SEPTA planning to bring back Regional Rail parking fees

Regional Rail SEPTA
SEPTA is planning to bring back parking fees at Regional Rail stops.
MELISSA MITMAN / METRO FILE

SEPTA is planning to end its yearslong free parking policy, meaning drivers who leave their cars at Regional Rail stations will once again be paying.

Rates will also likely be doubling. Prior to COVID-19, SEPTA approved increasing payment from $1 to $2 at most surface lots and $2 to $4 at its three garages. The fee was suspended in 2020, during the early days of the pandemic.

The implementation timeline is uncertain, as the authority plans to install new collection technology at all rail stops in conjunction with the change.

“We’re not looking at a situation where it’ll be back at all lots before the end of the year, but we may start phasing in before the end of the year,” SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told Metro.

About 50 of the more than 130 Regional Rail lots were free, even before COVID. That will not be the case going forward, Busch said.

SEPTA Regional rail
Melissa Mitman

Later this month, SEPTA’s board is set to consider approving a contract worth up to $12.3 million with a vendor for a modern parking payment system. Previously, drivers at nearly all stations paid by inserting quarters into a slot box.

“We need to bring the fees back to help cover our costs and help us raise revenue,” Busch said. “But we don’t want to make it a significant chore for people to have to go to the bank or wherever else you may be able to go now to get paper dollars converted into quarters.”

Parking revenue is used to maintain the lots, and, in 2019, the fees generated $4.7 million for SEPTA, Busch added.

Although Regional Rail ridership is still down 33% compared to pre-coronavirus numbers, most of the lots are at or near capacity Monday through Thursday, according to Busch.

In addition to parking spaces near rail stops, SEPTA operates a garage at Frankford Transportation Center and a large lot at Fern Rock Transportation Center. Both have also been free since 2020.

Fees returned earlier at a handful of Philadelphia Parking Authority-run lots adjacent to SEPTA stops.