From near-worst to first for SEPTA fares

PHILADELPHIA. Despite threatening to postpone it indefinitely, SEPTA will now announce the winning bid for its highly-anticipated new fare system next month, which promises to catapult the system from antiquity to ground-breaking technology.

The system would eliminate tokens and paper transfers for buses, subways, trains and trolleys by allowing riders to wave a card by a reader or turnstile and use credit cards and cell phones as payment, which no other transit system currently has in place.

“We are moving forward,” said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams.

The overhaul seemed in danger last month when the federal government rejected the state’s plan to toll Interstate 80, which reduced SEPTA’s capital budget by about 25 percent.

The agency has not said exactly how it will pay for the system, which will cost upwards of $100 million, but as part of the bids vendors submitted innovative financing proposals that would break up the cost or spread it out over a period of time. SEPTA is also looking for possible stimulus funds. The system will take a few years to build and install.

“It is certainly good news for the rider,” said Matt Mitchell, of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, a rider advocacy group. “There’s no more figuring out whether you need a transfer. That’s all figured out automatically.”

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