolley Modernization.

Another major SEPTA initiative is Reimagining Regional Rail. I collaborated with two other Strategic Planning interns to map new tracks, interlockings, and stations that will be modified or added due to the new capital projects under the Phasing Plan. At the end of the summer, we presented this work to upper management.

The last item I worked on was completing a Peer Research Customer Segmentation Analysis. I analyzed other transit agencies, like Chicago’s CTA, Washington’s WMATA, New York’s MTA, NJ Transit, and more to understand why overall ridership has been declining long before the pandemic. My task was to summarize these agencies’ process and methodology behind fare increases, service cuts, and more.

Spending the summer at SEPTA has pushed me to explore new areas of City Planning that I had not considered before. My new-found interest in transit stems from the fact that while I have truly enjoyed all the above experiences, I am left with even more questions about how to cooperate with underrepresented groups and build inclusive design to nurture communities. I am intrigued to see how my final year of the MCP program will pan out, hoping it will get me one step closer to finding my place in the world of planning and design.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 GAPSA Summer Internship Funding Program that is coordinated by Penn Career Services. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services