SEPTA recovers from $4 million-plus deficit

At one point this year, SEPTA had an operating deficit of $4.2 million. The authority has reduced that to a $1.3 million operating deficit, and Chief Financial Officer Rich Burnfield said by June 30 - the end of SEPTA's fiscal year - the budget will be balanced.

"Everyone who knows me will tell you that deficit is a word that is not in my vocabulary so we will [balance the budget] and we are working very hard," Burnfield said. "I have the entire cooperation of all the staff, and we are closely watching expenses for the rest of the fiscal year."

The winter that would not end is largely to blame for the 2.2 percent decrease in ridership this year, compared to last year. While regional rail ridership is up 544,000 riders or 1.8 percent, city transit is down 6.38 million riders or 2.8 percent.

SEPTA took a significant hit when snow and ice storms caused school closings that were not accounted for in the budget, but when Philadelphia public schools made up some of those snow days over what would have been their spring break, SEPTA was able to recover some of its loses. For the month of April, SEPTA had a $3 million surplus.

To close the deficit gap, SEPTA has also been careful with its material and service purchases, asking if departments can purchase, say five new motors versus 25.

"Even though we are going to end the year with a balanced budget, we are not going to impact customer service," Burnfield said.

As of the end of April, SEPTA's operating budget deficit stands at $1.3 million.

If SEPTA is able, as Burnfield says, to balance the operating budget by June 30, this will the 15th consecutive year that SEPTA has had a balanced budget.

About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 

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