SEPTA Hikes Hurt

Editorial Board

Effective Oct. 1, SEPTA once again raised its fares. On Monday, the prices of bus tokens and paper transfers both increased by 15 cents from $1.30 to $1.45 and from 60 cents to 75 cents, respectively.

Facing a threatening $129 million potential deficit for the upcoming year, SEPTA decided to initiate significant fare increases this summer. The decisions in July raised overall costs except on these bus tokens and paper transfers. Since the summer hikes, conscious SEPTA patrons have chosen to purchase individual bus tokens and paper transfers instead of weekly and monthly passes, the latter being the more expensive option. SEPTA reports that approximately 75 percent of existing patrons use paper transfers. This trend did not go unnoticed by SEPTA officials and city bureaucrats. Riders who thought they were cutting corners actually cost the city $300,000 per week when they continued to purchase these tokens and transfers rather than purchasing weekly or monthly passes, according to SEPTA’s press release last week.

Not only are SEPTA riders paying more, but so are Pennsylvania tax payers (and some people may be both). Villanova School of Law alumnus Governor Rendell signed legislation establishing the Public Transportation Trust Fund which will contribute millions to help to balance SEPTA’s Fiscal Year 2008 Operating Budget.

Despite its monetary precautions, SEPTA is still an unorganized, inefficient service to the Philadelphia area and ignorant to the real needs of its customers. These token and transfer increases hurt those who need it the most. These pieces of paper subsidize the fares of bus and subway riders who would otherwise have to pay two full fares to transfer between vehicles, the Inquirer notes. SEPTA is the only method of public transportation for the second largest city on the East Coast and must serve the needs of over 3.8 million people in southeastern Pennsylvania. In addition, it is often the sole mode of transportation for lower-income Philadelphia citizens. This 15 cent a day increase amounts to more than $400 a year per rider round trip, in a city where almost one fourth of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A related and widely discussed subject in Philadelphia is its crime rate. Philadelphia is ranked as the country’s sixth most dangerous city that has a population over 500,000. Neighboring Camden, ranked the most dangerous city in the United States, is also served by SEPTA. A poor public transportation system and a poor and crime-ridden city are likely related. The first must improve so the other can.

When so many other U.S. cities run efficient and even profitable transportation systems, fixing SEPTA’s inadequacies seems like an easy improvement for the benefit of so many people. How can a person’s quality of life improve in Philadelphia when he or she can barely afford a bus ride to work? An efficient subway and bus system should be a fixture in any city despite its crime or poverty statistics.

SEPTA prices may be increasing, but only because the system itself is failing.