SEPTA applies to TIGER II grant program for smart card

SEPTA submitted an application Monday to try to get federal stimulus money to help pay for part of the new smart card system.

As previously reported (http://planphilly.com/septa-4), SEPTA is seeking $29.3 million from the TIGER II program that would help pay for the installation of the system on buses, trolleys, trackless trolleys and the Norristown High Speed Line.

Local funds would cover the rest of the $77.3 million project, which would also pay for building the system architecture that would support a smart card system.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said the exact way SEPTA would come up with the matching funds hasn’t been determined yet and said that might be determined through the process of awarding a contract.

The authority has expressed an interest in creative financing to pay for the smart card project and has asked potential bidders to explore that option.

Of the TIGER money, $16 million would also pay for on-board equipment on buses, upgrades to subway turnstiles and for the purchase of on-board fare validators for regional rail.

The application projects SEPTA would save $17.2 million in operating and maintenance costs by rolling out smart cards along those modes of transit and would save area car owners $23.6 million in ownership, gas and maintenance costs.

If the federal government accepts the proposal, SEPTA plans on issuing a notice to proceed on installing this part of the system on Dec. 9, with the system going fully operational March 1, 2013.

Busch said that other modes of transit would be added to the system as funding for them is secured.

TIGER is “the key to getting us moving with this” project given the current funding crunch, he added.

Though SEPTA is in for some tough competition in winning a piece of the $700 million TIGER pie, its application has garnered strong support from elected officials and transit stakeholders.

SEPTA submitted letters of support from groups including the city, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, PenTrans, the Clean Air Council and members of the region’s congressional delegation.

Contact the reporter at acampisi@planphilly,com

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