Opinion: Give Students Free SEPTA Rides All Week Long

Philadelphia's student passes cut off at 8 p.m. and don't include weekends, but expanding the free fare program could help SEPTA rebuild ridership and create lifelong transit users.

July 23, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


"Last week, SEPTA [Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority] and the School District of Philadelphia announced the rollout of new student SEPTA Key cards, which replace older magnetic strip cards that had to be renewed weekly," writes Daniel Pearson. "This is a long-overdue step, but it doesn’t go far enough. To better support Philly youth, the district and SEPTA should provide full TransPasses to all eligible students, allowing them to ride free on SEPTA at all times."

The current passes, which don't include weekends, cut off at 8pm, making it difficult for students who work or stay late for activities to access transit when they need it. Broadening the program, Pearson argues, would not only provide more options for students now but "also help foster a lifelong habit of transit use" and turn students "from users into aficionados."

As a city with underperforming transit ridership, argues Pearson, Philadelphia should embrace any new potential riders. "There’s no better potential source of riders than the students who already use SEPTA to get to school and are eager for the freedom a TransPass would provide."

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