Operating budget proposed by SEPTA for FY23: no price increase, new investments

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) released its proposed operating budget of $1.61 billion for fiscal year 20223 (FY23).

This proposal includes fare improvements designed to increase ridership after COVID-19 and allows for the expansion of SEPTA Key Advantage, the authority’s new institutional pass program.

There will be four virtual public hearings on the budget. SEPTA’s Board of Directors will review the proposal at its June meeting. If approved, it will come into effect with the start of FY23 on July 1.

SEPTA’s operating budget funds day-to-day system operating expenses such as labor, energy, fuel, cleaning and security. Federal COVID-19 relief funding provides essential operational assistance, but these funds are expected to expire at the end of FY24. Beyond that, SEPTA would continue to use state and local grants to balance the budget, including tapping into service stabilization funds once federal COVID-19 relief funding expires.

“We are optimistic heading into the new fiscal year, but we also continue to face difficult challenges,” said SEPTA Managing Director and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “This budget proposal reflects how SEPTA is doing its part to provide safe, reliable, equitable and sustainable public transit in our region as we continue to move forward in this recovery.”

According to the proposal, there would be a new Neighborhood FleX DayPass for riders traveling shorter distances on the regional train. The pass would cost $10 and could be used for up to 10 trips on bus, metro, tram and to any regional train station in Zone 2 in a single day.

The existing One Day Independence Pass would be renamed Anywhere FleX DayPass. The price would remain at $13 and it would still be valid for up to 10 trips by bus, metro, tram and all regional train stations for a single day.

For the Neighborhood FleX DayPass and the Anywhere FleX DayPass, there would be a 10% discount for a group purchase of three passes, which could be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days. There would be no fare increase and passengers will continue to benefit from fare adjustments enacted during the pandemic, including a free transfer per trip on public transport modes and free rides for children 11 and older. less.

Additionally, some fares would decrease, including the one-day convenience pass from $9 to $6 and the three-day convenience pass from $18 to $15.

SEPTA would build on successful initiatives to improve the safety and security of customers and employees. The authority would invest in expanding its Safety, Cleanup, Ownership, Partnership and Engagement (SCOPE) program to help educate vulnerable members of the population seeking sanctuary on the system, as well as a new program which will soon be launched and which will designate ambassadors. to stations and vehicles along the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines.

The proposed operating budget also reflects several initiatives launched by SEPTA as part of its first-ever efficiency and accountability program. This effort includes a comprehensive review of all facets of SEPTA’s operation to determine which practices can be improved to operate more efficiently and improve the employee and customer experience, while others can produce significant cost reductions that position authority for a sustainable future.

For example, SEPTA is implementing a fleet-wide efficiency initiative on its buses that will result in nearly 5% fuel savings per bus based on the results of a pilot program, totaling over $1 million in annual savings at current market prices.

Other investments include:

Adoption of a comprehensive information technology (IT) master plan.

Development of improved communication tools, such as an improved website and mobile application.

Expansion of human resource recruitment and retention efforts to fill vacant positions.

Creation of a new Equity and Inclusion Division.

Continued planning efforts to support SEPTA Forward: A Vision for a Stronger Future, SEPTA’s five-year strategic plan for fiscal years 2021 to 2026

The proposed operating budget accounts for excessive inflation, with budget-wide impacts such as material costs and fuel prices; increase in insurance premiums; ongoing COVID-related expenses; and the increase in vacancies in the budgeted workforce.

SEPTA will unveil its draft capital budget for fiscal year 2023 and its 12-year program in the coming weeks. The proposed capital budget will be a record plan – the first to cross the $1 billion mark – and will set out the authority’s vision for continuing core infrastructure improvements and advancing projects of importance to the region.

Melvin Z. Madore