SEPTA has increased their fares – again.
This hike in token and transfer costs comes after SEPTA increased TransPass costs and
regional rail fares in July. The price of tokens and transfers will both increase
It may not sound like much at first glance – just an extra 15 cents. But particularly for struggling college students, every nickel and dime matters. Tokens are now $1.45 and transfers rise to 75 cents, up from 60 cents. Now, insulting SEPTA comes easy and often, but there is truth in cliché sometimes.
The increases are widely considered an answer to a court injunction that halted SEPTA’s plan to eliminate paper transfers altogether. Officials suggested last week that if their appeal was accepted and paper transfers were abolished, the hike could be eliminated. All of this court wrangling can only further alienate SEPTA riders that too often see the transit agency as little more than a common punchline.
SEPTA often laments losses in ridership, yet few things could keep users away more than the image that the fourth most-used mass transit system in the country is inept, despite its coverage of an enormous urban center. SEPTA makes its money off
TransPasses and anticipated an 11 percent increase in revenue with the paper transfer elimination early this summer. Instead, while it saw the expected seasonal increase, it was just 8 percent.
While the measure could be a step towards better fiscal responsibility, it may prove unwise. In truth, SEPTA’s subway costs aren’t out of line with other large cities. The three cities with more ridership than Philadelphia – Chicago, Los Angeles and
New York City – all have comparable costs.
The real differences come in the systems these agencies employ. They all abandoned tokens years ago, depending exclusively on TransPasslike swipe cards or, in the case of Los Angeles, paper tickets printed in the station.
SEPTA officials, on the other hand, have continued to suggest the transit agency lacks the funds to install a modern system of fare collection. All this creates criticism and only hinders ridership. More costs for a lesser product is no way to attract more users. Before rising fares, SEPTA should have made more visible use of the enormous increase in funds allocated for it by the state legislature earlier this summer.
The bill, passed with much lobbying from Gov. Ed Rendell, received a lot of attention for providing $300 million to mass transit in Pennsylvania.
While Easton, Butler and other systems will welcome the funding, there was no hiding who Rendell was hoping to help most, the mass transit of his former city: SEPTA.
Show progress, convince riders that changes are coming, and then increase fares, not before.
Terrance McNeil can be reached at email@example.com.