See Panhandling? Text SEPTA Police

Nudging Up Customer Service: Externally-Dependent Project

Problem, Classification, and Idea

One of the biggest deterrents to ridership is the perception of homeless panhandlers lurking throughout the entire SEPTA system. While this is obviously not true, it is a problem encountered fairly regularly. Unfortunately, much of this problem persists due to the fact that policing panhandling is quite difficult for SEPTA Police (especially when the culprit is moving throughout the system). Fortunately, with the advent of SEPTA Police Text Messaging, this is a problem that can be solved.


Fortunately, the underlying technology behind panhandling reporting already exists. The problem to solve is twofold: one regards informing customers of what to do when they encounter panhandling and another has to inform customers of the benefits of them reporting panhandling. Having signs in stations and onboard vehicles that inform customers of the ways to report panhandling would likely increase reporting. In addition, however, many people choose to do nothing with panhandlers since they do not wish to make someone’s situation worse by causing a police encounter. In order to combat this, information as to what happens when a panhandler is reported should also be displayed. Customers would be much more likely to report panhandling if they knew the police take them to a shelter and a place where they could get food. In terms of cost, signage in stations and the like would be offset by potential revenue boosts from those who are more willing to ride knowing no panhandlers exist in or near the system.

Notes & Graphics

Upon speaking with Chief Nestel, the program is still in development. Much of the delay is due to a change in the program’s implementation, necessitating a change in the original project plans.


Customer Comments (from VERITAS Reports)

  • 636477: Police need to better enforce panhandling on vehicles.

Next Steps

  • Speak to communications to design signage to complement the program in a variety of capacities.