SEPTA general manager Joe Casey told PGN this week that the agency intends to cease use of the stickers in the second half of 2013, several months before its new fare-collection process begins to be rolled out.
Since the 1980s, markers designating “male” or “female” have been used on all SEPTA transpasses, an effort that the agency has said cuts down on pass-sharing.
However, LGBT and ally activists have said the system leaves some passengers open to undue scrutiny and harassment.
Activists had raised issue with the stickers as early as 2006 and Riders Against Gender Exclusion formed in 2009 to speak out against the markers, staging several public protests and meeting with SEPTA officials to urge action.
Casey informed RAGE activists of the plan in a letter last week.
In the past, Casey told RAGE and other activists that SEPTA would phase out the markers with the eventual introduction of its New Payment Technology, a fare-collection overhaul that was delayed by funding issues.
This past fall, SEPTA awarded a contract to ACS/Xerox to spearhead the NPT development and installation, a process that is expected to wrap up in 2014.
“The introduction of [NPT] would make the gender-marker system obsolete but we didn’t want to wait until then to remove the stickers,” Casey said. “There was some anxiousness on the part of the transgender community, so we didn’t want to wait until the full implementation of NPT to get these markers off.”
As fares are tariffed, any fare-policy changes must be addressed in public hearings.
SEPTA will hold such proceedings next spring on fare-policy proposals for the new system, at which time the proposal to remove the gender markers will be discussed, Casey said.
Following the hearings, and pending approval of the SEPTA board, Casey said the gender stickers will then be eliminated.
Meanwhile, the GM doesn’t anticipate resistance from the board, as he said he expects majority public support for the removal of the markers.
“We have had one person who called asking us to keep them, but I think those people are few and far between,” he said. “I think most people support getting rid of them.”
Casey said RAGE and other activists with whom he’s met over the last few years were “certainly influential” in bringing about the change.
Last week’s decision was expedited by a complaint he received from a rider who contended discrimination because of the gender markers, Casey said.
He emphasized that SEPTA has long valued the diversity of its riders.
“When I initially met with [activists], I was certainly sympathetic to their concerns because we want all of our customers to feel welcomed on the system and comfortable using it,” he said. “If anyone is being mistreated or called out by our employees, we want to know. All of our employees should treat all of our customers with respect and dignity; that has always been my reaction. All people should feel comfortable and safe on SEPTA. We want all of our customers to feel appreciated.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.