SEPTA’s commuter parking spots won’t be free much longer

By Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza, WHYY
Posted 6/6/24

Much of the ridership has returned and SEPTA faces a tight budget.

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SEPTA’s commuter parking spots won’t be free much longer


There was a sea of vehicles at SEPTA’s Fort Washington Regional Rail train station on a recent weekday after rush hour. But not a single commuter paid for parking that day in a lot with nearly 600 spaces.

Travelers have not paid for any SEPTA parking for the past four and a half years.

That’s because a “Welcome Back’” sign still hangs on the parking payment boards and kiosks telling customers they don’t have to pay.

It’s been the same policy for about 25,000 parking spots across SEPTA’s Regional Rail network since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Ridership dropped dramatically as the world shut down but has since recovered years later.

“We’ve been very focused on trying to build up ridership,” said Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesperson.

But now that much of its ridership has returned and the transit organization faces a tight budget, free parking isn’t going to last much longer.

SEPTA’s budget proposes to reinstate parking fees of $1 per day for lots and $2 per day for garages — then potentially double the fees to $2 and $4, respectively.

In 2019, SEPTA collected $4.7 million from its parking operations. It’s a small slice of total revenues collected — passenger fares that year totaled $517.9 million.

But every dollar counts, even if those parking fees were collected for years in quarters dropped into a collection box.

“The reality is we’re in a budget crunch and we’re looking at all ways that we can to increase our revenues,” Busch said. “It’s still far less expensive than you would spend to park in Center City.”

Beyond that, SEPTA is considering a more streamlined and modern payment system for parking, but nothing is finalized yet, Busch said.

The board is expected to approve a $2.6 billion budget at its next meeting in June for the start of its fiscal year in July.