SEPTA’s New Payment Technology Will Be Called SEPTA Key

Just don’t expect to see it anytime too soon.

Lots of new developments coming out of SEPTA these days. There’s the new 24-hour SEPTA service that debuts on June 15th. There’s the covert text-to-911 plan in the works for riders who see something bad happening on SEPTA. And then there’s the New Payment Technology, which will be called SEPTA Key.

septa-key-NPT-new-payment-technologySEPTA won’t confirm that’s the name, but a quick search of the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database reveals a recent trademark on “SEPTA Key” with the logo pictured here. (That, and one SEPTA higher-up let it slip during a conversation.)

The trademark covers, among other things, “encoded contactless smart cards and electronic fobs containing programming used for making secure payments for all modes of public transportation… for use throughout the Delaware Valley and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

As for when you’ll be able to ditch your tokens in favor of a SEPTA Key, don’t hold your breath. The SEPTA Key program is well over a year behind schedule.

“Things are delayed,” admits SEPTA spokesperson Jerri Williams. “But we are not apologizing for that. We want to make sure everything is right. We are pulling back on the reins a bit so that everything is to our liking.”

Williams says that phase one of the SEPTA Key pilot program is currently scheduled to begin in September. “We will be giving the cards to a number of internal and external people,” she explains, adding that the SEPTA Key cards won’t be available to the general public until February or March of 2015.

Here’s a pretty entertaining SEPTA request-for-proposals video from way back in 2008 showing just how inefficient the SEPTA fare collection system is. “We hope this video has been informative, as we are seeking qualified respondents to deploy a modern fare payment system throughout the region using advanced technologies,” says the narrator.

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  • tara

    Cant wait to not have to have tokens or paper passes stashed. a Key fob would be great and be able to load money to them from online and buy train tickets in advance online.

  • Kurt Pittman

    Finally catching up with the rest of the world. Traveling public transit in europe is painless and that was it 2005 when I lived in Germany. It’s about time.

    • Jorno

      But their systems are garbage, cheap, and lightweight. Peel back the layers, man. This is lightyears ahead. Europe’s systems are insanely dangerous, they have no oversight and aren’t heavy like ours.

      • DTurner

        I hope that’s a joke.

      • ??? I’ve used public transit systems in Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Stockholm but never ran into the conditions you describe.

  • Jorno

    Actually their current revenue system is VERY efficient. This will just make it better. Quit whining.

    • kclo3

      The entire Regional Rail car I was on yesterday got free rides to CC because no conductor ever came to collect our fares. Call that “efficient”. And never mind the horribly counteractive transfer fare that does its best to discourage ridership.

      • DTurner

        Meh, the transfer fare is pretty standard and what I guess is now SEPTA Key will now make that a heck of a lot easier.

        I don’t think people care as much about paying a dollar to transfer as much as they care about having to use precious tokens or go through the hassle of paper transfers right now.

        • Actually SEPTA has collected data that the transfer fee does discourage efficient use, in particular where bus routes parallel a the subway line. Those buses should serve as connectors to and from the faster, more efficient rail “trunk” lines, but an extra $2 per day pushes some riders to stay on the slower buses rather than paying for a transfer. Buying a TransPass doesn’t affect the equation because its price already includes the cost of 2 daily transfers.

    • Again, I have to respectfully disagree. The current system is antiquated and counterproductive. If you live outside of a core service area it’s very difficult to buy a pass or tokens which forces about 15 or 20 percent of riders to regularly pay the much higher one-way cash fare. Even if you can buy a pass, unless you ride more than 5 days a week it’s often cheaper to use tokens and coins which create a huge processing load; SEPTA has to collect and sort quite literally tons of metal every month.

      Regional Rail riders “fare” (pun intended) worse because SEPTA, unique among North American systems, imposes a cash-payment penalty even when there’s no ticket office available. By contrast NJT has ticket vending machines that accept credit cards for payment; SEPTA removed and never replaced the bulk of their TVMs because they would only accept paper money and couldn’t be upgraded to accept currency printed later than 1990.

      • Dude

        Never paid a cash payment penalty on RR

        • You’re fortunate. SEPTA’s the only commuter system in the country that doesn’t charge the standard fare if you don’t have a way to buy a ticket before boarding (e.g. no ticket office at your station, ticket office closed, leaving from the airport, etc.). They used to call the cost differential an “on-board payment surcharge”, then decided to muddy things by rebranding it as simply an “on-board fare” while calling the standard fare an “advance* purchase fare”.

          I’ve used the Airport Line numerous times and on almost every single trip outbound passengers complain about having to pay extra because SEPTA doesn’t provide either a ticket office or a vending machine.

          (*) Or sometimes the grammatically dubious “advanceD purchase…”