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SEPTA will start phasing out tokens in early 2014, but that doesn’t mean riders will be paying the same fare then as they do now.

Both token and cash fare increases are set to take effect on July 1, should SEPTA’s newest budget be approved by the agency’s board. The cost of both token and cash fare will jump by 25 cents, to $1.80 and $2.25, respectively. Once the system phases in its new payment technology, which will use fare cards and other microchip-equipped devices, cash fare will increase to $2.50.

SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch attributed the fare hike to the need for new revenue and changing state law.

“Like all public transportation operations, we receive a significant amount of money from state subsidies to fund our operating costs,” Busch said. “But it’s also our responsibility to do as much as possible to increase the amount of money we have to pay for our operating costs and to not overburden our customers.”

Revenue is currently 1.8 percent below SEPTA’s year-to-date budget, and the system has accommodated 3.21 million fewer rides this year than last year, according to SEPTA’s Revenue and Ridership Report.

The last increase came in 2010 as part of a 2007 plan to raise fares every three years. This is the first time since 2001, however, that cash fare has increased, Busch said.

“That’s pretty annoying, because most people don’t carry around quarters,” Wharton sophomore Diliana Dimitrova said, who uses SEPTA about twice per week to travel to a Center City internship. “I already have a hard time finding $2 to pay for it because I usually just have my card.”

Since SEPTA cashiers only accept exact fare, riders who only have bills will be forced to pay $3 instead of $2. Busch cited that as one of the benefits of the new payment system, where riders can use a card or smartphone to pay the $1.80 fare instead.

“When [the new system] comes along, if somebody has a $5 bill, they’ll be able to put that into a vending machine to get a smart card,” Busch said.

The new system will be phased into the Broad Street line, Market-Frankford line and trolley routes in spring of 2014. When it is first rolled out, riders will be able to pay with a card, phone, tokens or cash.

“That’s the most annoying part of going — constantly having to worry about tokens,” College senior Amanda Johnson said, who rides the SEPTA trolley about four times per week to volunteer at KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter as part of a student group. “That would eliminate the extra half hour I sometimes plan on having to get tokens.”

The city will be among the first to implement the new smart chip technology. Several other transit systems, including those in New York and Chicago, are in the process of developing similar payment methods.

“We believe that within a few years, most people will have something in their wallet that’s equipped with the technology they’re going to be able to use on SEPTA,” Busch said. “From around the industry, we’re hearing that this is where fare payment is going in the future.”

While Johnson won’t be in Philadelphia next year to regularly use the new payment system, she said she is pleased to see the system modernizing.

“Structurally, they have a good public transportation system — it’s really just the fare that people complain about,” Johnson said. “It stinks that I won’t be around for it, but I’m glad they’re finally doing it.”

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