The price of subway and bus tokens and transfers will increase by 15 cents on Monday, following a vote yesterday by the SEPTA board.
The latest increases, coming less than three months after other fare hikes and a $150 million increase in SEPTA's annual subsidy from the state, were SEPTA's answer to a court order to keep 60-cent transfers.
SEPTA officials said the agency's anticipated revenue from buses and subways was down $1.8 million in August because of the court decision, prompting the move to raise fares. SEPTA has appealed the court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the city to block elimination of transfers.
The price of a token will rise Monday to $1.45 from the current $1.30 and the price of a transfer to 75 cents from the current 60 cents. The cash fare would remain $2.
But the latest fare increase may be temporary: The board voted to revisit the token and transfer issue if SEPTA wins its appeal in the courts. Last week, SEPTA staffers had said a victory in court would trigger a rollback in the price of tokens and the immediate elimination of the transfers.
The SEPTA board rejected a request from Mayor Street and the City of Philadelphia's two members on the board to make the 15-cent increases permanent and end the legal battle. And those members urged swift action to develop a new electronic fare-collection system.
Janice Woodcock, executive director of the city planning commission and the mayor's emissary to the board, said after the vote that SEPTA's action "doesn't make sense."
"They said they needed the revenue. We told them to go ahead and get the revenue. What else is it really about? . . . The city would love to work with SEPTA, but we think they need to serve everyone as equally as possible."
SEPTA raised many fares in July. That move, designed to increase revenue by 11 percent, brought in only about 8 percent more revenue because of the court decision, SEPTA officials said. Riders were using transfers and tokens instead of buying transpasses, undercutting SEPTA's revenue projections, according to John McGee, its chief revenue officer.
Advocates for passengers and low-income residents told the SEPTA board that paper transfers are vital for bus and subway riders who would otherwise have to pay two full fares to transfer between vehicles. SEPTA officials want to get rid of transfers to push passengers toward weekly or monthly passes.
Lance Haver, the mayor's consumer advocate, said SEPTA had failed to provide a modern, electronic fare collection system and should not get rid of transfers until it had a new system ready.
"SEPTA shouldn't place management's failure on the backs of the poor and working people," Haver told the board.
Matthew Mitchell, of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, urged SEPTA to "drop your appeal in Commonwealth Court, go back to the previous fare structure, including charging the same fare on board your trains as at the ticket office, and start the fare restructuring process over with new hearings. . . . It will cost you less than continuing to litigate, and it probably will bring the process to closure sooner."
SEPTA board chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon Sr. said a new, modern fare system "has been a priority," but he complained that SEPTA hasn't had the money.
"We will have it as soon as feasible," he said.
In other business, the board approved $212.4 million to buy 400 hybrid electric-diesel buses over the next four years. The new buses will use about 25 percent less diesel fuel and produce much less pollution than the standard 40-foot buses they will replace, SEPTA officials said.
The buses each cost about $160,000 more than a standard bus. That cost will nearly be recovered over the 12-year life of a bus in reduced fuel and maintenance costs, said Patrick Nowakowski, chief operations officer. Also, SEPTA is seeking federal grant money to offset the higher price tag, senior budget director Rich Burnfield said.
The buses are made by New Flyer Industries, of Winnipeg, Canada.