The court battle over SEPTA's paper transfers ended with a legal whimper yesterday.

Commonwealth Court dismissed SEPTA's appeal of a lower court ruling as moot, leaving fares just as they are.

Last summer, SEPTA tried to abolish 60-cent paper transfers for bus and subway riders, as part of a general fare increase. SEPTA wanted passengers to pay full fares ($2 with cash or $1.30 with tokens) whenever changing from one bus to another. The city sued, saying poor and minority passengers would be especially hard-hit by the elimination of the transfers.

On Aug. 16, Common Pleas Judge Gary F. DiVito Jr. ruled SEPTA must not eliminate the paper transfers that permitted bus and subway riders to change vehicles for 60 cents. SEPTA appealed. Then, the agency's board in September voted to raise the price of transfers to 75 cents and a token to $1.45, from $1.30.

That vote, Commonwealth Court ruled yesterday, changed the facts of the lawsuit and rendered SEPTA's appeal irrelevant. "Under these circumstances, the actual controversy that gave rise to this case . . . has ceased to exist," Commonwealth Court Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner wrote for the majority of the seven-judge panel.

SEPTA said yesterday it "will evaluate the impact of the decision and determine what, if any, action to take."

Judge James Gardner Colins dissented from the majority ruling, saying the case should have been decided on its merits, and he would have ruled in favor of SEPTA, permitting it to eliminate paper transfers.