SEPTA Nickle and Diming CCP students

So, this is the law, as far as I know it with SEPTA: They charge a two-dollar fare for the subway/bus, etc, when you don't have a token. The catch is that this should provide you with some incentive to buy tokens, because they are only 2.60 a pack, a huge 35 percent difference per ride.

There is always the issue of how easy it is and is not to buy tokens. IE, if SEPTA makes you have to jump through hoops to buy tokens, it doesn't seem quite right to make such a difference in price. (And, of course, they don't let the token takers at subway stations sell you tokens. If NYC can handle it, so can Philly. Anyway...) The solution is supposed to be token machines at all the subway stops. That solution has always been somewhat problematic, because a lot of times the token machines don't work. So, SEPTA agreed that if the token machines don't work, they would let someone pay the token fare to the cashier instead. Seems fair, right?

Well, what if they just don't have a token machine, at all? And in a station that caters to a ton of CCP students?

Yesterday, I went to the Phillies game, by way of the subway. I went down the stairs at Broad/Spring Garden, and there was no place to buy tokens. So, I tried to pay the cashier $1.30. He was not particularly interested in my protests that no machine and a broken machine are the same thing. He said to talk to the guys "upstairs" about why there was no machine anywhere in the station.

Broad/Spring Garden is the subway stop for anyone going to and from CCP. It undoubtedly serves tons of people. And, SEPTA has no token machine? I know this seems like small potatoes, but, we are talking about potentially raising the fare for CCP kids by 50 percent, whenever they didn't figure out a place to buy tokens in advance. That is not right, and, I think it actually may be violating the agreement that SEPTA has made.

Do I think that SEPTA does things like this purposefully? Probably not. But, it strikes me that SEPTA management probably just does not care. And, that just is not right. For a person struggling to get by, 2 bucks is a lot of money to ride the subway. I know about the agreement about tokens/broken machines only because of a family member who has battled SEPTA fare hikes for the past 20 years. There is no way the average person knows about it, and SEPTA takes advantage of that with their negligent behavior.

I am forwarding this post to Lance Haver, the City's consumer advocate. SEPTA should not be nickel and diming Philadelphia riders.


I actually live a block away from the Broad/Spring Garden stop and the only other two subway stops I go to in the city (Broad/Ellsworth and Front/Girard) do not have token machines either. Sometimes the attendent sells tokens at the Girard station but I haven't figured out when. I usually just stock up on tokens when I'm near a station that has a machine.

I'd love to see some pressure on SEPTA to install token machines in more if not all stations.

for what it's worth

they're for sale at a lot of non-SEPTA places, like Wawa and other small stores, some newstands, etc. it might be that if you sniff around, you'll discover that there's in fact a source right near that very station.

just a thought

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

A Great Partnership: Septa and EZ-Pass

It'd be much better to just abolish tokens. Why not give everyone a key chain with an EZ pass transponder? The three dollar annual service fee isn't that onerous. Install EZ pass readers at station and bus entry ways. This removes the requirement to always have change, it gets rid of the fair takers at stations who could be cleaning or adding other value and it removes the limitations of only being able to buy tokens during business hours or god forbid walk a few blocks between connection points on a nice day since the pass readers will know where you started your journey. Besides all of us with cars would just grab our transponder from the velcro strip and hop on the train or sub into town. Unlike ten years ago, having an automated payment system installed wouldn't be prohibitively expensive. Now there is the little issue of EZ pass having a monopoly but I think we could cut a deal. Seniors could get discounts. We could have varying fairs to moderate crowding. What are the chances of this happening... Unfortunately, it makes way too much sense for Septa's leadership to implement.

P.S. For those without credit records, here is your chance to build one. Also, we have prepaid cell phones so we should be able to have prepaid EZ-pass transponders.

They've been saying that metrocard conversion thing for years

Small business owners selling tokens would help. I was thinking that installing E-Z pass readers and bar coded transponders would be cheaper than several hundred metro card vending machines. Maybe $20 million or even $50 million? I mean how expensive are bar code scanners--less than $1000 a pop these days especially for a large order. Then it wouldn't matter if the Federal Capital Spending never came.

What Really Smart Cards Can Do

I don't know what the proper etiquette is for pointing to a post on my blog that deals with the issues raised in this thread. Is it OK to repost what is on my blog here? Is it better to just put a link to my blog?

I am going to go with the second choice: I just blogged at in response to the awful piece about transit in the Inquirer two weeks ago. I point out how much less we subsidize public transit than we do suburban sprawl and automobile travel and I make some suggestions about how we can improve public transit.

Central to those suggestions is the adoption of the best current smart card technology.

Not Getting There

When I first moved to Philly a couple years back, I made the mistake of looking at a transit map and going to the nearest El stop (46th St.) thinking I could just buy my fare and be on my merry way to an early Saturday appointment. When I asked the worker in the booth why there were no vending machines he replied, "Are you kidding? In this neighborhood? These people don't deserve it. They would just mess it up."

Never mind that it was my neighborhood.


We need a "Rider's Bill of Rights."


Sure... But of all places, they should be for sale at the station. And, I am pretty sure that SEPTA agreed to this very thing, and is just ignoring it.

Access issues

In order to sell SEPTA tokens you have to meet standards in terms of security and accessibility at your site (check out this part of the SEPTA website to see what I am talking about).

In my neighborhood, the closest place to my house that sells tokens is 8 blocks away, and with a trolley right on the corner, 1 blk from my house, I rarely ever make that trek if i am out of tokens.

I imagine that a lot of the businesses in my community don't meet access requirements or security standards which is why they don't sell them. Or, no one has from SEPTA has ever told them that they could sell them or offered assistance in completing the forms.

Maybe in CC, because there are so many more stores, they are easy to get, but not in West Philly. There was a store that used to sell tokens illegally which meant they marked up- asingle token used to cost $1.50.

Dan's original point though is even more obscene- the subway and el stations, enclosed, SEPTA-owned properties do not sell tokens. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten on the El at 2nd or 5th Street and not had a token, and forgot that there was no machine to buy one.

long-term plans

SEPTA has been putting a line item in its long range capital budget to convert the entire system to a fare card system like in New York in DC. This is not the same as what you are suggesting MCD, but it's a little closer.

However, without better federal capital tranist subsidies, this is unlikely to happen soon. Perhaps the possibility is making SEPTA chill on i nstallling new token machines, but if so, it's typical penny-wise, pound-foolish planning.

A simple solution would be to put some overpaid, admin. level bureaucrats to work recruiting and assisting small business owners all across the city to sell tokens and passes.


sure, EZ Pass is a good idea. London has something like that already called "Oyster."

Heard that

The cashier at my El stop, Front and Girard, gave me the same response about six months ago: "People here would just break into the machines." Somebody above mentioned the security requirements for merchants to sell tokens, so I guess SEPTA's stations don't meet their own standard.

I generally defend SEPTA in the interest of supporting public transportation as much as possible, but this is a glaring failure. I love the thinking behind EZ Pass or some other smart card access, but it seems about as near as a man on Mars when SEPTA doesn't even feel pressed to offer the token fare in all stations at all times.

SEPTA- Sad but true

The fact that SEPTA is unlikely to ever address these concerns is maddening. And it relates back to a point I made in a different thread- symbolic or not, City Council members are ready to get more active as they build their re-election profiles. This is the kind of easy and simple to solve, but important issue, that people who read this blog should get behind and push.

Seriously, I bet if we each called our district council person about this issue and asked for a solution (a few are listed above), we could get a bill out of it. Would it pass- probably. Would it do anything- who knows? But if a Council person was serious about pursuing basic quality-of-SEPTA issues, they could sail to victory in '07 with the votes of lots of grateful SEPTA riders.

Philly Has to Lead on Transit

SEPTA is a state agency and the city has very little direct control over it. But there are ways to lead without having any direct control. And the City of Philadelphia has to take the lead on transit planning for the region. SEPTA could do it but won't. The DVRPC has the expertise but not the independent political standing to do it. No other government in the region has the clout to do it.

Ideally the Mayor of Philadelphia would take the lead. But if he or she doesn't then, Ray is right, the responsibility falls on City Council. Council has a transportation committee. The chair of that committee could be doing two things that lead the way to a much better transit system.

1. He or she should be holding well publicized hearing with transit activists and experts from the region and far beyond. Those hearings should show everyone in the region what an extraordinary transit would look like and how it would dramatically contribute to equitable economic growth.

2. He or she should also be engaging like minded public officials, editorial writers, foundation people and activists from the region as a whole to take part in those hearing and then to form an ad hoc group--paid for and supportd by the city--to develop a visionary plan for transit. With a plan in hand, then all those folks can go back to seek support for the plan in the four county commissions, and in city council, who will in turn demand that the SEPTA Board adopt it and our state representatives and senators support support it.

In this, as in so many other area of public policy--affordable housing, neighborhood economic development, crime control, to name just 3 more--cities all over the country and in other countries are adopting new ways of attaining progressive goals. Searching for good ideas and figuring out how to make them work in Philadelphia is not rocket science. Nor is figuring out how to publicize and create political support for these ideas.

We give 1 Mayor, 1 Controller, and 17 Council Members a stage on which they can show some leadership on these and other issues. Where are they? With a few exceptions--Wilson Goode on reviving commercial corridors, Marion Tasco on predatory lending, Michael Nutter on ethics reform--they are all MIA.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content