Activists Hand Out “SEPTA Inconvenience Passes” for Riders

Activists say they want SEPTA to offer free rides to passengers who were inconvenienced by the strike.

SEPTA Inconvenience Passes

Activists including Rufus Farmer (right) hold giant “Inconvenience Pass” signs outside SEPTA headquarters at 1234 Market Street on Monday. | Photo: Dan McQuade

Activists today handed out “Inconvenience Passes” in front of SEPTA headquarters and at Dilworth Plaza, calling on the transit authority to reimburse riders for the time and money lost during the SEPTA strike.

“SEPTA officials claimed in court that they are concerned about the health, safety and welfare of the public, particularly the poor, the disabled and the 52,000 students who rely on mass transit to get to schools,” said Erica Mines, a Philadelphia activist who led today’s protest. “But the inconvenience to riders stems from their refusal to negotiate a fair contract with SEPTA workers. If SEPTA is so concerned, the public agency should provide the people of Philadelphia a free transit ride for each day of the strike.”

The passes, printed on stocky paper, say they “entitle bearer to free rides on SEPTA for each day of the 2016 transit strike.” Mines said the passes were not meant to be taken seriously — they didn’t except people to attempt to board buses with them. “For now it is a symbolic effort,” Mines said. “We’re doing this in solidarity with the workers. But we have issues that impact us, separately. This is kind of a way of starting the conversation. We’re not asking people to actually use them as a form of money. This is a way to get SEPTA’s attention.”

Some riders, though, said they will attempt to use the passes. Tili Ayala, who joined the protest, said she missed a court date and had to hitchhike downtown because of the SEPTA strike. Her ride to work on Monday, she said, cost her $30. “I’m disabled and I can’t walk too fast,” Ayala said. “And I need public transportation… I’m going to present it and hope that they’ll honor this inconvenience pass. And if they don’t accept it, I at least got my message across. My message is: ‘SEPTA: Meet the need, and stop the greed.’”

The transit authority did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the protest. SEPTA said during the strike it will refund unused TransPasses. Those plans have now been released; earlier today SEPTA was advising riders not to use their TransPasses in order to get a refund.

“SEPTA’s union is great, but we need unions to stand with people,” activist Deandrea Jefferson said. “We need unions to be building unions for those who don’t have them. … If everybody has a union, unions will be stronger together. Right now, while we have capitalism in place, everyone who works in this country needs a union. Therefore, it is up to the transit union to help out their fellow man, their fellow woman, their fellow person, and help everyone form unions.

“I have friends mad because they couldn’t get to work, I have friends mad because they’re losing money. They ask me: ‘What should I do?’ Y’all should go on strike, too! If your job is not being lenient getting places in the middle of a strike … y’all should go on strike too.”

In a release sent out before the press conference, the activists said that “SEPTA management needs to be held accountable for neglecting to address worker needs in a timely manner.” They also accused SEPTA of intentionally stalling negotiations in order to force workers into taking a contract.

Activists also said SEPTA workers need more support from the community. “SEPTA workers need the support of the larger community in order to bargain more effectively,” they wrote. “The more public support they receive, the less they will be backed into striking by administration.” They said SEPTA workers need to support other Philadelphians in their own unionizing efforts and that the “honoring of Inconvenience Passes is the first of many steps towards workers building better relationships with riders.”