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A program offering free SEPTA rides to those who can’t afford them is expanding after seeing some initial success.
The Zero Fare program helps the 39% of all city residents who have cited transportation as one of their biggest issues in finding and sustaining employment. Anu Thomas of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services said many community groups have been recruited to help distribute 25,000 free SEPTA Key cards.
“Esperanza will carry out this initiative with organizations who have a longstanding history of serving immigrants throughout Philadelphia,” she said.
Councilmember Curtis Jones said there are many people in Philadelphia who struggle to find the money to travel on SEPTA. He talked about a time he literally had to lift the couch cushions to find money needed to ride mass transit.
“Many thousands of families go through that every single day, but because of this program, there is no excuse not to go to that doctor’s appointment, no excuse not to go to that parent teacher conference, no excuse not to go to that interview,” Jones said.
The pilot program will run for two years and will use a lottery system to pick from those eligible to receive the benefit at first. City Council approved $62 million to fund the program to alleviate worries about finding the money to ride buses, trolleys, subways, and even the regional rail lines.
According to the city, residents can’t apply independently for Zero Fare. Participants, instead, are randomly enrolled through select community-based organizations, with eligibility based on age and income.
The city will enroll about 90% of those who are eligible, and another 10% will be distributed through the partner organizations.
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