SEPTA Board Comments 6-25-2020

5th Square provided the following testimony to SEPTA at its virtual board meeting on June 25th, 2020.



Hello my name is Ben She, and I’m speaking today on behalf of 5th Square.

We are absolutely thrilled to see SEPTA’s Board make changes to the fare restructuring plan that move substantially in the direction of our Fair Fares advocacy platform

The elimination of fares for children under 12 and expanding the free transfer to 2-hours, are major advances that show SEPTA is listening, and taking seriously the need to win back transit riders after the pandemic.

This will ease the burden for families in our region and for riders who rely on transfers -- many of whom are shown to come from areas of deep poverty.

As a simple example -- a single mother with two children making a trip with a transfer costs $9 before the fare restructuring. Once the new fares take effect, this trip is $2.50 -- nearly a quarter of the original cost.

This is a very tangible benefit for so many riders struggling with financial difficulties during the pandemic.

Secondly, I commend SEPTA’s efforts to keep people safe during the pandemic, including the deep cleaning of stations, while also increasing service for riders as we emerge from lockdown. We encourage SEPTA and its partner municipalities, especially Philadelphia, to advance dedicated bus lanes on arterial streets, before traffic comes back in full force.

Dedicated bus lanes in places like Market/JFK, Chestnut/Walnut, Roosevelt Boulevard, West Chester Pike, and Old York Road would require minimal capital from PennDOT and streets departments, would speed bus rides, and would boost ridership post-lockdown.

LA, Vancouver, Oakland, Boston, and recently New York have all rolled out dedicated bus lanes.  It’s frankly embarrassing that our region lags so far behind.

5th Square will work tirelessly with local legislators and their constituents to help make this possible, if SEPTA and its partners commit to making it a reality.

Hello my name is Dan Trubman, and I’m speaking today on behalf of 5th Square.

We applaud the SEPTA board for the progress it’s made on the fare revision.  I reiterate our thanks to the entire SEPTA team for implementing a plan that will support the transit users and families of our region.

We at 5th Square look forward to working with SEPTA and continuing our advocacy for a more equitable fare system that supports growing ridership. We want SEPTA as it moves on its path of recovery from this pandemic to consider future changes to make it easier and more affordable for low-income riders who take the system.

We want to see the agency provide more free transfers within the two-hour window for those riders who need to switch two or even three times to get to their destination, and are hopeful that the 1-transfer cap could be revisited during the Comprehensive Bus Network Redesign process.

We also want to see SEPTA consider Fare Capping as a way to ensure riders don’t get penalized when they cannot afford the up-front cost of a monthly or weekly pass.  Fare capping allows riders to pay for the cost of a pass over time. When riders have paid enough in single fares equal to a pass, the rest of their rides for that period are free.

I don’t want these requests to muddle the overall message of gratitude we have for the fare plan revision.

This is a paradigm shift for SEPTA and a huge win for our entire region as we move towards a more equitable and sustainable future. 

We thank SEPTA’s board, SEPTA’s management team, and GM Leslie Richards for listening to us and adapting the fare restructuring to suit the needs of working families in these trying times.

Hello my name is Susannah Burger, and I’m speaking today on behalf of 5th Square.

I would also like to say thank you to the board for the fare plan changes.  Your actions demonstrate that you listen to your riders, and show your commitment to equity for this service.

5th Square plans on continuing this fight for equity by advocating for economically disadvantaged riders in our region.  We will be asking state and city elected officials to fund a reduced fare program for low-income riders. We believe SEPTA is not able to afford nor should shoulder the cost of this program alone.  

Transit agencies across the country already offer discount programs for low-income riders, funded with the financial support from their local government.

A program to provide reduced fares for low-income riders would eliminate a barrier blocking mobility for many in the region. At the same time, we also don’t want to stress SEPTA's finances to the point that affects service.

We believe that the City needs to contribute more towards transit for our region, given the large economic benefits our city sees from investing in transit.  We also very strongly believe the state needs to take immediate steps to secure its funding for SEPTA and explore alternative means of raising revenue. 

Congestion pricing — with revenue earmarked for transit — would be a game changer. Not only would this decrease road congestion by discouraging driving, but it would be an excellent opportunity to fund a low-income fares program for SEPTA.  As advocates we look forward to working with you to advocate PennDOT and our state and local government to make this happen.

We want SEPTA to show support for a reduced-fare program for low-income riders and agency commitment to implement it given the adequate funding.

Hi, my name is Will Tung, an organizer with 5th Square, and I am speaking on the fare tariff agenda item today.

I thank SEPTA and the board for its very positive revisions to the fare plan.  These fare adjustments are needed now more than ever, and the agency has made the right decision by enabling the public to choose how to comment, by holding virtual public hearings, and by getting these important fare changes passed.

Part of 5th Square’s fare advocacy platform asked SEPTA to accept transpass for use on Zone 1 Regional Rail, with the intention of eventually matching the cost for single rides.  

SEPTA can make better use of its regional rail network to expand its intra-city transit service. Looking long-term, we want high-frequency rapid rail service, similar to Berlin’s S-Bahn, which complements our subway, bus and trolley network.

The easiest part of making this a reality is for SEPTA to simply adjust its fares.

I live in Southwest Philly and commute to Chinatown.  I think about this whenever I’m waiting for the trolley at 49th and Chester and see the Media/Elwyn train at 49th Street Station.

The train would be quicker and Jefferson station is closer to my destination with a one-seat ride, but it's honestly not worth the price at nearly triple the fare. Seeing the station always empty, even before the pandemic, my neighbors find this out of their reach as well.

We at 5th Square realize converting Regional Rail to run like transit is not an easy lift, requiring the raising of platforms, redeploying equipment, and breaking down long-held silos within SEPTA.  These efforts would be well worth it to quickly increase system capacity and improve service.

We call on SEPTA to prioritize this end goal, and start taking steps now to integrate these two disparate systems and making the operating and capital budget decisions to enable this.