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The SEPTA Youth Advisory Council has garnered the support of 1,156 people in their quest to bring a student discount program to Philadelphia. | Courtesy of Adam E. Moreira/Wikimedia Commons

For many Penn students as well as for students at Temple University, Drexel University, Saint Joseph’s University and University of the Sciences, taking SEPTA to explore the City of Brotherly Love can become expensive. But the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council has a solution: a student discount program.

The council has 1,156 supporters who want to help them implement the program, according to a petition the SEPTA YAC filed four months ago.

Under the SEPTA student discount program, colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area would partner with SEPTA to purchase transportation passes for students at a discounted fare. Students would receive unlimited rides so they could commute from home, explore Rittenhouse or participate in a community service project in West Philadelphia.

“We are at a unique time when not only both parties [the local colleges and universities and SEPTA] are interested in seeing something potentially work out but also the technology capabilities are much better with the advent of SEPTA Key coming soon,” Executive Chair of SEPTA YAC and Wharton and Engineering senior Jeff Kessler said.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said that due to the rollout of SEPTA Key, a reloadable card that will largely replace tokens and cash as payment for train rides, SEPTA could phase in the student discount program as long as there is an arrangement with local colleges and universities to adopt a specific fee structure for the program.

Pittsburgh has implemented a similar student discount program, which allows college students’ IDs to act as a free pass onto any Port Authority Transit Bus or Pittsburgh Light Rail. With Pittsburgh’s program, there is a tuition increase of $180 per student each year.

As of January 2015, students in Philadelphia receive a 10 percent discount on a SEPTA TransPass. With the current student discount, the pass still costs about $1,000 a year. The high expense might contribute to SEPTA’s low approval rating by college students.

Campus Philly, a nonprofit that encourages college students to explore Philadelphia and to stick around to live and work after school, found in December 2014 that only 42 percent of Philadelphia area college students give SEPTA a positive approval rating.

Implementing the SEPTA student program could decrease student driving and therefore reduce the need for campus parking. Additionally, if students learn and become more familiar about Philadelphia, according to the survey by Campus Philly, there is about a 20 percent increase in likelihood that students will stay in the city after graduation.

“I think it has the capacity to dramatically change the way Penn students behave. Most noticeably, I could see this program eliminating the ‘Penn Bubble,’” Kessler said. “There is a perception on Penn’s campus that you need a couple of hours to make a trip out of going into Center City, but when in reality, it’s right around our corner.”

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