Is SEPTA Considered ''Commonwealth'' for Purposes Determining Jurisdiction ?
In Union Switch, the only issue before the Court was whether Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) is considered to be the "Commonwealth" for purposes of determining jurisdiction when contract claims are filed against it with the Board of Claims.
In that context, the Court engaged in a general discussion about the difficulty of determining the status of an authority.
Within that context the Court stated in dicta:
Unlike municipal corporations that have "governmental" and "proprietary" functions, authorities engage only in the latter.
Authorities are "public corporations, being corporate agencies engaged in the administration of civil government." Lighton v. Abington Township, 336 Pa. 345, 353, 9 A.2d 609, 613, 31 Mun. L Rep. 65 (1939).
Generally, authorities are established for the purpose of financing and managing various revenue producing projects of a public nature or other activities that are not considered to be part of core governmental activities; they are a governmental business venture, a form of quasi-privatization. Id.
The issue in Union Switch did not involve whether SEPTA was acting in a governmental or proprietary capacity, and the opinion did not address that issue.
However, in Boyle v. Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, 796 A.2d 389 (Pa. Cmwlth.), appeal denied, 571 Pa. 709, 812 A.2d 1231 (2002), unlike in Union Switch, the issue was whether or not the authority was functioning in a proprietary or governmental capacity when it operated and managed a water supply and wastewater system as a municipal water authority.