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March 28, 2016

SEPTA's proposed budget does not include fare increase

Transportation authority anticipates maintaining same level of service in 2017 fiscal year

Southbound Subway Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

A SEPTA subway departs south on the Broad Street Line from the City Hall Station.

SEPTA's proposed operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017 does not include a fare increase and maintains current service levels.

The $1.4 billion spending plan marks a 3 percent increase over the current budget, which has seen a slight bump in passenger revenue. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

SEPTA attributes its ability to maintain services and current fares in part to its efforts to cut fuel consumption. The transit authority is replacing many of its buses with diesel-electric hybrids, a move that SEPTA says will help reduce fuel consumption by 2.2 million gallons annually.

SEPTA projects spending $25.8 million on fuel next fiscal year – an $11.2 million decrease from 2016.

"About 51 percent are hybrids now," SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said. "We're continuing in the direction of when we retire the older diesel buses, we replace them with the hybrids." 

SEPTA typically increases its fares every three years. The last fare hike occurred in 2013. But Busch said the transit authority didn't want a fare increase to coincide with the launch of SEPTA Key, its new fare payment and collection system.

"We didn't expect it to be a significant enough portion of revenue that it would have warranted doing it and causing possible confusion with the launch of the Key," Busch said. 

Fare increases now are scheduled to occur in 2018 and 2021.

The proposed budget projects receiving $537 million in operating revenue, a $788,000 increase. The vast majority of its expected revenue stems from passenger revenue, which is projected to increase by $301,000.

SEPTA also relies on $870 million in federal, state and local subsidies.

At $1.02 billion, labor and benefits account for the bulk of SEPTA's projected expenses. That figure rose by $30.8 million, or 3.1 percent. Another $278 million is budgeted for materials and services, a $22.1 million increase from 2016.

The SEPTA Board of Directors is scheduled to adopt a budget at its May meeting. SEPTA will hold two public comment sessions in each county before the board considers approving the proposed budget.

Here is the schedule for the public meetings:

Bucks County: Monday, April 25, at the Bucks County Free Library, 150 S. Pine St., Doylestown. Hearings will be held at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Philadelphia: Tuesday, April 26, at SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market St., Philadelphia. Hearings begin at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Delaware County: Wednesday, April 27, at the Delaware County Courthouse, 201 W. Front St., Media. Sessions begin at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Chester County: Thursday, April 28, at West Chester Borough Hall, 401 E. Gay St. Meetings begin at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Montgomery County: Friday, April 29, at the Montgomery County Human Services Center, 1430 Dekalb Pike, Norristown. Hearings will be held at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.