TransPass gender labels cause sticky situation for SEPTA

Charlene Arcila, a transgender woman, says gender stickers have forced her to use tokens.

Almost four years after Charlene Arcila accused SEPTA of preventing her from using a weekly TransPass because she did not appear to match the gender sticker, the issue has not gone away for her or the agency.

Earlier this month, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey told City Council members the issue has drawn opposition internationally, but also alluded to the fundamental problem opponents have with the policy: SEPTA has no way of determining if pass fraud is actually happening.

The agency has maintained the gender stickers are used to prevent riders from sharing passes.
SEPTA’s antiquated system, however, only allows officials to determine how often a pass is used — not whether its being shared among same-sex riders.

“I look at it as one of the tools that is in our toolbox to help the authority prevent fraud and misuse of our passes,” said SEPTA Chief Financial Officer Richard Burnfield.

Councilman Bill Greenlee is among those who question the need for gender policing. “It just seems to me it’s causing problems for people I’m sure are already having enough problems,” he said. “Unless they can really show or prove they’d lose [millions of dollars], why do this?”
SEPTA’s other response is that the stickers will be eliminated when the new fare system is implemented in three years.

But that’s not good enough for Arcila, a transgender woman who has used tokens ever since the incident.

“I feel like they’re trying to sweep it under the rug,” she said. “Once they put the smart card [system] into effect that would close the door on this case.”

HRC silence

Arcila’s complaint with the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission still hasn’t been heard because SEPTA is considered a quasi-state agency and not subject to local regulation. The commission declined comment, citing on-going investigation, but no hearings have been scheduled.


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