SEPTA's smart-card fares called 'crazy,' 'dangerous'

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Lance Haver, head of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs, testifies Wednesday during a SEPTA public hearing on fare rates.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Lance Haver, head of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs, testifies Wednesday during a SEPTA public hearing on fare rates.
Posted: April 19, 2013

WILLIE POLLINS called it "crazy." Judy Mackey called it "dangerous."

Dozens of their fellow riders packing SEPTA's public hearings Wednesday agreed that the transit agency's New Payment Technology fare-collection system, debuting in 2014, could leave a lot of people feeling dumbfounded about smart cards.

Pollins imagined a rush-hour smart card-mageddon as thousands of desperate regional-rail riders tried to get through the proposed card-reading turnstiles in time to catch their trains.

"Even now, people knock you down the steps to get to their trains," said Pollins, who commutes to Philadelphia daily from Wilmington.

"Putting turnstiles into regional-rail stations is a crazy idea. If somebody's fumbling for his smart card or the turnstile's having trouble reading his card, the crowd behind him is getting angrier. It could lead to fisticuffs."

Mackey, 65, a retiree from Juniata Park who lives on a fixed income, said she was afraid of identity theft if SEPTA eliminates its name-only senior-citizen ID cards and requires 65-and-over riders to show a driver's license or a state photo ID to ride subways and buses for free, and regional rail for a dollar.

Showing a state photo ID to the driver on a crowded bus would be "like taking my wallet out and waving it around. It's not safe. I'd be a sitting duck," she said.

If her state ID were snatched, she said, she would be unable to access medical care or her bank account.

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams told the Daily News that the transit agency was moving toward the practice of requiring a photo ID for seniors because current cards are "easy to copy and easy to abuse. There's nothing to verify that the person in possession of the card is, in fact, eligible to ride."

Regarding Pollins' objections to card-reading turnstiles at regional-rail stations, Williams said, "We'll have more turnstiles at Suburban [25,000 daily boardings], Market East [14,000 daily] and 30th Street [13,000 daily] than we have at our busiest subway stations: 15th Street on the Market-Frankford Line [30,000 daily] and City Hall on the Broad Street Line [31,000 daily]."

Another hot-button issue: SEPTA's plan to raise paratransit roundtrip fares by $1 was criticized as harmful to riders with disabilities living on fixed incomes. The base cash fare for paratransit service is $4.


On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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