SEPTA lightning round to end the week

There was too much SEPTA news this week to fit into a couple of blog postings.  So it’s Friday, so let’s leave you with these:

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Service cuts beyond imagination (in Pittsburgh)

Budget issues are creating the worst possible scenario for public transportation users in Pittsburgh.  The proposed plan includes not only a fare increase but also severe service cutbacks. 46 of the current 102 bus routes would be eliminated! 

Governor Corbett’s actions (or inaction) to deal with Pittsburgh’s situation will be an indicator on how well he will handle budget issues that appear to also be on the horizon for SEPTA.

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How the state and school district budgets affect SEPTA

It’s no secret that the Philadelphia School District is going through some rough times.  But how do the recent (and ongoing) budget cuts affect SEPTA you might be wondering?

We’ve recently come across two stories.

First, Newsworks.com reported that some schools might cut back on buses and provide students with Transpasses instead.  This would increase the number of students riding SEPTA.  Why?

“I understand this is not ideal, but this is the current option that the district is able to offer,” Jennie Wu with the District’s Office of Transportation said during a District-led meeting.

Wu explained that the state completely reimburses the District for TransPasses. The District is only partially reimbursed, 50 percent on average, for its bus service, she said.

Second, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook reported last month that many teachers and staff would no longer be offered TransitCheks.

I contacted Paul Billbrough at the employee benefits office to inquire if the District considered other alternatives to maintain the TransitChek benefit. He indicated that staffing reductions made it difficult to continue the program for teachers. However, he noted that employees at the District headquarters would maintain their benefits through a separate transit check debit card program.

When I asked why the TransitChek debit card could not be provided for teachers, Billbrough indicated that the benefit was provided to teachers as part of their Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract, which does not govern benefits for central administration staff.

Grim news for students and SEPTA riders.

And in a move related to the School District’s budget woes, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced Bill Number 120055 that would authorize and regulate the placement of advertising on school buses owned or controlled by the School District of Philadelphia.  Soon, SEPTA’s buses might not be the only bus advertisement opportunity in town.

Meanwhile, Paul Nussbaum at the Inquirer reports that the Governor has proposed funding SEPTA at the same level this fiscal year as last year.  So those long-postponed capital improvements like the City Hall rehab?  Don’t hold your breath.

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Want to give SEPTA a piece of your mind?

Here are two opportunities to weigh in with SEPTA and transit, generally.

First, SEPTA is looking for applicants for its Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC).

When the Pennsylvania Legislature created the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) they also called for the establishment of a Committee, made up of transit riders, who would advise SEPTA on issues important to customers.

Known as the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC), this group is made up of transit riders representing Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties….

If you live in one of the above counties, are a regular SEPTA rider, feel strongly about transit, and are interested in representing other riders, and have a proven track record of community volunteerism, please take a few moments to complete this application.

The applications are due by March 30 and are available here.

Second, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is looking for applicants for its Public Participation Task Force.

The Task Force is a group comprised of representatives selected from the general public, community and civic organizations, advocacy groups, professional associations, and the private sector. Twelve members of the Task Force will be chosen through an application/interview process. Applicants must reside within DVRPC’s nine-county planning area. An interest in planning, as well as knowledge of regional issues, civic engagement, diversity of experience, and effective communication skills are also beneficial for membership.

The applications are due by March 1 and are available here.

 

 

SEPTA Centenarian

Margaret Bringhurst is 101 and she is SEPTA’s oldest rider.  She was presented her own Senior Transit ID card by SEPTA officials.

Just in case you didn’t know about SEPTA’s Senior Transit Program, it’s a nice perk. If you are 65 or older, you ride for free and pay only a dollar to ride the regional rails.  Make sure to show your Medicare card or Senior Transit ID.

Image credit: (www.6abc.com)

SEPTA proposes to do nothing interesting — capital improvement-wise — in Fiscal Year 2012

SEPTA

It’s not posted on SEPTA’s website as of this writing, but PlanPhilly’s SEPTA guru Anthony Campisi reports that SEPTA’s proposed Fiscal Year 2013 capital budget has very few bells and whistles.  $59 million to buy new buses, $53 million for “vehicle overhauls”, an “early action” phase of the City Hall station project, and relocating the 15 trolley to permit the reconstruction of a part of I-95.

But, of course, there is the proposal to revamp the fare system that SEPTA’s been working on for awhile now.

Check out Campisi’s story for more details.

According to Campisi, “SEPTA is accepting written comments for its program until close of business on Feb. 10. Comments can be sent by email to capbudget@septa.org.”

(image credit: flickr user cgosnell90)

Congress just raised taxes on transit riders

On January 1, the commuter pre-tax benefit will go up to $240 for drivers, which is a $10 cost of living increase, but will get slashed from $230 to $125 for transit users.

For SEPTA users, this impacts anyone who uses purchases a Zone 2, 3, 4 or Anywhere Trailpass through Transitcheck.  Why didn’t Congress protect the needs of 2.7 million transit useres?  Because they were too busy with partisan politics over the payroll tax issue.

So instead, many SEPTA riders will receive a tax increase in 2012.