Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On July 9th, riding the rails to Philadelphia suddenly becomes a whole lot more expensive. Part of a conspiracy to keep Swarthmore students in the bubble? Nope. SEPTA is $129 million in the red, and starting next week, it will be moving to remedy this problem by hiking fares for Regional Rail and eliminating transfers for buses and subways.
A round-trip fare from Swarthmore to Philadelphia has raised 75 cents, from $7.50 off-peak to $8.25 and from $9.00 peak to $9.75. (Peak times are 6:00 AM to 9:30 AM for trips into Philly, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM for trips out.) With 75 fewer cents in your pocket, you can afford three fewer glow-in-the-dark-condoms at Condom Kingdom, one fewer red bean bun in Chinatown, or 3/40 less of a student ticket to the Museum of Art.
But that’s not the worst of it–these are only the fares if you buy your ticket at the station. If you buy a ticket on-board–even if it’s midnight and the ticket booth has been closed for twelve hours–the fees go up again, to $10.00 for an off-peak round trip and $12.00 for a peak round trip. That’s a $2.50 hike from what you used to pay for an off-peak ticket. You can do the math–that’s a quarter of the admission to the Museum of Art, and a lot less safe sex!
To avoid these fees, you’ll have to plan ahead–if you want lower-price tickets, make sure to get them before the Swarthmore ticket booth closes at noon. Conductors will be insisting on collecting the higher on-board fee even if the ticket booth has burnt down and hasn’t been open for weeks–whenever you buy a ticket on the train, you will pay the price.
Don’t think you can stock up on cheap tickets now–SEPTA will stop accepting pre-hike tickets entirely on September 9th. If you still have molding tickets in your wallet from last year, consider sending them to your friends who are in Philadelphia for the summer (like your friendly Daily Gazette managing editor), or plan to take a lot of freshmen to Philadelphia during your first week back.
If these fare hikes have turned you off of going to Philly entirely, consider an alternative way of getting to and from Philly–one that only costs $5.20 if you plan ahead. Take Bus Route 109, which stops at the main entrance to the College, as well as Springfield Mall, to 69th Street Station in Philadelphia–this will cost you $2.00 on-board, $1.30 if you buy tokens in advance–and from 69th Street, take the subway wherever you want it–another $2.00 on-board or $1.30 if you have tokens.
The bus comes about every twenty minutes during the week and every 20-30 minutes during the weekends. It takes about 35 minutes to get to 69th Street from the train station. The subway comes every ten minutes or so, and it takes 20 minutes to get from 69th Street all the way to Penn’s Landing.
The trip is longer, but you have some more flexibility in where you go and when you leave (the bus comes much more frequently on weekends and late at night) and it’s cheaper than the fare hikes. If you plan to buy tokens in advance, it’s even cheaper than the train used to be–you can’t beat $5.20 to get to Penn’s Landing and back!
Keep in mind that all of this is SEPTA’s optimistic plan for the future–If the Pennsylvania Legislature doesn’t come up with $100 million in additional transit funding before September, a “doomsday plan” will go into effect, hiking fares an average of 31 percent, cutting service by 20 percent, and eliminating 1,000 jobs–crippling not just your ability to leave the bubble, but the Philadelphia area economy, where one out of every five employees uses SEPTA to get to work and 65,000 students use it to get to school. If you want to prevent that from happening, contact your state senator–for Swarthmore, that’s Republican Edwin B. Erickson (firstname.lastname@example.org)– and tell them to vote for funding for public transit. It’s the Daily Gazette’s opinion that life under the “doomsday plan” will be just as gloomy as it sounds.