We Delaware seniors traveling to Philly had a bargain for a long time, and now it is coming to an end. We could take the train from Marcus Hook into center city for only $1. Then, in Philly, we could ride the subway and buses for free. All we had to do was flash our Medicare card and we were waved right on. It was too good to last, and I took full advantage of it while I could. Over the years, I explored Camden, the Art Museum, the University of Penn Archeology Museum, the University of Penn campus, the Mutter Museum, Franklin Field, the Penn’s Landing area, the Drexel campus, the Italian Market, 30th Street Station, Chinatown, Old City, Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill, the Schuylkill Banks, and the Reading Terminal Market. I walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge (several times). I ate a Pat’s cheese steak (Wiz, wit). I saw movies at the Ritz theaters. I even rode up the city hall tower to the feet of the Billy Penn statue. Many blog posts here describe my adventures. Now it is ending, but that is okay because so is my energy, and my wife’s. Also, I have experienced many good things that have ended, so I have learned to enjoy what I have while I have them, never expecting them to continue forever.
This generous transportation system was always meant only for Pennsylvania residents whose taxes were paying for it. We out-of-state residents were getting a free ride. Of course, this couldn’t last. Pennsylvania residents will still have the same benefits, but they will have to get a photo ID card with a chip and they will have to tap the card on a fare box.
The choppy enforcement of the old system by the whim of a transportation worker had to change. This may have been the real problem. The bus driver who waved us on without paying could also be waving on his friends and neighbors. The change-over will be painful for many, but memories are short, and within a year the old way will barely be remembered.
The train stations are already set up with the new turnstiles and gates and cattle chutes to direct their customers. They are set to begin operation September 1 (I think). Many SEPTA employees, themselves, are unsure how it is going to work. Before, on the train, checking ID was up to the conductor. My wife and I are clearly seniors, so our ID hasn’t been checked for years. And, I noticed, almost no one pays full fare. They just flash some sort of card and the conductor nods and moves on.
The first day of operation is bound to be chaotic. When my wife and I were presidents of a square dance club, we would occasionally have to change the location of the next dance. We learned to station someone at the old location on the night of the dance because a few would not get the message no matter how clear we made it or how often we repeated it. SEPTA will face the same problem.
Their new system is stupid, but that should be expected of political actions. There never were enough out-of-state seniors or just plain cheaters to justify the cost of the new system.
I always rode in on a Saturday to avoid the crowds when the public transportation was mostly empty, anyway. And I patronized the almost-deserted museums and food stalls, who seemed happy to have me. I never thought I was taking from the system.
SEPTA now runs trains into Delaware’s Wilmington and Newark stations. I am hoping Delaware will eventually make some sort of accommodation for our seniors, but by then, I will be too frail to use it (just being realistic). Our political system in Delaware moves slowly, almost as slowly as that of Philadelphia.