SEPTA to launch new Owl Link pilot service for late night workers

A repurposed SEPTA paratransit van, with the new Owl Link signage.
SEPTA's new Owl Link program uses a repurposed paratransit van to pick up late night riders using rideshare-style technology. Photo credit SEPTA

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — SEPTA is launching an on-demand service Monday night, designed to connect late night bus riders with their jobs in Lower Bucks County. The overnight rideshare-style service is aimed at getting people from bus stops, to work and back.

SEPTA's Owl Link​ is similar to an Uber Pool trip. Riders use the SEPTA Owl Link mobile app to book a trip. A SEPTA paratransit van picks them up at selected 24-hour bus stops on routes 14, 56 and 66. On-board software then maps the way to Amazon or other expanding workplaces in Lower Bucks County, based on rider requests. The service runs every night between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"We know that warehouses have a late-night shift change. Very late, like one or two in the morning," SEPTA senior operations planner Harley Cooper told KYW Newsradio. "It was about being able to provide job access to where those jobs are growing."

The Owl Link is a pilot program to dynamically dispatch service to areas that don't have enough volume to support a fixed route, Cooper said.

"If we could serve this with a 40-foot bus with a fixed schedule, we could. But this is a particular kind of demand that really warrants a different kind of transit mode," she said. "We're providing the service between 10:30 pm and 6 am as a last-mile connection between the edge of our 24/7 Owl network and where the growing job opportunities are in Bristol and Bensalem."

"We've seen a huge shift over the last year in where the jobs are and where people are going," said Cassandra West, SEPTA's manager of program eligibility and regulatory compliance.

"So this is really providing SEPTA the agility to continue serving our customers," she continued. "We're really looking at employers and employees who need to travel at times that the regular SEPTA bus network is not operating."

The Owl Link is free, but riders will need to show a SEPTA Key card when they board.

The one-year pilot uses software from the transit tech company Via.