STATE TRANSPORTATION BILL PROVIDES
FREE SEPTA RIDES FOR STUDENTS
August 14, 2007 – Most Philadelphia students who have been paying their own
fares will now ride public transit to and from school for free, under a system
made possible by the new state transportation funding law enacted last month.
As the result of additional state financial resources
provided to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA), the agency
has worked out a cooperative arrangement with the Philadelphia School District
to furnish weekly passes to students who are eligible to receive free
transportation service – those who live more than one and a half miles from the
school they attend.
“This is a long overdue step that will provide students
in Philadelphia with the same service that children in Pennsylvania’s other
public school districts already receive -- free transportation to and from
school,” said state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia,) who designed the new
state transportation funding plan. Fumo joined Governor Ed Rendell and officials
from SEPTA and the School District today at an announcement of the new weekly
Currently, about 32,000 Philadelphia students in grades
7-12 ride SEPTA to and from school each day. (Those in lower grades have
traditional school bus service.) Of those 32,000, about 14,000 receive free
tokens, but the remaining 18,000 must purchase subsidized tokens at a cost of $1
each way, or $2 per day. Thus, Philadelphia families spend about $6 million per
year for their children to ride to school on SEPTA. The switch will provide free weekly
passes for an estimated 36,000 students.
“While it might sound obvious, one essential component
of keeping kids in school is getting them to and from school,” Fumo said.
“Education is the ticket to a better future for our children, our city, and our
state. Now we are able to give Philadelphia students a better ticket, literally,
to their education.”
Fumo conceived the new state transportation plan and
helped propel it through the legislature in July. It will increase funding for
highways, bridges and mass transit by $750 million this year, and by an average
of almost $1 billion annually over the next 12 years. The revenue comes from new
tolls on Interstate 80 and toll increases on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,
starting in 2009. It requires no general tax hike.
The legislation also restructures all funding for mass
transit by dedicating 4.4 percent of state sales tax revenue to public
transportation, replacing several separate line-item appropriations that the
General Assembly previously had to approve annually. The conversion to a fixed
percentage of sales tax revenue will help to ensure that the transit fund will
grow with inflation.
For SEPTA, which is the state’s largest mass transit
system, the new funding plan provides an increase of more than $156 million, or
44 percent, in operating funding, to a sum of $507.8 million in the 2007-08
fiscal year. Along with new dedicated capital funding of $57.8 million, SEPTA’s
total state subsidy is now $565.6 million.
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