SEPTA will begin its "fare credit" program on Monday for rail passengers who pay an onboard ticket surcharge, but the agency's general manager yesterday rejected a state legislator's request to do away with the surcharge altogether.

Rep. Josh Shapiro (D., Montgomery) responded that he would take his battle to get rid of the surcharges to SEPTA board members and may introduce legislation to outlaw the charges.

In August, SEPTA began a new policy to require passengers to pay a higher onboard fare, even if the stations where they board have no ticket agents. Of SEPTA's 153 rail stations, 75 have no ticket sales, and very few booths are open afternoons and weekends. And SEPTA took its last ticket vending machines out of service in January, saying they wouldn't accept newly designed U.S. currency.

Responding to riders' complaints, SEPTA backed off a bit last month, saying it would start a "fare credit" program in which SEPTA conductors will give passengers who pay the onboard surcharge a credit that can be redeemed by buying a return-trip ticket from an agent the same day.

That's as far as SEPTA will go, general manager Faye Moore said yesterday.

"The tariff is the tariff. We're not going to drop it," Moore said. She said SEPTA would have to hold a new round of public hearings on proposed tariff revisions to get rid of the surcharges.

In a letter to Shapiro, she said "on-board cash transactions are very expensive to process and time-consuming for a conductor charged with multiple responsibilities related to safe train operations. This policy is currently in practice in other cities' commuter rail operations for the same reasons."

Shapiro said yesterday, "I just voted for a new law providing half a billion dollars for SEPTA with the goal to implement efficiencies and improvements . . . and the first thing they do is to increase burdens on riders."

Shapiro said he would talk to board members and would consider "legislative remedies" to get rid of the surcharge.