SEPTA Regional Rail Fares – Learn the Best Ways to Visit Center City

SEPTA Regional Rail Fares

SEPTA Regional Rail train on the Lansdale/Doylestown Line, previously part of the R5. To get a better view of this photo, just click directly on it, to enlarge it.

SEPTA Regional Rail Fare Guide - As of July 1, 2010

SEPTA Regional Rail Fares have undergone radical changes in their structure, which can be bewildering even to the native Philadelphian, who hasn't taken the train into Center City for several months. On this page, we endeavor to explain the changes and help you figure out the best way to save time and money, on SEPTA Regional Rail.

The Three Major SEPTA Regional Rail Stations in Center City

This guide is largely designed for riders wanting to go to, and/or from, the three major SEPTA Regional Rail stations in Central Philadelphia:

Market East Station - located at 11th and Market Streets.

Suburban Station - located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Amtrak - 30th Street Station - located at 30th and Market Streets. It is also the primary Amtrak stop in the region, although most SEPTA Regional Rail trains will stop there as well.

Important Note: You Cannot Use SEPTA Tokens on SEPTA Regional Rail!

Although you can buy SEPTA tokens at any SEPTA Regional Rail ticket window, you cannot use the tokens on the trains! (The reason: SEPTA City Transit and SEPTA Regional Rail are different divisions.)

However, since you will often use SEPTA Regional Rail to connect with other SEPTA lines, there's a good chance that you'll need to buy them with your train tickets. So if you'd like to learn when to buy and how to use tokens, check out our Guide to SEPTA Tokens - which covers some of the most common questions about them.

The Basics - Weekday Fare vs. Evening/Weekend Fare

The most significant change, is that SEPTA Regional Rail fares are no longer split under the old "Peak Fare" and "Off-Peak Fare" divisions, which they had been for decades. (If you are a visitor to Philadelphia, you have no idea how odd this change seems.)

Instead, they are now split between "Weekday Fare" and "Evening/Weekend Fare".

Weekday Fares

Weekday Fares apply to any SEPTA Regional Rail train, traveling to or from the three major Center City train stations, Monday through Friday, from 4:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Note: the calculation of time is from where you embark on the train, not where you get off the train. If you are traveling to Manayunk, for example, the determining factor is when you leave Center City, not when you arrive in Manayunk.

Evening/Weekend Fares

Evening/Weekend Fares apply to all other trains - 7:00 PM till the last train of the evening.

SEPTA Regional Rail Fares - Weekday - One Way / Round Trip

(Note: In some cases, there is a small surcharge for buying the ticket on the train, as opposed to at the ticket window, but it's not uniform across the board, for some reason. The main issue, however, is avoiding ticket lines in Center City. Just buy the ticket on board, and avoid the window - your time is worth considerably more, than you're saving in money, by waiting in line.)

CCP/Zone 1 - Weekday

One Way - In Advance OR On Board - $4.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $7.75 - On Board - $8.00

CCP/Zone 1 - Evening/Weekend

One Way - In Advance - $3.50 - On Board - $4.00

Round Trip - In Advance OR On Board - $7.00

Zone 2 - Weekday

One Way - In Advance - $4.50 - On Board - $5.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $8.75 - On Board - $10.00

Zone 2 - Evening/Weekend

One Way - In Advance - $3.50 - On Board - $4.00

Round Trip - In Advance OR On Board - $7.00

Zone 3 - Weekday

One Way - In Advance - $5.50 - On Board - $6.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $10.75 - On Board - $12.00

Zone 3 - Evening/Weekend

One Way - In Advance - $4.75 - On Board - $6.00

Round Trip - In Advance OR On Board - $9.50

Zones 4 AND 5 - Weekday

One Way - In Advance - $6.25 - On Board - $7.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $12.25 - On Board - $14.00

Zone 4 AND 5 - Evening/Weekend

One Way - In Advance - $4.75 - On Board - $6.00

Round Trip - In Advance OR On Board - $9.50

Zone 6 - Weekday

One Way - In Advance - $8.75 - On Board - $10.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $17.50 - On Board - $20.00

Zone 6 - Evening/Weekend

One Way - In Advance - $8.75 - On Board - $10.00

Round Trip - In Advance - $17.50 - On Board - $17.50

SEPTA Regional Rail Fare Zones - CCP/1 to 6, Based on Distance From Center City

Regional Rail Zones are CCP/1 (Center City Philadelphia/Zone 1), 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, based on distance from Center City. Most stations, and most riders, will fall into Zones 2, 3, or 4.

All three of the major Center City stations are CCP/1, along with the stop at Temple University (which only students or visitors to Temple will use) and North Broad (which nobody uses, and don't use, especially if you're from out of town).

Why Did SEPTA Regional Rail Fares Undergo This Transformation?

They did so, in order for SEPTA to extract slightly more money from each commuter and visitor to the city.

The old "Peak" fares only applied to the AM and PM rush hours; midday weekday travel was considered "Off-Peak" and was charged less. Essentially, SEPTA Regional Rail expanded "Peak" hours from the two rush hours, to the entire day on weekdays, and renamed them "Weekday"; the old "Off-Peak" designation became "Evening/Weekend".

What Will My SEPTA Regional Rail Fare Be, If I Want to Travel Between One Station To Another Station, Going Through Center City, But Not Getting Off There?

That's a great question. Let's use a common example-

Let's say that you are a college student on the Main Line, and you want to travel from Villanova, Rosemont, or Bryn Mawr, to Manayunk.

Your fare is based on the combined total of zones you wish to travel. In this case, since all three of those stations are Zone 3, and Manayunk is Zone 2 - your fare is based on the total, which is 5 Zones.

What Does This Mean for You?

It means - great emphasis - that when you switch trains in Center City, you are not required to buy a second ticket! When you buy your ticket at your home station, tell the clerk that "I would like a round-trip, from here to Manayunk." The clerk will calculate the zone total and sell you a Zone 5 ticket.

This fact not only saves you money - as a Zone 5 is less expensive, than two Zone 3 tickets would be - but also means that you don't have to waste time in Center City, standing in line to buy another ticket.

The same fact applies, if you buy the ticket on the train. Tell the conductor, "I'd like to buy a round-trip from [your station] to Manayunk." The conductor will take out a chart, and calculate the zones, and charge you for a Zone 5 round trip, not two individual Zone 3 fares.

The One Day Independence Pass Costs $11 - You Can Buy One With A Round-Trip Ticket On the Train

There's a very good chance - given that the vast majority of SEPTA Regional Rail stations are closed after lunchtime, and some closed after the AM rush hour - that you won't have an opportunity to purchase train tickets in advance.

This means that you will be subject to an unfair penalty for doing so. (The downside to having a monopoly!)

You have a couple of options.

You can just buy the round-trip fare, which will be slightly higher than it would be, if you bought it at the ticket window.

That having been said, you can mitigate the penalty, by doing the following...

When the conductor comes to take your ticket, tell him/her that-

"I would like to buy a round-trip ticket, from [your train station] to [your destination - Market East / Suburban Station / 30th Street Station], and convert it to a One Day Independence Pass."

Since you're going to have buy two one-way tickets, anyhow, you might as well get them both at once, as you'll have a slight savings.

The conductor will give you a receipt.

But best of all, if you do it this way, you can convert your round-trip ticket into a One Day SEPTA Independence Pass. Here's how...

Once you disembark at your train station in Center City, go to the SEPTA Regional Rail ticket window, and tell them that you would like to convert your round-trip ticket to a One Day Independence Pass. Since you've already paid your fare on the train, this conversion is free of charge. The clerk will take your receipt, and in return, will give you a One Day Independence Pass, worth $11.

About the size of a playing card, it will have a calendar on it - the clerk will punch a hole in the month and day, as it's only valid the same day as your Regional Rail round-trip. This will serve as your return train ticket - you just need to show it to the conductor, when you get on your return train.

But best of all, it permits you to ride any SEPTA transit line, free of charge, until midnight. It will have a silver metallic strip on the center, with embossed logos signifying the - Blue Line - also known formally as the Market-Frankford Line, and unofficially as "the El" - and the Broad Street Subway - also known as the Broad Street Line and the Orange Line.

It also permits you to ride for free, all SEPTA bus routes and trolleys, such as the Norristown High Speed Line - which runs from 69th Street Terminal - the western end of the Blue Line at 69th and Market Streets, through the Main Line suburbs, King of Prussia, and ending at Norristown (that area is very distant from Center City, but should you have any need to go there, the pass will permit it).

For the buses, you just have to show the Pass; for the Blue Line and Orange Line, you run the pass through the turnstile, and the magnetic strip will click and authorize you to go through. This has the added advantage of not needing to buy tokens.

We also recommend that you keep your pass as a souvenir, as it will have an artistic rendering of some Philadelphia attractions on it.

The Maximum SEPTA Regional Rail Fares Are Based on Zone 6 Travel, No Matter How Many Zones It Is

If you are journeying from one SEPTA Regional Rail Line to another, through Center City, it is possible that your combined Zones, one-way, will be greater than 6. For example, if you are traveling from Paoli to Manayunk, that fare would be 8 zones.

However, you're in luck - SEPTA doesn't charge beyond six zones - so you only need a Zone 6 ticket, no matter how many zones it is. (A good analogy is playing miniature golf - you can't be assessed more than six strokes on any one hole, no matter how inept you were at putting the ball in the hole.)

Should I Buy A One Day Independence Pass? The Benefits and Disadvantages

That depends on three questions-

1) How expensive your round-trip train ticket is;

2) Whether you have time to make another trip to the ticket window once you're downtown;

3) Whether you plan to use other SEPTA entities, once you're in Center City.

A One Day Independence Pass costs $11.00, regardless of where you come from on the train. As described above, SEPTA Regional Rail fare are based on zones, CCP/1 (Center City Philadelphia/Zone 1), 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, based on distance from Center City.

So, to illustrate, if you are traveling from a Zone 6 train station, your train fare one way, purchased on board will be $10 - and just by buying the pass, you will go home for just $1 - not to mention that you can ride everything else for free that day.

But if you are traveling from a much closer, Zone 2 train, your evening and weekend round-trip, purchased on board, will be only $7.00 - $4.00 less than the cost of the Independence Pass, plus the need to wait in line at the ticket window to make the conversion from receipt to Independence Pass. So in that case, it only pays to make the transaction if you know that you'll be riding other things when you're in town.

For Locals Only - TrailPasses, TransPasses, and 10 Trip Tickets For SEPTA Regional Rail Fares

This is of no interest to you if you're a visitor... this section is for locals only, or new residents to the Philadelphia region...

For Frequent Commuters - The TrailPass and TransPass

The TrailPass is the aircraft carrier of SEPTA Regional Rail Fares, the most expensive and most powerful. It is available for weekly or monthly purchase.

Due to its high cost, it is only worthwhile for frequent riders - commuters and students, taking, on average, 10 trips a week. Of course, you could be visiting Philadelphia for a week, and staying in a distant suburb, and if you took the train both ways every day, it would be cost-effective. But odds are, you won't be.

The TransPass, although less expensive, grants you the right to take other SEPTA City Transit Lines, along with limited rights on SEPTA Regional Rail. Again, it's of interest only to locals and commuters.

The Ten Trip on SEPTA Regional Rail - Convenience, Not Savings

The Ten-Trip is primarily of interest to sporadic SEPTA Regional Rail riders, such as the Main Line college student, who occasionally ventures into Philadelphia, from its suburbs. As its name indicates, you purchase a block of ten tickets at one time, each good for a single one-way trip, to Center City. (They all have to be for the same Zone, also; you have to buy a set of ten Zone 3s, or Zone 2s.)

There's only a slight discount for buying in bulk. Instead, the chief virtue of the Ten Trip is convenience - it saves time by reducing trips to the ticket window. Unlike the TrailPass, also, they also have a much longer shelf life, so to speak. You can use them for months, although not indefinitely. Your TrailPass, and TransPass, will expire at the end of the month or week in which it is purchased.

If you'd like to leave SEPTA Regional Rail Fares and return to the SEPTA Regional Rail Main Guide, please click here.

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