There's an increasing possibility that SEPTA will initiate a fare increase later this year, although SEPTA is not officially saying one way or the other. The Inquirer reported yesterday that a 22-percent fare hike in the base fare from the current $2.00 to $2.45 would allegedly close the $70 million budget gap SEPTA is currently facing. And now, SEPTA Treasurer Joe Casey offered the understatement of the year:
"You would lose riders on that," [Casey] said. Inquirer
It didn't take long for SEPTA's Minister of Mis-Information to backtrack from yesterday's report:
"I can’t comment whether there will be a fare increase in the next budget -- not at this time," said Richard Maloney, SEPTA director of media relations.
"We are facing, and stated publicly for some time now, that we’re facing a $70 million deficit in our operating budget for fiscal year 2005," Maloney said, "and we will have to go public with our plans on that budget some time during April."
"What SEPTA needs at this moment is a long-term predictable funding formula for public transportation here at SEPTA and statewide," Maloney said. Delaware County Daily Times
There are probably some who think SEPTA needs a change in management (and if I were king of the world, Maloney would be the second to go, following, of course, Fearless Leader), but that's another rant for another time.
In any case, watch out for a lot of rhetoric from advocacy groups for the disadvantaged, up to and including illegal disruptions of service as the weeks and months progress.
Although, if SEPTA proposes a slew of service cuts as they did last year, the fare increase may end up on the back-burner. Which could be what SEPTA is hoping for...
"We are still crunching the numbers... . The public at large wants the service," Casey said. "We received very little response [last year] from people that did not want a fare increase." Inquirer
Of course there was very little response about a fare hike last year. Everyone from Chestnut Hill to Aston to the Bristols was worried about losing bus and rail services to even worry about a fare hike. Perhaps the labor negotiations will bring a fare hike into the foreground this time around.