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SEPTA fares will be going up this summer

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NOTE: This post has been updated from an earlier, angrier version, for which we blame some ambiguous wording in the Inquirer.

SEPTA is proposing big changes across the system starting July 1.

The Inquirer reported today that the cash fare for a ride on a bus or subway will go up this summer from $2 to $2.25. Tokens go from $1.55 to $1.80. That’s not so hard to swallow.

But when the new smart-card system is implemented around July 1, 2014, tokens will be eliminated and all cash fares will go up to $2.50 a trip. Monthly transit passes will go up to $92.

CORRECTION: The Inquirer report was confusing. Here’s what SEPTA said about the changes:

City Transit Division: The current cash fare for a trip on SEPTA’s buses, subways and trolleys would increase from $2 to $2.25 on July 1, and then to $2.50 when the switch to NPT is complete in 2014. Discounted single-trip fares – tokens until NPT, then continuing with smart media payment – will be $1.80. Transfers remain $1.

It’s not all bad, though. Philly is the biggest city in the nation without an electronic fare system, so the New Payment Technology (or NPT as SEPTA is calling it – flashy, huh?) is definitely an upgrade. NPT is something the transit system has been talking about since at least 2008.

Riders will tap a card on an electronic reader that will automatically deduct the fare. They will be able to use any “contactless” bank card or SEPTA’s own chip-equipped card. Some MasterCard and Visa cards are already contactless, with a miniature computer chip and antenna inside, and millions more are being issued each year. Even some smartphones will be able to pay SEPTA fares.

SEPTA’s new system will be one of the first in the country to use an open-fare design instead of a “closed” system that accepts only cards issued by the transit authority

And there’s this potentially positive nugget:

The cashiers who now sit in subway booths will emerge from behind the glass, retrained as “customer attendants” to help riders use the new fare cards.

A hearing on the changes is scheduled at SEPTA headquarters on April 17, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. SEPTA Board Room, 1234 Market St.

The price change is still subject to board approval, so maybe you can go to the hearing and change everyone’s mind. That’s not likely, of course, because even with the higher fares, SEPTA is still on track to be $38 million in the hole next year.

So, are we being cheapskates here? Doesn’t a 61-percent increase seem a bit much?

Editor’s Note: Sorry for the false hysteria. After reading the Inky story, we believed that because tokens and paper transfers would be eliminated, the discounted price would also be axed. That’s not correct. If you have a smart card or a smart-phone equipped to the new payment system, the fare will still be $1.80 and a transfer will be $1 after July 2014. If you have to pay cash, a fare will cost $2.50.


7 Responses to SEPTA fares will be going up this summer

  1. Brian March 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    It’s a competitive rate when compared to other systems in major US cities. Cash ride for MTA (NYC) is $2.50 and for MBTA (Boston) $2.50. CTA (Chicago) is $2.25 and you can only pay cash on the bus. DC Metro is distance oriented and can be up to $5 for a single fare! To get such a cutting edge upgrade to our antiquated system, a small fare increase is more than welcomed!

  2. Dan March 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    The rate itself might be competitive, but the service provided is nowhere near comparable. The $2.50 Philly fare will get you up and down Broad, Market, and Frankford. That same $2.50 in NYC can get you much further, and into many more areas.

  3. David G March 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Albert, you jumped the gun, and you should have known better. That piece was obviously missing pieces of information (and also should not have been published):

    After NPT adoption “Transit Cash Base fare increases $.25 to $2.50, discounted base fare via Smart Media remains unchanged at $1.80.” Transfers also remain $1 for the registered Septa fares.

    Basically, if you get a Septa card (or register a device to Septa) it’ll be just like tokens: you pay $1.80 for a base ride, and $1 for a transfer. But if you pay cash or use a credit card, you pay $2.50 for base fares and transfers.

    • Albert Stumm March 14, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      Holy crap, Dave G., you’re right. Damn you Inky! Thanks for setting me straight.

      • David G March 15, 2013 at 10:10 am #

        Ha. Yeah, I do think the Inqy was to blame. I was immediately suspicious about their repetition of “cash fare” for the NPT portion, and when Septa’s site didn’t have a press release, I figured that they were running with incomplete information. A lot to be excited about.

    • Aaron B March 15, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      Thanks for clarifying that point.
      I was confused about that too.

      A 61% increase would be a gigantic middle finger to folks who rely on SEPTA but don’t need or can’t afford a weekly or monthly pass. However, SEPTA doesn’t get off the hook that easy. I’m guessing there’s significant overlap between folks who rely on tokens, and the folks who won’t have the means to register a smartphone, touchless credit card, or similar mechanism with NPT.


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