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April 05, 2023

SEPTA predicts fare hikes in 2024 as pandemic relief runs out

The transit authority expects an over $240 million gap in its budget without additional support from funding partners

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA budget Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

SEPTA released its 2024 operating budget. Officials for the transit authority said it must find a way to add an additional $240 million to maintain the current business structure.

As SEPTA prepares to spend the last of its pandemic relief money, the transit authority anticipates changes to its business structure in the years to come if it can't bridge the funding gap.

On Wednesday, SEPTA shared its proposed 2024 fiscal year operating budget. The $1.69 billion budget includes COVID-19 relief money, but it will be the last year the transit authority has that money to allocate. 

The leftover COVID money is scheduled to be spent by April 2024, leaving an over $240 million hole in SEPTA's spending budget starting in the fiscal year 2025, which would force the transit authority to consider service cuts and fare increases.

Under the proposed operating budget, the company's spending would increase 4.7% above the budget for the current fiscal year 2023. 

The budget includes investments in safety and security, hiring to address high vacancy levels and new tech aimed at improving customer relations.

“We are doing absolutely everything we can to grow revenue through ridership growth and tighten our belts through efficiencies, but those measures alone are not enough,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “This will be the last budget proposal without service cuts and fare increases unless SEPTA receives additional support from our funding partners.”

SEPTA has recently announced new turnstiles to prevent fare evasion. The transit authority is also committed to projects that enhance the user experience such as new trolley fleets that are more accessible for commuters with disabilities, and electric buses to help the environment

It also recently announced the expansion of the Key card program, which allows employers to purchase monthly transit passes for their workers.

There will be four public hearings to discuss the budget proposal with sessions on May 8 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and May 9 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The SEPTA Board will consider the proposal at its June meeting; if it is approved, it takes effect on July 1.