SEPTA today released a proposed $1.69 billion Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2024. The proposal uses SEPTA’s final installment of federal COVID relief funding that has helped to avoid service cuts and fare increases associated with pandemic-induced revenue losses. The federal COVID relief funding is forecast to be exhausted in April 2024, and SEPTA will face recurring structural deficits exceeding $240 million starting in Fiscal Year 2025 – raising the prospect of service cuts and fare increases as early as next year without additional funding.
There will be four public hearings about the Operating Budget, with sessions on May 8 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., and May 9 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. For the first time in four years, SEPTA will offer an in-person option for public participation at the hearings, which will be held at SEPTA Headquarters. Participation will also continue to be offered virtually. The SEPTA Board will consider the proposal at its June meeting. If approved, it will go into effect with the start of Fiscal Year 2024 on July 1.
SEPTA’s Operating Budget funds the everyday expenses of running the system, such as labor, energy, fuel, cleaning, and security. The budget has been significantly impacted by inflation, with a proposal for Fiscal Year 2024 that is 4.7% above the budget for current Fiscal Year 2023.
“We are doing absolutely everything we can to grow revenue through ridership growth and tighten our belts through efficiencies, but those measures alone are not enough,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “This will be the last budget proposal without service cuts and fare increases unless SEPTA receives additional support from our funding partners.”
The budget proposes continued investments in safety and security; hiring to address historically high vacancy levels; and new technologies to improve the customer experience. Implementation of SEPTA’s Efficiency & Accountability Program has helped to offset cost increases, with savings initiatives reflected throughout the proposal.
Targeted fare enhancements are included in the proposal to continue to boost ridership post-COVID. The proposal would make travel more convenient and affordable by providing customers with access to a second free transfer, and by adding 24 inner-ring Regional Rail stations to the network of stations accessible with a weekly and monthly TransPass, including all Zone 1, Airport Line, and Center City stations.
The proposal also features the ongoing expansion of SEPTA Key Advantage, which now has more than 30,000 participants and recently expanded eligibility to all employers, colleges, and universities across the region.
Next week, SEPTA will unveil its proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Capital Budget and 12-Year Program. The proposed Capital Budget will lay out the Authority’s vision for continuing core infrastructure improvements and advancing projects of significance for the region.