Fare tech a go, at last

SEPTA’s on-again, off-again, on-again fare modernization project looks like a go after the agency approved a $175 million loan Thursday to fund the initiative.

The loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Corp. will allow SEPTA to select a vendor for the project, which had been deferred last year when the agency’s capital budget was reduced. Officials said they expect to choose a vendor by the summer and complete the project within two to three years.

With the new system, passengers will be able to pay using a debit card, cell phone or other smart card technology, while eliminating tokens and paper transfers.

“This marks a major milestone in our efforts to provide customers with state-of-the-art, convenient, efficient service and equipment,” SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey said.

SEPTA is one of the last major transit agencies to modernize its fare system. The loan, which comes through a federal program, is contingent upon SEPTA creating 3,500 new jobs. The program also provided funding for Pennsylvania Convention Center, Temple University Health System and Comcast Center.

Casey said the loans will be repaid through the capital program and would not impact fares.

“The new payment technology will have a significant positive impact on the capital budget, both from a revenue standpoint and from that efficiency standpoint in reducing the cost it takes us to bring in the revenue,” he said.

Big cash for new trains

SEPTA also approved a proposal to issue up to $250 million in bonds to pay for the new Silverliner V Regional Rail cars and renovations to Wayne Junction station.

The first three Silverliner V rail cars went into service last October and most of the remaining 117 are expected to be delivered this year. The bonds will provide SEPTA with more than $200 million for the $274 million project.

Wayne Junction, built in 1901, is a centerpiece of the system.

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