A Common Pleas judge ruled yesterday that SEPTA's decision to terminate 60-cent paper transfers was a "flagrant abuse of discretion" and ordered the transit agency to keep using the bargain fare instruments.

"Wow! This is great!" exclaimed City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. after Common Pleas Judge Gary DiVito found that SEPTA eliminated paper transfers "without any study of the impact on those who would be most adversely affected" - minority and low-income riders.

Discontinuing transfers, DiVito decided, held "the real potential for harm to those who most heavily rely upon SEPTA. . . . "

Richard Maloney, the transit agency's spokesman, said, "SEPTA is disappointed by the ruling and we plan to immediately appeal it to Commonwealth Court.

"The question we have in the interim between now and the ruling of Commonwealth Court on our appeal is how much today's decision is going to reduce our income," Maloney said.

"We still believe in the fundamental fairness of the recent fare changes."

The city challenged that, arguing that SEPTA's recent 11 percent fare hike would become a 37 to 87 percent jump for thousands of riders if they had to pay a second full fare to change vehicles instead of using a 60-cent transfer.

"The one part of this we can't live with is imposing a 37 percent to 87 percent fare increase on some of the most vulnerable, most dependent SEPTA riders in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Mayor Street said. "It is unfair. We resisted it and will continue to resist it."

Aware of SEPTA's intention to appeal the judge's decision, Street said, "I think that's a mistake. . . . I will talk to the chairman and as many of the other board members as I can and I will urge them to call a truce here, abide by this court ruling. . . ."

Street said he hoped "SEPTA will recognize that whatever money might be generated by winning this fight on the transfers, it won't be worth the good will that it will cost SEPTA in the minds of city transit division riders and especially the poor."

"I think this is a great victory for the riders of Philadelphia," Diaz said, "and hopefully will encourage SEPTA to be more accountable to the public in their decision making." *