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SEPTA to slightly reduce planned fare hikes

SEPTA may slightly reduce its fare hike and allow more rides on passes under changes offered to its planned overhaul of the fare-collection system.

SEPTA may slightly reduce its fare hike and allow more rides on passes under changes offered to its planned overhaul of the fare-collection system.

SEPTA plans sweeping changes that will start with fare hikes July 1. The cash fare will rise to $2.25 from $2, and a token will cost $1.80 instead of $1.55.

Then, by the end of the year, electronic "smart" cards will replace tokens, passes, and transfers on subways, buses, and trolleys.

And by mid-to-late 2014, Regional Rail travel is to be transformed by subway-style gates in Center City stations, electronic card-readers in the suburbs, and new fare zones everywhere.

Several changes to the plan will be considered Thursday by a SEPTA board committee, with the full board slated to vote on the fare-collection plan the following Thursday. The changes come after a series of hearings last month.

The changes would mean a weekly pass that now costs $22 for bus and subway riders would cost $24 rather than the $24.50 originally proposed.

A monthly pass for bus and subway riders would increase to $91, instead of $92, from the current $83.

Currently, weekly and monthly pass holders get an unlimited number of rides. SEPTA has relented slightly on its plan to limit the number of rides: Weekly pass holders would be permitted 56 trips instead of 50, and monthly pass holders would be allowed 240 instead of 200.

SEPTA staff is reversing its call for an increase in the price of paratransit service, recommending that the cost remain at $4 per ride rather than increasing to $4.50.

The staff also is dropping its proposed ban on the use of bus and subway TransPasses on trains to Philadelphia International Airport, at least until smart-cards are introduced on Regional Rail.

That change is designed to avoid a large price increase for airport workers, who would have seen their transportation costs more than double. The City of Philadelphia, which owns the airport and has two seats on the 15-member SEPTA board, objected to the big increase.

SEPTA is also rethinking the requirement that senior citizens present a driver's license or other state-issued photo ID for free and discounted rides. Riders over 65 currently are required only to show their Medicare card.

SEPTA chief financial officer Richard Burnfield said SEPTA understands seniors' concerns that a lost or stolen driver's license could give much personal information to identity thieves.

"I get it," Burnfield said. "We have reached out to PennDot and asked if there is something else we can also use" for proof of age.

"The last thing I want to do is discourage seniors from riding SEPTA."

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which oversees the state-subsidized discounts for elderly riders, has set the requirement for a state-issued photo ID for all Pennsylvania transit agencies. So far, no agreement has been reached with PennDot to change that, Burnfield said.