Under fire from rail passengers and a local legislator over its new on-board ticket surcharge, SEPTA is looking at putting ticket vending machines at its rail stations.

SEPTA took the last of its old ticket vending machines out of service in January, citing their inability to accept newly designed U.S. currency.

SEPTA's new policy requires passengers to pay a higher onboard fare, even if the station where they board has no ticket agent. Of SEPTA's 153 rail stations, 75 have no ticket sales, and very few booths are open afternoons and weekends.

In a letter to state Rep. Josh Shapiro (D., Montgomery), SEPTA chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon Sr. said SEPTA staff "has been asked to research the cost of new ticket machines and look into the availability and cost of leased ticket machines to be made available until a new fare system is in place."

SEPTA is also looking at the possibility of using ATM machines to dispense tickets and passes, Deon wrote.

Shapiro last month asked Deon and SEPTA general manager Faye Moore to rescind the surcharge policy and said he might introduce legislation to force a repeal.

SEPTA declined to do away with the surcharges, saying it wanted to discourage time-consuming cash transactions on board trains. But the agency last month started a "fare credit" program in which train conductors give passengers who pay the onboard surcharge a credit that can be redeemed by buying a return-trip ticket from an ticket agent the same day.

Shapiro was encouraged enough by SEPTA's decision to consider vending machines to "hold on any legislative remedies until he sees the results of these efforts," said Matthew Vahey, Shapiro's chief of staff.

SEPTA expects to have information on costs and availability of vending machines in "a couple of weeks," spokesman Richard Maloney said today.

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.