Seniors Cleverly Made 11,000 SEPTA Key Trips in March

How thousands of older folks figured out that they — and only they — can use the not-yet-launched system with their driver's licenses.

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Photo by Jeff Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

For most of us, the highly-anticipated SEPTA Key system won’t be up and running until sometime “later in 2015.” Only then will we never again be forced to scrounge up exact change — the new system will accept money stored for SEPTA rides on debit and credit cards!

But for seniors, the Key system is already working in parts of the city.

Wait, how does that work?

People aged 65 and older have long been eligible to ride for free on the subway lines, buses and trolleys. Under the new Key system, they will be able to take advantage of this perk by simply swiping their Pennsylvania driver’s licenses through SEPTA’s new turnstiles and fare boxes.

Though SEPTA is still testing out the new technology, it turns out that this feature is already working in some areas, as was first reported by BillyPenn. And without any publicity whatsoever from SEPTA, some hip older folks have figured that out. Which is pretty cool.

In March, seniors made 9,472 trips on buses and trolleys using the Key system, says SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. They made 1,555 trips on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines via the Key system during the same period.

“We didn’t make any kind of announcement. We think it’s been kind of a word-of-mouth thing,” says Busch. “Our concern would still be that one day we’re doing some kind of software testing at a turnstile on Fifth Street, and it won’t be working. So it’s something that probably shouldn’t be relied on 100 percent.”

For those times, Busch says seniors can still get a free ride if they present SEPTA workers with a special senior transit ID, a Medicare card, or a railroad ID.

So is SEPTA Key secretly working for anyone other than seniors? “No,” says Busch. “For everyone else, it’s TransPasses, tokens or cash.”

Follow @HollyOtterbein on Twitter.