Thursday, February 24, 2005


Philadelphia's two representatives to the SEPTA Board - Chris DiCicco and Jettie Newkirk - once again exercised the city's veto power to delay a fare increase for at least 30 days. This occured at today's "special" board meeting which followed the regularly scheduled "rubber-stamp" session.

This move had been hinted at in Dan Geringer's article in today's Philadelphia Daily News (a fully-paid subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee):

"What we need is a solution, not a destruction of the transit system," said a City Hall source who declined to be identified.

A second City Hall source said that this afternoon's board meeting would be packed with the transit system's most vulnerable captive riders, who need SEPTA to get them to jobs, schools and doctors but who can't afford sky-high fares.

This of course was before the Philadelphia press corps went into "Operation Over-hype" mode in advance of today's snowfall. For the record, only a handful of people were able to make it to today's meeting...

A veto today by city appointees Jettie Newkirk and Christian DiCicco will prevent the 15-member, suburbs-dominated board from passing a 38 percent fare increase for at least a month.

But the veto will not prevent the 25 percent fare hikes and the 20 percent service cuts that were approved in December when the SEPTA board overrode an earlier veto by the same two city appointees.

Those "doomsday" hikes and cuts will go into effect on March 6 unless: (1) The Legislature pays off SEPTA's $49 million deficit, or (2) Gov. Rendell "flexes" (transfers) highway funds to mass transit as a temporary bailout, or (3) The city wins its lawsuit against SEPTA, due to be heard Monday in Common Pleas Court, that argues against fare hikes and service cuts as unnecessary and legally questionable.

Had the veto not been exercised, the SEPTA base fare would've increased from the current $2.00 to $3.00 on March 6. The original plan was to increase the fare from $2.00 to $2.50 last month, then increase from $2.50 to $3.00 on March 6, but the city's pending lawsuit against SEPTA regarding the fare hikes put a crimp in those plans. As it stands now, barring a court order, the base fare will increase to $2.50 on March 6, with the $3.00 base fare on hold pending the expected override of the city's veto next month.

Even so, SEPTA's plan to hike the fares from $2.00 to $3.00 certainly would've ranked as one of the dumbest decisions to come out of 1234 Market in recent memory. And there sure as hell have been a lot of stupid decisions from that place...

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