Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Philadelphia County, Honorable Samuel M. Lehrer, Judge.
David P. Bruton, Alfred W. Putnam, Jr., Barbara J. Lipshutz, Drinker Biddle & Reath, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Irv Ackelsberg, Deborah Harris, Community Legal Services, Philadelphia, for ACORN, CBNP & CEPA.
Angel Ortiz, David Cohen, Philadelphia, for appellees.
Robert L. Martin, Lee, Martin, Green & Reiter, Bellefonte, for amicus curiae Pennsylvania Assoc. of Mun. Transp. Authorities.
Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, and Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith, JJ. Colins, J., concurs and dissents with an opinion. Smith, J., dissents.
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 295]
The Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Committee for a Better North Philadelphia (CBNP), the Consumer Education and Protective Association (CEPA),*fn1 (collectively, Appellees) instituted this action on April 5, 1989, by challenging the final action of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) raising fares on its City Transit Division. On April 7, 1989, Lucien E. Blackwell (Blackwell), Marian B. Tasco (Tasco), Augusta A. Clark (Clark), George Burrell, Jr. (Burrell), David Cohen (Cohen), Angel Ortiz (Ortiz), and James B. Tayoun (Tayoun), members of the Philadelphia
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 296]
City Council, intervened. The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (court of common pleas) sustained Appellees' statutory appeal under Section 303(d)(9) of the Pennsylvania Urban Mass Transportation Law (Act 101),*fn2 vacated the challenged fare increases and remanded the matter to the SEPTA Board.*fn3 SEPTA appeals.*fn4
In late February, 1989, SEPTA posted and published notice of proposed tariffs increasing the fares in various SEPTA divisions, to take effect on April 9, 1989. The tariffs included these changes in rates for City Transit riders:
1. Tokens -- increased from $0.85 to $1.05, an increase of 23%;
2. Transfers -- increased from $0.25 to $0.40, an increase of 60%;
3. Weekly Trans Pass -- increased from $12 to $15, an increase of 25%;
4. Monthly Trans Pass -- increased from $45 to $55, an increase of 22%.*fn5
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 297]
Five hearings on the tariff proposals were held in a three day period during the week of March 27, 1989, in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware counties and in Philadelphia. At a meeting of the SEPTA Board on April 5, 1989, the SEPTA Board approved the tariffs with one modification; the token charge was increased from $0.85 to $1.00 rather than $1.05.
The increases were stayed by order of the court of common pleas on April 7, 1989, but only insofar as they applied to SEPTA's City Transit Division. The court of common pleas on April 26, 1989, concluded that SEPTA's proposed increase on the City Transit Division was procedurally and substantively flawed. Procedurally, Judge Samuel M. Lehrer noted: an alleged refusal to permit CEPA's counsel to ask a question; a more general failure to provide a meaningful hearing; and a failure to provide CEPA with the proposed allocation of subsidies among the four divisions for fiscal 1990. Substantively, the court of common pleas concluded that SEPTA abused its discretion on the basis of Section 341 of Act 101*fn6 and Section 1601(a)(2) of the Congressional Urban Mass Transportation Act (federal statute), P.L. 88-365, July 9, 1964, 78 Stat. 302, 49 U.S.C.App. § 1601(a)(2).*fn7
On May 8, 1989, the SEPTA Board met in a special meeting and decided to implement the City Transit increases on May 11, 1989, asserting a right to automatic supersedeas
[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 298]
under Section 303(d)(9) of Act 101. On May 9, 1989, the court of common pleas, upon application of the Appellees, vacated the purported supersedeas and enjoined the City Transit increases. On May 12, 1989, this Court affirmed the court of common pleas' order of May 9, 1989, thereby preserving the status quo pending a resolution of this appeal.
Pursuant to Section 303(d)(9) of Act 101 we are limited in our review of this action to a determination of whether the court of common pleas properly determined that SEPTA's adoption of the proposed rate increase constituted a manifest and flagrant abuse of discretion or an error of law. Consumer Education and Protective Assoc. (CEPA) v. Southeastern Transportation Authority (SEPTA), 125 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 143, , 557 A.2d 1123, 1126 (1989).
SEPTA maintains that the court of common pleas erred in considering the substance of the proposed fare increase and substituting its own judgment for SEPTA's in balancing its budget with government subsidies and passenger fare revenues; and in striking down the proposed fare increase of the City Transit Division on the basis of alleged procedural flaws in the public hearings.
PAMTA submits that the court of common pleas' decision compels transportation authorities to give undue weight to the interests of low income persons and will result in ...