SEPTA holds line on base fare, makes night owl subway service permanent

 Train operator Maurice Bey collects fares at the front of the train for Nite Owl service (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Train operator Maurice Bey collects fares at the front of the train for Nite Owl service (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Subway and bus fares will not be rising, but SEPTA will be making 24-hour weekend service a permanent feature, according to the transit authority’s new budget proposal.

Last summer, SEPTA announced it would experiment with round-the-clock subway trips, and perhaps it’s no surprise that it was a big hit for both late night revelers and graveyard shift workers.

Since the experiment launched last June, an average of 15,000 more late night subway trips were taken on weekends.

SEPTA’s Andrew Busch said the original trial period followed calls from young riders who didn’t like the night owl bus service that used to run once the subways were shut.

“It was also us looking at the trends for development in the Center City area,” Busch said. “More young people using the system to and from nightspots back to their houses and outlying neighborhoods.”

Will SEPTA eventually move to 24/7 service? Not any time soon, SEPTA’s Busch said. 

“It’s not something that, right now, we would be able to do. But we’d never rule anything out for the future,” he said. “The cost factor when you get into 7 days a week, as opposed to the weekend, becomes an issue. We’d also have to work out a number of issues in terms of our regular track maintence work.”

The budget also looks to hire 70 new employees, eight of whom will be added to work the late-night weekend shift, Busch said.

And though riders are dodging a fare increase this year, one is expected next summer. 

SEPTA raised base cash fares a quarter the summer of 2013.

The next fare increase is scheduled for next July. Will it be another quarter, or a different amount? SEPTA says that’s still being worked out. 

But fares are scheduled to rise every three years as part of the authority’s long-term revenue plan.

In a statement, a SEPTA official wrote that the regular fare hikes help ensure that new revenue comes in and “helps customers prepare their personal budgets for these regulation adjustments.”

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