Can SEPTA Afford Pay Raise For Its Transit Police With Huge Declines In Ridership?

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA’s police union is back on the job after agreeing to a new contract Tuesday night. Part of the deal includes higher pay, but can SEPTA afford that, given huge declines in ridership in recent years?

There’s no more picketing in front of SEPTA headquarters. After striking for nearly a week, SEPTA transit officers are finally on the clock again.

“We’re very excited. I just passed a few of our guys and they’re excited to be back to work. They’re glad to hear what we’ve gotten in the contract,” said Troy Parham, vice president of SEPTA’s police union.

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Neither the union or SEPTA would say what the pay increases are, but it comes as SEPTA has been struggling with years of a decreasing number of riders.

For instance, federal data from 2016-17 shows trolley ridership dropped 4 percent, subway riders decreased by 7 percent and bus ridership vanished by 10 percent — just over one year.

Credit: CBS3

“We budget very carefully for expected pay increases,” SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said.

Busch says even with ridership on the decline, SEPTA’s current revenue stream will cover the police union’s pay increases.

“SEPTA has operated with a balanced budget for 19 consecutive years,” Busch said.

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He also says transit agencies across the country have been grappling with a loss of riders. Part of the reason is lower gas prices and more people using ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

“I like Uber better,” one person said. “It’s just reliable with the time you need it.”

“SEPTA’s really crowded, the timing’s not right.”

But SEPTA officials point out it’s working to improve services. For instance, it recently rolled out a new map that more clearly shows which bus routes run every 15 minutes.

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