Regional provider of public transportation SEPTA announced a plan which would decrease service and increase fares if they do not receive more state funding – a prospect that could leave many Temple students stranded.
In a Sept. 9 press release, SEPTA stated they would cut service by 20 percent “across the board,” including all weekend bus, subway, trolley, regional rail and Para-transit service, and raise fares 25 percent.
The transportation authority projects in its fiscal-year 2005 budget a $62 million shortfall. SEPTA announced in June they would be operating with a $70 million deficit in 2005, but then received an additional $7.8 million in Governor Ed Rendell’s revised budget.
SEPTA is required by state law to adopt a balanced budget. It’s making some efforts: in addition to proposed service cuts, approximately 1,400 SEPTA workers will be let go if the new plan is adopted. In the press release announcing the proposed measures, Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. said this latest budget emergency is “the worst crisis to face SEPTA in its 36-year history.”
The announcement comes as Temple’s new housing policies force more students off-campus. Brett Kahn is one of many Temple students who rely on SEPTA’s Regional Rail to get to campus.
“It’s not right,” Kahn said. “They shouldn’t inconvenience thousands of people. They should find some other way.”
Ilana Blatt-Eisengart and Leanne Magee are both graduate students in the clinical psychology department and are often on-campus during evenings to see patients. They live in Center City and use the Broad Street line to get to Temple.
“It’s crazy. The trains run infrequently enough,” Blatt-Eisengart said. She added that if service cuts went into effect, she would probably start driving to campus to avoid the inconvenience of waiting for a train.
Under the proposed cuts, the number of trips per day on the Broad Street Line and bus route 23, both of which serve Temple Main campus, would be cut by 20 percent according to a SEPTA. In addition, Temple students and faculty who rely on the regional rail lines to get to campus would see a 20 percent overall reduction in service primarily on trains that run mid-day and after 8 p.m., according to the SEPTA Contingency Plan Proposal.
The elimination of weekend service will mean less options for Temple students who want to get off campus on Friday or Saturday night but do not have access to a car. The weekend service cuts will also affect the Broad Street Line Sports Express that serves Lincoln Financial Field during Temple Football games.
Elimination of the Sports Express will leave Owls fans without public transit to get to the games. Eagles fans will not be able to use regional rail and the Broad Street Line to get to the stadium if weekend service is eliminated under the proposed plan.
Many insist SEPTA’s problems are due to mismanagement of funds. Sushil Menon, a Temple student, wonders why SEPTA continues to produce a deficit.
“Any other company would have lost its funding a long time ago,” he said.
Instead of getting subsidies from state government, Menon thinks that money should come from cities and towns that SEPTA serves.
“They need to find a better solution than doing the same thing year after year,” he said, referring to SEPTA’s continued reliance on state subsidies to stay afloat.
In 1995 SEPTA raised fares seven percent to compensate for state and local funding cuts. In 1996, 950 SEPTA employees were let go to stop the bleeding in anticipation of a $75 million debt. Until SEPTA finds a way to curb its reliance on government subsidies, it seems that its yearly budget crisis will become a steady fixture in Philadelphia.
A public hearing to discuss the cuts will be held Oct. 19 in the Regency Ballroom of the Philadelphia Loews Hotel, located at 1200 Market St. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Brendan Keegan can be reached at email@example.com.