SEPTA riders' wallets will get a break in 2016 as a planned fare increase will be postponed for another year.
SEPTA has introduced a fare increase every three years since 2007, and was due for another in July, the beginning of the 2017 fiscal year. The increase would have varied across subway, bus, trolley, Regional Rail, and High-speed lines. The exact amounts had not yet been decided, said Andrew Busch, SEPTA spokesman. The fare increase will likely be bumped back to the 2018 fiscal year, he said.
The reason for the postponement, Busch said, is the planned debut of the electronic fare card SEPTA Key. The long-delayed card was due for a partial introduction targeting monthly pass holders this spring, SEPTA said in December 2015, but the unveiling is being pushed back again. SEPTA will evaluate the system by April 15 to determine whether it would be ready for launch six weeks after that, or, if more time is needed. SEPTA feared riders would become confused if the card debuts in June, as that would nearly coincide with the fare increase.
The delay in making the cards available isn't the result of any one issue, Busch said.
"It's a cautious approach to getting it in," he said.
The card will not be released as widely as planned in December either. Originally planned to be available to all monthly card holders who use subway, bus, trolley, and High-speed lines, it is now being given to 10,000 riders initially. Those cards will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, Busch said.
SEPTA hopes early adopters of the SEPTA Key technology will be adaptable if glitches occur.
SEPTA announced the postponed fare increase with the introduction of its FY 2017 budget. The $1.4 billion operating budget, posted late Friday afternoon, is a 3 percent increase over the prior year. SEPTA revenue is projected to provide about $536 million, while another $869 million comes from federal, state, and local subsidies. The budget is expected to be put to a vote before SEPTA's board in May.