SEPTA approves fare hike, eliminates use of transfers

Bus, subway and trolley fares won't rise, but passes will cost more. Transfers will be eliminated.

Posted: June 29, 2007

SEPTA bus, subway and rail fares will increase by an average of 11 percent on July 9, following a 13-2 vote yesterday on the agency's new operating budget.

The SEPTA board also approved a "doomsday" plan to take effect Sept. 2, with 24 percent fare hikes and 20 percent service cuts, if the state legislature does not increase annual state funding by nearly $100 million.

For subway, bus and trolley riders, cash fares will remain at $2 and tokens at $1.30 under the new fare plan. But transfers will be eliminated on Aug. 1, meaning transit riders wanting to transfer will have to buy an additional token or use a daily, weekly or monthly pass.

Weekly passes for transit riders will increase from $18.75 to $20.75, and monthly passes from $70 to $78. Regional Rail riders will see costs rise as well; the price of a Zone 3 monthly pass will increase from $126.50 to $142.50.

Philadelphia students who use transfers on their trips to school might not have to pay more than they do now, under terms of a plan being negotiated by SEPTA and school officials, SEPTA spokesman Jim Whitaker said yesterday.

For Regional Rail passengers, the biggest change will be that TransPasses will no longer be accepted in Zone 1 (Philadelphia) during peak hours effective July 30. Zone 1 riders will be required to buy a new Zone 1 weekly or monthly TrailPass, at a price 20 percent higher than current prices.

SEPTA last raised fares in 2001.

SEPTA officials were guardedly optimistic that the draconian "Plan B," with much higher fare hikes and service reductions as well as job cuts, would be avoided by legislative action in Harrisburg.

The state House has passed a transportation-funding bill and sent it to the state Senate. In its current form, that measure would provide about $101 million for SEPTA operations.

Board Chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon Sr. said the fare hikes were necessary to show the legislature that SEPTA was willing to share some of the increased costs, even as the transit agency asked for more money from the state.

SEPTA faces a $129 million deficit in its new $1.02 billion operating budget. The fare hikes approved yesterday are designed to fill $35 million of the gap, while SEPTA is counting on the state for the remaining $94 million.

"We have to show we can do some of our housekeeping," Deon said after yesterday's vote, in which all suburban representatives voted for the budget while Philadelphia's two representatives voted against it.

Jettie Newkirk, one of the city representatives, said she opposed the elimination of transfers, which will hit city passengers most heavily.

Mayor Street endorsed the 11 percent fare increases in a letter to the SEPTA board but said some of the increases were disproportionately high for city transit riders while too low for suburban rail passengers. He also opposed the elimination of transfers.

Lance Haver, consumer advocate for the city, criticized the board for eliminating transfers, approving the rail Zone 1 increases, and creating a $6 "One Day Convenience Pass" that Haver said was an expensive replacement for the current transfers.

"No legislature has asked for the doomsday plan, or the elimination of Zone 1, or the elimination of transfers," Haver said. "There's been no demand from anyone for those changes."

Anthony DeSantis, president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, also attacked a part of the plan that requires rail passengers to pay a premium for buying tickets on a train even if there are no ticket sales at the station where they board.

SEPTA's staff defended the changes as a move to "simplify" fare collection, push riders to use passes, and help the agency prepare for more modern fare-collection methods. Relatively few passengers - accounting for 6.8 percent of all transit trips - now use transfers, the staff said, while 42 percent of transit riders use TransPasses.

SEPTA will start distributing brochures to riders outlining the fare changes. The agency has posted the new fare structure on its Web site, www.septa.org.


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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