Funding heads off SEPTA fare hike.
The public transit provider in Philadelphia, SEPTA, recently raised its fares; the article is saying that they won't have to raise fares again in September. In the media the fare increase was widely reported as an "11 percent" increase. And it basically was. People who hold a weekly pass for the buses and subways saw the price raised from $18.75 to $20.75; monthly pass holders, from $70 to $78. A one-day pass was raised from $5.50 to $6. (A rule was made that a one-day pass was actually only good for eight trips, though.) SEPTA also runs commuter trains from the suburbs. A typical fare increase there (zone 3, off-peak) was from $3.75 to $4.25; a weekly pass for such a commuter train went up from $34.50 to $39, a monthly from $126.50 to $142.50.
So far, all the fare increases I've mentioned were between 9% and 13%. So far, so good.
But how much of a fare increase will I, personally, see? Zero.
Why is this? SEPTA decided to eliminate the transfer. Currently, there are three ways one can pay for a single trip on SEPTA: pay a $2 "cash fare", use a token which costs $1.30 (but tokens are only available in quantities of more than one, and it can be astonishingly difficult to find someplace which sells tokens!), or use a transfer, which costs 60 cents but can only be used for the second or third vehicle in a trip that requires more than one vehicle.
The cash fare and the token will remain at $2 and $1.30, respectively. The transfer will be eliminated. Because of where I happen to live and where I happen to go on a regular basis, and the way SEPTA's routes are structured, I never need to transfer. (Also, I never figured out how to buy a transfer.)
SEPTA says only 6.8 percent of riders use transfers. This makes sense; under the old fare structure, if you needed to use a transfer for a round-trip five days a week, that came to $19 a week; compare $18.75 for a pass. These figures are quite similar, and I'm assuming that our hypothetical person never goes anywhere but to work. The people who get screwed are the people who ride less then daily but need a transfer when they do so; they'll have to pay $2.60 (twice $1.30) for their trip instead of $1.90, a 37% fare increase. And these are probably the people who can least afford it.
I would have preferred to see, say, the $2 cash fare raised to $2.20, the token raised to $1.45, and the transfer continuing to exist (at 65 or 70 cents). (I haven't done the math to know if this would actually bring SEPTA the same amount of money as what they're doing; I'm just applying the 11% figure across the board.)
The article says a hearing is being held to restore the transfer. I think that's the right thing. It's not the rider's fault that SEPTA doesn't have a single route that goes from where they are to where they want to be; designing a transit system such that everyone has a one-seat ride would be essentially impossible. A good transit system works because of these network effects -- two routes are more than twice as valuable as one, a hundred routes are more than twice as valuable as fifty. But only if you make it possible to use the system as a system.