On April 23rd, the SEPTA Board held its first “virtual” meeting. For this meeting, Philly Transit Riders Union organized more than 30 essential workers to write to the SEPTA Board with two requests:
- Run more transit service to alleviate crowding
- Postpone upcoming public hearings on fare increases and instead submit a COVID-19 recovery fare plan for transit riders
The duration of this virtual SEPTA board meeting was approximately 9 minutes and all public comments were ignored. The board announced the public hearings required to take place for transit fare increases would take place “virtually” as well, in under a month. If April’s SEPTA virtual board meeting is any indication, SEPTA is unable to listen to the concerns of transit riders during this crisis.
Public input is a vital part of the fare increase process. Most regular SEPTA riders are not using public transit through this crisis. Many essential workers who are still riding are working long hours. Many medical personnel will likely be preoccupied with saving lives and spending their scarce free time with their loved ones. Public hearings held during a pandemic will not accurately reflect how fare increases will affect the riding public.
Transit riders do not need a fare increase during a crisis. Some elements of SEPTA’s proposal–free transfers and $1 fares for kids–would be helpful to riders when fare collection resumes. But SEPTA’s proposal also includes fare hikes for many riders, which will be extremely onerous for people who are struggling to make ends meet during a period of severe economic and health crises.
SEPTA has proposed voting on the current proposal immediately and allowing it to take effect at a date to be determined later. SEPTA must respond to current realities and operate transparently within a predetermined timeline. We need a fare proposal with a sustained crisis recovery in mind for transit riders.
A Fare Proposal for a COVID-19 Recovery: The SEPTA board should submit a fare proposal that will allow transit riders and the region to recover from COVID-19. This proposal should significantly lower and simplify fares for one year. We suggest a $1 fare across all modes for adults, and free rides for all children accompanied by an adult.
Reschedule public hearings for the current fare proposal. After one year, resubmit the current proposal if public hearings can take place safely.
Now is not the time to attempt to pass a fare increase without legitimate public input.