FY2014 and NPT: The Monthly Pass Break-Evens

One measure of unlimited passes is: at what point do they become cheaper, per ride, than paying for rides individually? This ratio is one that calls for balance from any transit agency. Lower pass prices encourage the prepayment of fares, which is good for the agency financially, and increases discretionary ridership that drives mode shift to transit. But on the flip side the agency may be leaving revenue on the table if riders were willing to pay more, and also may increase cost liability if riders with unlimited passes make heavy use of their privileges. As SEPTA’s famously complicated (but also increasingly oversimplified) fare system comes up for a refresh, it’s worth running through some numbers and seeing where SEPTA is setting — and moving — that line for its riders.

I’m restricting myself to monthly passes in this post, and not running the weekly numbers, because monthly passes are far superior deals, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. And because after having made this batch of calculations, I already want to stab my eyes out.

Notes:

  • All single rides are calculated at the token/smart media rate (transit) or at the advance purchase one way ticket rate (railroad) except where indicated otherwise.
  • Direction indicated is AM Peak.
  • Bold indicates a change of more than one (1) ride per month.

...................................Now............Proposed 
...............................Rides Pass req'd Rides Pass req'd
Broad/Ellsworth - City Hall... | 54 | Transpass | 52 | Transpass
Drexel Hill Jct - 34th/Market. | 33 | Transpass | 33 | Transpass
19th/Market - 54th/City Line.. | 45 | Zone 1... | 52 | Transpass
Matsonford - Bryn Mawr (NHSL). | 54 | Transpass | 44 | Zone 1
Bridgeport - 69th St.......... | 51 | X-County. | 44 | Zone 1
Gulph Mills - Valley Forge.... | 54 | Transpass | 41 | Zone 2
13th/Market - King of Prussia. | 51 | Zone 3... | 41 | Zone 2
East Falls - 30th Street...... | 23 | Zone 1... | 22 | Zone 1
Suburban Station - Sedgwick... | 21 | Zone 1... | 22 | Zone 1
University City - Airport..... | 14 | Transpass | 16 | Zone 1
Sedgwick - Suburban Station... | 29 | Zone 2... | 29 | Zone 2
Swarthmore - Market East...... | 29 | Zone 3... | 29 | Zone 3
Temple University - Wilmington | 25 | Zone 3... | 26 | Zone 3
Suburban Station - Trenton.... | 18 | Zone 3... | 19 | Zone 3
Neshaminy Falls - Market East. | 29 | Zone 4... | 29 | Zone 3
Wilmington - Temple University | 29 | Zone 4... | 30 | Anywhere
Ridley Park - Claymont........ | 24 | IM-1..... | 32 | X-County
Paoli - Overbrook............. | 28 | X-County. | 32 | X-County
Lansdale - Suburban Station... | 31 | Anywhere. | 30 | Anywhere
Trenton - Suburban Station.... | 22 | Anywhere. | 22 | Anywhere
Wayne Junction - Ardmore...... | 24 | Zone 2... | 16 | Zone 2
Manayunk - Trenton............ | 17 | Zone 3... | 19 | Zone 3
Colmar - Bala................. | 21 | Anywhere. | 22 | Anywhere

I think the first object lesson has to be that, if you don’t transfer and don’t incur a zone charge (or “premium route fare”), the Transpass is a terrible deal compared to tokens. The second is that the changes to Intermediate and Via Center City riders were clearly pulled from a hat in 1234 Market, because clearly no design or thought went into them.

I should acknowledge Ben Kabak’s 30-Day Metrocard Challenge as an inspiration for this post, which is much more one-dimensional than this, probably to his great relief. (I can’t find the relevant post, but after the most recent MTA fare hike on the first of this month, the break-even point on 30 Day Unlimited Metrocards inched back down to 48.)

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6 thoughts on “FY2014 and NPT: The Monthly Pass Break-Evens”

    1. Wait, interesting. It’s just in fixed-width. Except that the fixed-width doesn’t work right in the site skin, although it does work right in the naked RSS feed. Is that fixable? (Sorry, you can delete all these.)

    1. So it is. Mea culpa. Last time I lived in the suburbs, the Zone 1 Trailpass didn’t exist; I hadn’t realized how much its reintroduction guts the rationale for the Cross County pass for non-Regional Rail riders.

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