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Some SEPTA fare changes kick in Wednesday. Here’s what to know.

The coronavirus prompted some changes from the original plan SEPTA put forward in March.

Folks can get help with SEPTA key cards by pushing a button at the 11th Street Station. Some elements of SEPTA's latest fare changes kick in Wednesday.
Folks can get help with SEPTA key cards by pushing a button at the 11th Street Station. Some elements of SEPTA's latest fare changes kick in Wednesday.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Wednesday is a new day for SEPTA riders.

Some of the authority’s latest fare changes will begin, following approval from board members during their June meeting. But there have been some tweaks from the plan SEPTA put forward in March.

As the coronavirus has changed everyone’s approach to just about everything, SEPTA decided to hold off on price hikes and start measures that move it “toward a more equitable system,” General Manager Leslie S. Richards said.

“Very excited that the board decided to move forward in this way,” she said, “and we are eager again to make our system easier to use, more flexible for those who are using it.”

Questions? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s happening Wednesday?

Children under 12, as long as they’re accompanied by a fare-paying adult, will be able to ride SEPTA free. That includes Regional Rail.

Riders’ first transfer using the SEPTA Key card’s Travel Wallet or its pay-as-you-go option is also free. SEPTA has extended the time window for a transfer from 90 minutes to two hours. Additional transfers still cost $1.

When do the changes go into effect, and do I need to do anything to take advantage of them?

Changes start at 12:01 a.m., corresponding with the start of SEPTA’s 2021 fiscal year. Key users don’t have to do anything differently to ensure their first transfer is free, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said.

The authority has been working with Conduent, the primary Key contractor, to make sure Wednesday goes smoothly. Riders who run into any problems, such as being charged for the transfer, can reach out to SEPTA Customer Service at 215-580-7800 or @SEPTA_Social on Twitter. Further contact information can be found on SEPTA’s website.

» READ MORE: The cost of SEPTA’s Key card system just swelled to nearly $200 million — way more than planned

Do fare-paying adults need to show proof that children are under 12, and do kids still have to tap a Key card?

No proof of age is required. Only the adult(s) traveling with children will need to tap their Key card or pay with cash.

Can I take advantage of the free transfer if I pay cash?

No. The first free transfer applies only to riders using the Key card’s Travel Wallet feature.

» READ MORE: For Philly’s poor commuters, SEPTA fare ranks among most expensive in U.S. cities

Can I use the free transfer to get from the Market-Frankford Line onto Regional Rail?

Nope. The free transfer doesn’t apply to Regional Rail, only to-and-from transit services, or between SEPTA’s buses, trolleys, and Broad Street, Market-Frankford, and Norristown High Speed Lines.

» READ MORE: SEPTA Regional Rail is coming back, but many of its suburban riders are still working from home

Which fares does SEPTA plan to raise, and when will that happen?

SEPTA’s proposal in March included a 50-cent hike to the Travel Wallet base fare — from $2 to $2.50 — as well as increases to monthly and weekly passes. SEPTA has deferred those increases until at least January and will decide later this year whether they need to be further postponed, Busch said.

The authority plans to raise prices every three years, and delays will certainly slash the $16 million in new annual revenue it expected to generate from the proposed changes, which was less than the about $25 million it normally sees from a fare increase.

“These changes are really important as the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of our customers are struggling,” said Rich Burnfield, SEPTA’s treasurer and deputy general manager.

What about the new three-day passes I’ve heard about?

SEPTA is rolling out new three-day passes to accommodate workers who do not have a typical 9-to-5 schedule. They’re expected to come out in October, Busch said.