The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has proposed a $1.52 billion operating budget for FY 2022, allowing for increased service without fare hikes.
It represents a 1% decrease from the prior-year budget. If approved by the Board at its June meeting, the new budget will go into effect July 1, 2021.
Under the proposal, service would rise on subways, trolleys and buses to 96% of pre-COVID levels, and to 80% on Regional Rail, as needed during FY 2022. “SEPTA is closely monitoring ridership patterns and will modify service as demand increases,” the agency said. Currently, ridership is at 38% of pre-COVID levels, and SEPTA noted that it continues to lose approximately $1 million per day in fare revenues.
Operating revenue for FY 2022 is projected to increase significantly over Fiscal Year 2021 current revenue, but still remains approximately $235.1 million, or 43%, below the current year baseline budget, according to SEPTA.
Passenger revenue is budgeted at $265 million, “which is significantly above the current year forecasted revenue and assumes a gradual recovery into next year,” SEPTA said. “The FY 2022 budget is 45% below the pre-Covid FY 2021 baseline budget. The planned fare increase for FY 2021 will be deferred until FY 2023 in an effort to attract riders back to the system.”
Federal assistance is expected to cover 24.3% of SEPTA’s operating expenses for FY 2022. This includes $360 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (March 2020), the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act (January 2021), and the American Relief Plan Act (March 2021); $7.7 million from federal capital debt service subsidy; and $400,000 from highway pass through funds.
While SEPTA noted that it would reduce its employee headcount by not filling selected vacancies, it would add up to 200 new cleaners who would be assigned to stations and vehicles.
“There are many reasons for optimism as we head into the new fiscal year, but we are also continuing to face difficult realities,” General Manager Leslie S. Richards said. “This budget proposal would provide resources for ramping up service as more customers return, and advance efforts to make our operations sustainable in the long-term by finding savings and efficiencies.”