No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Discussion relating to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philadelphia Metro Area). Official web site can be found here: www.septa.com. Also including discussion related to the PATCO Speedline rapid transit operated by Delaware River Port Authority. Official web site can be found here: http://www.ridepatco.org/.

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No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Tue May 22, 2018 2:10 pm

Here we go again with SEPTA's fixation on its "ideal riders": as of August 1 anyone without a Key card will have to pay two separate fares if they need to transfer. This policy seems designed intentionally to scr*w visitors, families, school groups, and people who live at the edges of the service area where Key sales are few and far between. Are there any options to try to force a reconsideration until those groups are better provided for - City Council, the Tourist Bureau, any pols, most of whom are up for re-election?
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby MACTRAXX » Tue May 22, 2018 3:05 pm

Jeff and Everyone:

As I have previously mentioned SEPTA likely will encounter strong opposition now that they now
plan to eliminate transfers for anyone not in possession of a SEPTA Key as of August 1, 2018.

The City along with rider and social groups will likely file lawsuits and seek legal action to prevent
SEPTA from eliminating transfers as they have previously done in the past.

In this case there is adequate time to plan and motivate opposition to transfer elimination...

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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby bikentransit » Tue May 22, 2018 9:14 pm

How long is SEPTA expected to keep their legacy fare system in place? Tokens are slowly disappearing, so the only ones who would need transfers are those paying cash fare.
Will it be that difficult for infrequent riders to get a key card, and if they don't ride that frequently, is the fare really that much of a deterrent?
Is there any likelihood that SEPTA could be persuaded to do away with transfers period?
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Tue May 22, 2018 9:52 pm

bikentransit wrote:How long is SEPTA expected to keep their legacy fare system in place?

I doubt anyone’s saying that the old system should be kept, any more than there are serious defenders of DOS, 78s, or carburetors. The problem is that the Key takes away existing options and flexibility that COULD and SHOULD have been brought forward.

Tokens are slowly disappearing, so the only ones who would need transfers are those paying cash fare.

See below.

Will it be that difficult for infrequent riders to get a key card

NBD in urban areas and the denser 'burbs, a lot less likely in more spread-out parts of SEPTA's coverage area.

and if they don't ride that frequently, is the fare really that much of a deterrent?

If your fare doubles, quite possibly. Think of a family who might want to make a trip by SEPTA. They now either have to buy a set of $9.95 Keys which will have extra funds they may or may not use later, or pay nearly double in cash versus what they did before. If e.g. you have 3 kids the increment could be around 20 bucks which might make some people opt to drive instead. In addition they only get the $4.95 card fee back if they register the cards - again, nothing special for regular riders but an extra hoop for infrequent users that could also leave them with unused funds.

Is there any likelihood that SEPTA could be persuaded to do away with transfers period?

There’s a movement underway to do exactly that, like most other systems did years ago, but from what I’ve read it’s not likely anytime soon. Getting rid of transfer charges so a fare pays for a ride from A to B instead of paying for a single boarding would make the fare system much more equitable because a trip's cost would no longer depend on the number of vehicles needed. It would also encourage more efficient use of resources by shifting riders off buses that parallel the subway and el. Optimally, of course, fares could be eventually be distance-based as well.

That said, even if transfer charges are eliminated there’s still the issue of providing some option for short-term riders that doesn’t involve buying more trips than needed and/or having to register a card to get a credit they may never use. There doesn’t seem to be anything definite about offering anything like the old Independence Pass or multi-day options like those available in e.g. DC or London.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby MACTRAXX » Wed May 23, 2018 12:11 pm

Jeff and Everyone:

Today 5/23 SEPTA made their intent to eliminate paper transfers public:

http://www.septa.org/key/updates/2018-0 ... sfers.html

This in itself should get opponents of this fare policy change motivated...

What this may do is even further pronounce the noted drop in ridership on buses in particular
especially with this new regressive fare policy complicating the problem of riders that will not
transfer between lines thanks to having to pay the full $2.50 fare for each vehicle...

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Last edited by MACTRAXX on Wed May 23, 2018 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby zebrasepta » Wed May 23, 2018 2:19 pm

So SEPTA thinks saving money on paper and screwing over people is logical?
When will SEPTA stop being run by idiots at the top?
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby jamesinclair » Fri May 25, 2018 12:58 pm

This sounds like a tasty recipe for a disparate adverse effect lawsuit.

That is, if a party can prove that this change causes a greater harm to low income or minority persons than other parties, then SEPTA has to pay out big bucks.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Fri May 25, 2018 2:12 pm

jamesinclair wrote:This sounds like a tasty recipe for a disparate adverse effect lawsuit.
That is, if a party can prove that this change causes a greater harm to low income or minority persons than other parties, then SEPTA has to pay out big bucks.

I think the "Key" factor here would be the effect on low-income riders. They may not be regular commuters, plus they would be less likely to be able to front the costs of a card and/or have internet access to both register it and maintain it. My admittedly very-anecdotal observation over 20+ years of commuting is that a greater fraction of (apparently) lower-income riders have historically been paying a trip at a time; presumably major reasons could be the up-front costs of a pass and/or inconsistent work schedules.

The disparate-effects argument has already pulled SEPTA's collective choke-chain a couple of times in the past. Two cases I remember were when it was determined they'd been in effect redlining token availability by offering fewer sales locations in poorer neighborhoods, and another when they proposed a surcharge on the C bus between Fern Rock and Pattison aka the Phone Station to "encourage" riders to transfer to the BSS. In the latter case the merely bleedin' obvious finding was that the surcharge would have made things even worse for low-income riders, where the average $10/week transfer costs were already an obstacle.

I'll be first in line to say that SEPTA isn't - and shouldn't be - in the charity business, but it sometimes seems they're actually going out of their way to increase fares for riders who are least able to afford it.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby ExCon90 » Fri May 25, 2018 2:59 pm

I get the impression that it's more to make things easier for the bean counters, without any particular regard for what categories of riders are affected.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Sat May 26, 2018 2:49 pm

ExCon90 wrote:I get the impression that it's more to make things easier for the bean counters, without any particular regard for what categories of riders are affected.

"Make it easier for us, not the rider" underlies how SEPTA reworked the RRD on-board surcharge. In the past it was a flat $2 that kicked in only if there were already active ticket facilities, policies consistent with other railroads. SEPTA simplified it for themselves by making it apply unconditionally even if a station was closed, and changed the pricing scheme to round the standard fare up to the next dollar ... and then tacked on yet another buck for no apparent reason other than to mess over riders. Instead of being an incentive to use existing sales options, the surcharge now punishes riders who make life tough for SEPTA by arrogantly </s> boarding at a station that doesn't sell tickets.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby scotty269 » Sun May 27, 2018 12:59 pm

*rolls eyes*

They will end up saving money in revenue operations for processing cash/coin, allow for easier fare reloading, and reduction of waste by getting rid of paper transfers, train/trailpasses, and already tokens. There is additional functionality that allows the Key to be used as a Debit card as well, allowing you to use the money you've loaded for SEPTA or purchasing as needed.

Once you get your head out of your butt that everything is happening to *screw* riders, you'll learn that some things actually work well.

I was recently in San Francisco, and purchasing a Clipper card was awesome! I was able to ride BART, Muni, and CalTrain from a single fare card. I didn't have to worry about transfer fees, exact change, etc. I was able to load my stored value at a fare kiosk, online, or at one of a hundred retail locations including Walgreens spread throughout the city.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Sun May 27, 2018 3:06 pm

Responding, without scatological insults:

NO ONE is saying that the existing system should be preserved or that there aren't lots of efficiencies and advantages to the Key. I got one over a year ago during the second early-adopter wave and it's hugely simpler for me. The point is that the Key's being implemented in a way that makes life more complicated for a subset of riders and makes payment less equitable than the system it replaces. As a veteran of many large IT projects, the single biggest problem with many upgraded or replacement systems was that while the changes helped the majority of users, they made it less friendly to those outside the core. See Microsoft's often-maligned "ribbon" menu as one example ...

IF Key cards were to be widely available throughout SEPTA's coverage area and IF every RRD station were to have a TVM and IF there were options for short-term riders then yes, there'd be few excuses to use any other payment method. But at least as SEPTA's presenting their plans, none of those options will be available. Short-term users have to either buy more service than they may need in the form of an Independence pass, register a Key to get back the $4.95 fee that they again may never use, or pay multiple fares for trips that used to be covered by transfers. RRD riders boarding at stations without TVMs will still be forced to pay the on-board surcharge whether they pay by credit card, app, or cash, and SEPTA will still have the inefficiency of needing to process that cash on board (albeit not as often as currently).

I too have used other transit systems - in over a dozen cities in 10 countries on three continents. I didn't have to pay for separate transfers, found TVMs at every rail station I used, and was able to buy short-term or multi-day cards without having to register them for trips I'd probably never take. SEPTA could address the Key's three biggest gaps by doing something similar. In rough order of priority:

- Eliminate its transfer charges, as many are now suggesting. A fare should pay for a trip from X to Y rather than a single boarding, especially given the grid-like layout of many SEPTA routes. Even though there'd be some initial revenue hit, getting rid of the transfer charge would make the system run more efficiently by allowing people to use bus routes as feeders instead of staying on a longer route to avoid the extra cost of transferring. See e.g. Berlin which has just three fare categories, each of which allows travel within the category's designated region without any penalty for switching vehicles. Or what happened to SEPTA itself decades ago when they eliminated the counterproductive transfer charge between the BSS, MFSE, and S-S lines.

- Either install TVMs at every RRD station, or eliminate the surcharge for riders who board at unequipped stations and pay electronically. If SEPTA can't put machines everywhere riders shouldn't have to pay extra for that inability. Plus they often talk about "getting cash off the trains", so why should there be a disincentive for e-payments?

- Make some form of short-term card available without the need to register. I've seen other cities where you can get cards for specific numbers of days or trips depending on your needs. OK, of the three this is a much less serious lack but still, if other cities can offer similar flexibility why shouldn't SEPTA?
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JimBoylan » Sun May 27, 2018 5:58 pm

When S.E.P.T.A. says they want to get rid of transfers, they don't mean that they want journeys of equal length to cost the same, they mean that they want to charge for each vehicle that you ride.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby andrewjw » Sun May 27, 2018 11:05 pm

While the rollout process is quite painful, I would be unsurprised to learn that the long-term answer to the TVM at every RRD station question was to enable the contactless credit/debit card functionality found on Ventra (and Oyster). Then, anyone with a credit or debit card would be able to walk up to the train, no Key needed. This solves the tourism issue, though I agree this is unfriendly to the underbanked.
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Re: No Key? Pay double to transfer!

Postby JeffK » Mon May 28, 2018 3:22 pm

JimBoylan wrote:When SEPTA [S.E.P.T.A.] says they want to get rid of transfers, they don't mean that they want journeys of equal length to cost the same, they mean that they want to charge for each vehicle that you ride.

And that's the problem when dealing with a generally grid-based system like SEPTA's. Transfer costs already distort rider behavior, particularly when it comes to bus routes that should be feeders to the BSS and MFSE. Raising the incremental cost of a two-vehicle ride from $1 to $2.50 greatly worsens that distortion for riders who may have difficulty purchasing and/or maintaining a Key card due to factors like limited income, limited access, etc. Rather than trying to discourage not having a Key card via financial disincentives, SEPTA should be working on policies that encourage their use by riders who don't fit the "ideal commuter" model.

andrewjw wrote:While the rollout process is quite painful, I would be unsurprised to learn that the long-term answer to the TVM at every RRD station question was to enable the contactless credit/debit card functionality found on Ventra (and Oyster). Then, anyone with a credit or debit card would be able to walk up to the train, no Key needed. This solves the tourism issue

SEPTA's proposal so far is that conductors will have some form of reader to accept e-payments on board, which would solve most of the problem - - - EXCEPT that those payments would remain subject to the on-board surcharge, which falls not just on tourists but also on riders for whom buying a card in advance is an issue. Again, it's the application of a penalty for not having a Key even when access may be limited, rather than making it easier for "non-ideal" customers to buy them.

... though I agree this is unfriendly to the underbanked.

That's going to be an increasing problem across society, far beyond riding SEPTA and with unknown consequences.
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