Study says SEPTA is strapped

Thanks to SEPTA's balanced budgets, the agency has been able to secure government funding, including $232 million to add 440 new hybrid buses to its fleet. (Courtney Marabella / Staff Photographer)
Thanks to SEPTA's balanced budgets, the agency has been able to secure government funding, including $232 million to add 440 new hybrid buses to its fleet. (Courtney Marabella / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 30, 2013

SEPTA supports nearly 26,000 jobs, contributes $3.21 billion in economic output, and generates $62.5 million in state tax revenue, according to a study released Monday.

The study, commissioned by SEPTA, comes as the financially strapped transit authority seeks a fare increase and lobbies state officials for more funding.

SEPTA provides more bang for the buck than other transit agencies in Pennsylvania and gets less than its share of state funding based on ridership, the study found. SEPTA also has a much smaller capital budget for such things as bridge repairs and new buses than other major transit systems in the United States, it said.

The study by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions Inc. concluded that SEPTA is a major economic force in the region and state.

And it warned of dire consequences if more state money for capital projects is not forthcoming:

"Over the long term, SEPTA will be forced to gradually truncate its system and eliminate services to make ends meet; the region will gradually experience a dramatic erosion of jobs, tax revenues, and property values as its dense, economically productive urban core becomes unattractive to business and residents; and the commonwealth will suffer from the losses in its most economically productive region as residents and businesses generate less tax revenue and locate elsewhere."

Economy League executive director Steven Wray and Richard Voith, president of Econsult Solutions, are to present the study findings Monday morning to business and civic leaders in Center City.

Wray and Voith cited SEPTA's relatively paltry capital budget ($304 million this year compared to Washington's $1 billion, NJ Transit's $1.1 billion, Boston's $800 million, and Chicago's $950 million) as especially worrisome.

Wray said Friday that state lawmakers should give local governments more power to raise money for transit, as many other states do. Voith said the state, having failed in its efforts to put tolls on Interstate 80 to fund highways and transit, needed to "establish an efficient and credible" method to restore capital funding to 2010 levels.

The study will be available Monday at EconomyLeague.org.


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

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