Kenney proposes a needless perk for city employees

This won’t take long.

It’s a simple object lesson of progressives identifying a problem and then throwing far too much money at correcting it.

Why a free ride for city workers?

Case in point: In Mayor Jim Kenney’s final (thank God) budget, he’s calling for free SEPTA passes for Philadelphians mired in poverty. Philadelphia has a higher poverty rate (26%) than any other city. 

That is defensible, even laudable.

Out of his generous heart, he added all city workers to the deal, as reported in the Inquirer.  There are 25,000 city workers and 25,000 people living in poverty, the newspaper reports.

The Inquirer calls the $80 million in funding over two years an “investment.” It is actually a giveaway, and financially unwarranted for city workers. 

The mayor says it will advance “equity.” The mayor has never held a real job outside of city government, so we know his sympathies are with the downtrodden (but well paid) city employees.

The 25,000 city workers are all making salaries commensurate with private employers, more or less, with the “more” being a rich package of benefits. Giving them free passage is a completely unnecessary perk.

The Inquirer quotes an advocate for city transit as saying the free rides would bolster SEPTA by increasing the number of riders, fighting pollution and easing financial hurdles for the poor.

The last point is valid.

The program would bolster the number of riders, but decrease the number of people paying fares, so how does that help the system? It increases the number of free loaders, which is not a sustainable business model. That’s why the Inquirer charges for its website, which once was free. There is no such thing as a “free” lunch.

As to reducing pollution — how? That seems to suggest people who drive will switch to mass transit. Are the poor driving? No. So maybe some city workers would not drive, but I’ll bet they’d rather have free parking than free transit. 

Annual funding would be $40 million — $31 million for the poor, $9 million for city employees. 

Interestingly, the Inquirer quotes no one in opposition to the giveaway. It reports some Council members favor the giveaway, which suggests others do not, but they are MIA.

The closest thing to a quibble comes from SEPTA CEO Leslie S. Richards, who did not say, Are you freaking crazy? She actually said, “I am unaware of any large city offering a zero-fare program as robust and far-teaching as this.” Read between the lines. You can almost hear her choking as she imagines  dollars flying away from the fare box. 

The average Philadelphia city employee salary, according to,  in 2020 was $64,614. The median family income in Philadelphia is $52,649. City workers are well paid.

The free fare is an unwarranted benefit for city employees who  don’t need it. The $9 million would be better spent elsewhere, or not spent at all.

As promised, this did not take long.

4 thoughts on “Kenney proposes a needless perk for city employees”

  1. Stu—-The Philadelphia Inquirer is an embarrassment. Has been for years, just like so many other papers in major cities. I cancelled my subscription five years ago, should have done it sooner.
    Your points are spot on. How tiresome this fraud of a mayor is. Can’t go soon enough.

  2. I don’t understand how the city has passes to give away free. Doesn’t the city have to buy the tickets to give them away, which would mean Septa still has the income.

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