In response to a recent youth rampage through Center City, City Controller Alan Butkovitz last week urged SEPTA to restrict the free student TransPass to 4:30 PM, to help reduce the risk of youth violence.
Currently, students with the TransPass have free unlimited travel on SEPTA’s subway and bus lines until 7 p.m. A March 2008 Controller’s audit of Subway Safety found that violence spikes between 3 PM and 5 PM., when students are dismissed from school.
In a letter sent to Joseph Casey, SEPTA’s General Manager, and presented at a press conference last tuesday, Butkovitz said, “My office conducted an audit of SEPTA’s subway security system — which found that the free distribution of Student TransPasses heightened the risk that youth violence could and would occur — both on and off the transit system.
“This finding was dramatically borne out last Tuesday on the streets of Center City Philadelphia,” said Butkovitz.
The Philadelphia Police Department and SEPTA Police have recently increased patrols in Center City’s transit locations between 3 PM to 5 PM.
“While the increased patrols have helped curb violence, I strongly urge SEPTA to limit the use of student passes to 4:30 PM,” said Butkovitz. “This will help reduce the window of opportunity for those students intent on creating havoc. Our police are already stretched thin and with the city strapped for cash, we have to think smart – and use our resources wisely.”
For any student who participates in an after-school activity, a special sticker can be placed on that student’s TransPass to allow them free access to SEPTA’s transit system until 7 PM, according to Butkovitz.
Along with restricting the use and providing special passes for after school activities, Controller Butkovitz also recommends:
-Fast-track development and implementation of SEPTA smart card TransPasses that restrict free travel by students to home and school destinations only.
-Explore the creation and/or installation of deactivation software in future smart card TransPasses that will prohibit free use of the TransPass on any day the student is absent from school.
“These recommendations, many of which are cost sensible, should help avert future violent and destructive incidents by students on the SEPTA transit system or in key business districts throughout the city,” said Butkovitz.
“We cannot afford to delay action on addressing this problem,” said Butkovitz. “As Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said after the melee, ‘we were lucky nobody was killed’.”
To view a copy of the letter sent to SEPTA as well as other reports relating to subway safety and student TransPasses, please visit the Controller’s website at www.philadelphiacontroller.org