Transit Unplugged

Launching Successful Innovations at SEPTA with Emily Yates

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Episode notes

In a previous episode we talked about SEPTA's innovative SCOPE (Safety, Cleaning, Ownership, Partnership, and Engagement) program -- -- and how it was helping the city's most vulnerable people. This week we get the big picture from the woman at the head of it all.

Emily Yates reports right to CEO Leslie Richards and leads a team that's willing to take a risk on something new and if it doesn't pan out, learn from it and move on. Her recent pilot on using AI-powered cameras to detect weapons didn't turn out like people expected. But, Emily and her team have distilled what they've learned and are looking at new ways to accomplish the same goal--keep weapons off the system.

Emily's approach to innovation is very human-focused. She thinks about things like; "How do we make transit more welcoming for women and moms? Is there more we can do help our drivers feel physically and emotionally safe? Are we doing the right things to make it easier to take transit instead of a private car?"

In the interview Emily talks about programs like:

  • Letting moms keep kids in strollers and not having to unpack shopping carts on buses
  • Solar-powered, e-ink displays at stops to show route updates and next bus information
  • Programs to help operator safety and mental health
  • SEPTA's transition to a zero-emission fleet

Plus how she navigates the process of getting buy in for these initiatives inside and outside the agency.

Coming up next week we're celebrating the release of Paul's newest book The New Future of Public Transportation with two of the contributors Dr. Karen Philbrick and Paige Malott. You can pick up a copy on Amazon

If you have a question or comment, email us at [email protected].

Transit Unplugged is brought to you by Modaxo and these fine folks:

  • Paul Comfort, host and producer
  • Julie Gates, executive producer
  • Tris Hussey, editor and writer
  • Tatyana Mechkarova, social media

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00:00 Introduction to Emily Yates and SEPTA Innovations

00:22 Driving Innovation at SEPTA: A Deep Dive

05:19 Enhancing Rider Experience with Real-Time Data and Accessibility

10:35 Navigating the Approval Process for New Initiatives

13:21 Focusing on Operator Safety and Well-being

17:49 The Future of Transit: Zero Emission Buses and Workforce Development

24:10 Coming up next week on Transit Unplugged