On March 1, Gov. Ed Rendell announced that he was pulling SEPTA out of a $49.2 million deficit. Rendell has marked $412 million of federal highway funds to save the failing agency.
This funding prevented the 25 percent fare increases and 20 percent service cuts planned for the second week of March. Rendell surpassed the $85 million SEPTA was aiming for to temporarily delay “doomsday” and service is expected to continue smoothly until 2007.
Rendell’s proposal was officially approved last Wednesday by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.
On top of providing immense financial aid, Rendell signed an executive order creating the Transportation Funding Reform Commission. The group will evaluate SEPTA’s operations to determine if there are areas where revenue can be generated or saved. The committee has a two-year period to observe SEPTA, after which they must present their findings and recommendations.
Rendell’s decision has led to some major shifts within Pennsylvania’s $942 million federal highway budget. With $412 million being transferred to mass transit, the state is initiating an automatic 3.8 cents per gallon tax increase to generate $276 million towards the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges.
Another possible solution to the SEPTA problem may come from the legislature, who could opt to create a permanent funding stream for mass transit during their June delegations. If this were to occur, Rendell would not need to follow up on his $412 million pledge.
For the most part, Temple students are relieved that the issue has received much needed attention and has been, at least temporarily, resolved.
Although pleased with Rendell’s choices, freshman Mike Podcasy still holds some concerns.
“While looking for housing for next year, we had to consider the cost of taking SEPTA every day. I don’t want to move to Center City and be unsure that SEPTA might randomly increase its rates,” Podcasy said.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA’s general manager has agreed that rate hikes will not be considered in the future.
SEPTA, in general, did not receive good reviews from Temple students.
“I’m glad Rendell stepped in,” said sophomore Melissa Wainwright, “but I think it’s ridiculous that SEPTA was going to charge us more for something that isn’t that good already. The subway schedule stops so early that it’s really unaccommodating to my lifestyle. It’s dirty and disgusting and if I’m going to pay more then I’m just going to pay for a cab.”
Therese Price agreed with Wainwright about SEPTA’s lack of appeal.
“The subway is dirty and scary. If they want more people to ride it they should try to clean it up a little more. They should advertise and promote more; they have a whole student population to reach out to that would probably use SEPTA more often if they understood it better.”
Price added that SEPTA should offer some sort of promotion like any other business, possibly incorporating the game day rush.
Matthew Page, a student who lives on campus but often uses mass transit to enjoy the city nightlife also offered a suggestion for SEPTA’s ailing business.
“I’m sure they could make a lot more money and reach a new population of riders if they extended their weekend hours,” Page said. He added that many people would use public transportation on weekends when parking in the city is crowded or when they are going out drinking and will not be able to drive.
These complaints are a few of many that have surfaced since the SEPTA crisis was publicized. Some students are wondering whether SEPTA will listen to the complaints of its customers and figure out a way to continue to function smoothly after Rendell’s aid money runs out in 2007.
The SEPTA board will be discussing the possibility of future rate hikes and service cuts at their next meeting on March 24.
Megan Davies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.