SEPTA youth panel wants big discounts for college students

SEPTA youth panel wants big discounts for college students
Metro File Photo

The panel that advises SEPTA on youth issues is trying to build support for a program that would offer big discounts to college students.

University of Pennsylvania senior Jeff Kessler, who is chairman of the transit agency’s Youth Advisory Commission, says though SEPTA doesn’t make budget decisions until April, he wants to build a critical mass of support now.

The program, which would allow students to use student IDs to pay bus, trolley or train fare, could provide a cash windfall for SEPTA, he says. Under the plan, universities would tack on a $30 to $50 fee to a student’s tuition. They would turn that money over to SEPTA, which would give the university a steep bulk discount on transit fares.

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Students could get unlimited rides, but Kessler said that the transit agency would come out ahead because many students would use the program only sparingly.

“Particularly at Penn, students are using SEPTA, but not as frequently as other transportation alternatives,” Kessler said. “The entire fare paying process is foreign to them, especially if they aren’t from an urban environment.”

SEPTA CFO Richard Burnfield said that the transit agency has talked with schools about building these programs, but the devil is in the details.

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“What works for Temple might not work for Villanova,” Burnfield said, because those two schools are served by different transit lines with different fare structures.

Other cities have implemented similar plans, notably Boston, Miami and Pittsburgh. In Boston, some universities have balked at forking over piles of cash for something students may not use.

The YAC’s petition so far has garnered about 250 signatures.