No Service Cuts or Fare Hikes… For Now

Yesterday, the SEPTA board approved the use of capital budget funds to fill in the 36 million dollar defeceit in the operating budget.  Among the capital programs affected include the renovation of several Broad Street line stations like Girard.  Also receiving cuts in funds is the bus replacement program.  No new buses until 2009.  That means the American Ikarus buses which were scheduled to be replaced in 2008 will have to hang on for another year or so.  Several Regional Rail station improvements are also affected by the shifting of funds from the capital to the operating budget.  Also delayed will be the improvement of the fare collection system which was “state of the art” when SEPTA introduced it in the mid 1990s and now obsolete to other large TAs and even some smaller ones within PA.  This includes replacing tokens with fare debit cards similar to New York City MTA’s Metrocard program.  This means no service cuts or fare hikes for the time being.  Fare hikes and service cuts may be presented beginning in the summer.  If SEPTA were to just raise fares now, by the time it was implemeneted, it would take way too long since they need to put together a proposal, announce public hearings at least 1 month in advance, hold hearings, gather information from the hearings, have the board approve it, then make plans for implementation.  The flexing of highway funds which Rendell diverted in 2004 run out at the end of the year.