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Old 08-27-2013, 06:05 PM
Location: Philadelphia, PA
1,567 posts, read 2,663,137 times
Reputation: 1658


Originally Posted by rotodome View Post
Sure, that's one way to look at it (though would you say that SEPTA does a lot of bending over backwards to make its regular riders happy?).

But to extend your analogy in the current context: If, after first-time buying somethng from you, someone went and made a thread in which they remarked about penalty charges and the difficulty of working with you relative to other salespeople from whom they'd also bought things, it seems appropriate that someone might chime in to make note of your history of questionable business tactics.

I'm not sure why this is so controversial.
You make valid points. My analogy may not be completely applicable.
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:07 AM
Location: Center City
7,084 posts, read 8,214,674 times
Reputation: 10149
Originally Posted by ki0eh View Post
On getting back into the subway at the Walnut-Locust stop we found ourselves in an expansive nether world - but, oddly, and finally, there actually were locator maps for the Philadelphia Transit Concourse. I wondered why anyone ever created such a structure under South Broad Street - was it meant to be a bomb shelter? (When waiting back at the station for our Amtrak train out I searched online, found some interesting blogs about the space but didn't come up with a history link that explained it.) No murals, no musicians, no shops like Underground Montreal, just a weird disused urban space that was really somewhat creepy.
I just returned from Reading Terminal Market on this rainy day and remembered your post, as I made a beeline to the concourse. Through the eyes of a tourist, I can see how one might wonder about this space, and I can also see how you might want to exit it pretty quickly. To this resident, it is simply a connecter that allows me to get through much of Center City without getting wet during inclement weather.

The 3.5 concourse is maintained by two agencies: SEPTA, which you know and PATCO which runs from CC into the Jersey suburbs. The PATCO areas are better lit and scrubbed, well-signed and feature pictures from old Philadelphia. SEPTA maintains the bulk of the concourse, however. The SEPTA sections along Broad and near City Hall (which I have a feeling you stumbled into) could use an anti-septic cleaning. That said, they are functional. These sections do not feature retail and I'm glad they do not. As a transplant from Houston which has an extensive system of underground retail, I find this detracts significantly from street level activity. If anything, South Broad could use more, not less retail at street level. The part of the concourse near Suburban Station does feature small shops, fast food and the like.
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:32 PM
3,490 posts, read 7,513,774 times
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I share the frustration with the subway system and am glad to hear it is being updated.

Re walking the city I am surprised you had an issue with that. Walking Philadelphia was one of my greatest pleasures in the city from the moment we first started spending weekends there. It was never a problem at all.
It's a shame you didn't seem to enjoy your day. Philadelphia is one of the most pleasantly walkable cities I have been to in the US.
I think perhaps your interest in the short comings of the city may have actually ruined the potential for a lovely day. Shame.
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Old 08-28-2013, 06:40 PM
2,394 posts, read 3,051,801 times
Reputation: 1976
Originally Posted by rotodome View Post
OK cool. But if that is the case, then you can probably see why your other two posts were confusing to me. Since one of them was seemingly to draw an equivalence btw SEPTA's and the MTA's service level at stations, and the other one was seemingly to state that token availablity at stations was not really a problem. Both of those would be highly questionable statements, as noted.
I don't really understand why it's confusing. People were complaining about how you can't get tokens in stations. I just left Philly 5 months ago. I could get tokens at almost any station I used (sure, sometimes they were broken and it was annoying but that was an issue maybe once a month) which is why I mentioned which stations I used.

Everyone from Philly knows that tokens are on the way out and should expect that the transition between the two fare systems is going to have bumps. I understand why SEPTA is getting rid of them early - because they don't want people hoarding tokens and because the machines are expensive to service, maintain and replace and they probably have to redirect a lot of that staff to training on the new machines.

My comment about MTA station attendants was in response to the "SEPTA booth operators don't do anything" schtick and wasn't really for your benefit. The job of attendants in both systems are pretty similar. The only real difference is the fare system.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:17 PM
2,394 posts, read 3,051,801 times
Reputation: 1976
Originally Posted by mancat100 View Post
What some may look at as punishing non-regular riders, others may look at as rewarding loyal customers. I'm in sales, and my regular customers get better rates than my one-timers. I will also bend over backwards to keep them happy - pretty much anything that's not illegal I'll do for them.
Customer service is important . . . but here's the fare conundrum. Transit operators lose money on empty seats. They should want to put people (read:fares) in those empty seats and you can't do that solely with 9-5'ers.

There are a few broad ridership profiles but the three biggest profiles are (i'll call them) the suburban commuter, the urban commuter and the urban casual. The suburban rider commutes into the city in the morning, back to the 'burbs in the afternoon and might have a few discretionary rides in a given month - maybe a lunchtime ride across center city or a weekend trip into town. Those riders are about 15% of the total.

The urban commuter gets his or her moneys worth out of that pass every month and they make up about 35% of SEPTA riders. This number would include the reverse commuters.

The casual urban riders don't buy passes because they don't take the 2.2 trips per day (or whatever the break even point for a pass is these days) necessary to make investing in a pass worthwhile. These riders are around 45% of the total. (The rest of the riders are casual suburban and suburb-to-suburb commuters)

SEPTA's fare structure basically rewards riders with a suburban ridership profile and punishes people with an urban ridership profile and is shooting themselves in the foot in the process. SEPTA has a mandate to provide a minimum level of service. Most SEPTA revenue vehicles are traveling during off-peak hours and driving empty seats around is losing money. SEPTA's goal should be to put a butt in every seat at all times of day so that it can bring in more money at the farebox on buses and trains that it's already running. Instead it does exactly the opposite.

If we count all trips in the region - people walking, driving, cycling, taking transit be it to work, the store, to pick up their kids from school, whatever - well, only 25% of all of those trips are journey-to-work. In other words 75% of SEPTA's potential ridership are people not going to work. It's going out to dinner, going shopping, going to visit friends or family, etc, etc. In charging those people more and/or making it more difficult for them to get a discounted fare you're just ensuring that those people use other modes. Indeed, every time SEPTA raises fares it factors in the loss of revenue from the decline in ridership.

Don't mistake this for me saying that fares shouldn't go up. I think they should be pegged to inflation with a regular fare hike every 2 years. But even as those fares rise they should promote transit use by everyone - not discourage people who don't need a train or bus to get to work.

When the MTA introduced free transfers with the Metrocard ridership soared. In fact, it's grown 70% since then (putting a real strain on the system) But even in NYC only around half of MTA riders are using the weekly and monthly, unlimited ride passes. It's much the same in Philly with 42% using passes and 38% using cash and tokens (the other 20% are students and seniors). When you look at RR riders 64% of riders are using passes with 28% using tickets or cash. When suburbanites aren't going to work they just don't use transit the way people in the city do but they should be encouraged to visit the city more often - not penalised for it.

SEPTA is throwing yet another dagger at urban commuters - the weekly and monthly passes will be limited to 7 swipes per day. That means that if you live in Pennsport and work in University City you can go to work, go home and go one other place during the day or after work but only if it doesn't involve a transfer. SEPTA readily admits that less than 1% of riders are abusing the system - swiping their pass more than 10 times - and with the new system it would easy to catch them if they're sharing passes.

How much more money could SEPTA save with free transfers? Well, let's just look at the 23 bus as an example. A rider with a pass is going to take the subway up to Erie and catch a bus because it's faster. A rider who is taking a casual trip is going to get on the 23 in South Philly because it's cheaper.

The new fare payment system will allow SEPTA to collect real time data on who is riding which vehicles to go where and at what times of day. It will be much easier to shape service accordingly. But, like I said, until SEPTA has free transfers for casual riders they're going to continue to move a lot more air than people.

The new machines could easily issue passes or tickets in the following increments - one ride ($2) then the following passes that allow for transfers 2 hours ($3), 4 hours($4), day pass ($7), 4 day pass ($22), 7 day($30), 14 day($55), 30 day($91).

The hourly passes would probably be limited to 2 transfers with unlimited transfers for the rest. Offer a version of this to people in the suburbs (different prices, of course) and watch off-peak ridership soar.
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