SEPTA is about to install a new $130 million "smart card" fare system that will allow bus, subway, trolley, and rail passengers to pay for their trips by tapping a card on an electronic reader. But, Casey wrote, "SEPTA will continue to accept cash payment for fares on SEPTA vehicles."
Fans of dollar coins have long tried, without much success, to get Americans to shift from dollar bills. Many other countries, including Canada, have done away with small-denomination notes in favor of coins, and in the United States, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly issued reports citing the potential savings of coins over notes.
The most recent GAO study said the switch would save $146 million a year. A dollar coin costs 18 cents to produce and can remain in circulation for decades, while a dollar bill costs 5 cents to produce but typically lasts only a few years.
U.S. dollar coins have made little headway against the dollar bill over the last century. In fact, the U.S. Mint halted production of dollar coins between 1936 and 1971. Production of the current dollar coins, carrying the likenesses of Indian guide Sacagawea or former presidents, was suspended in December because of increasing stockpiles.
SEPTA has long advocated for the switch to coins, because of the costs involved in processing the 130,000 bills it gets each day.
The transit agency employs 24 part-time employees to unfold, turn, and stack one-dollar bills in a windowless room in its Philadelphia countinghouse. Each worker does it at least 1,200 times an hour, 8,000 times a day.
Sen. Casey's office said, "the issue requires further examination, and we will continue to study it." Toomey's office did not respond Thursday to requests for comment on SEPTA's letter.
The bills in the House and Senate that would mandate the switch to dollar coins are H.R. 2977, sponsored by Rep. David Schweikert (R., Ariz.), and S. 2049, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Harkin (D., Iowa).
Contact Paul Nussbaum
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