I Tried SEPTA Key — and I Think it Works

This is a great day for regular transit users.

SEPTA Key card. Photo by Jared Brey.

SEPTA Key card. Photo by Jared Brey.

Eat my dust, Philadelphia. I got SEPTA’s new payment technology.

This morning at 6 o’clock, stations around the city began accepting “early adopters” for the SEPTA Key electronic fare system. They’ll disburse up to 10,000 fare cards today. If you don’t make the early cut, you may have to wait until the full rollout of the system late this year.

That’s why I’m awake and dressed and it’s not even 7 a.m. yet. I didn’t want to be late. I rolled down to Snyder Station, which is the nearest location to buy a fare card. I had visions of a long line full of very unhappy, tired people, but at 6:30 I was the only person in the station other than two attendants, who were very helpful in walking me through the process of buying a card at the electronic kiosk. (The kiosk itself was perfectly intuitive, but I was grateful for the extra help anyway.)

I bought a weekly pass for $24, and I paid with a debit card. I doubt I’ll use the whole thing this week, but what the hell? This is a great day for regular transit users, at least those who happen to be in town, and who are able to get to one of the Key-dispensing stations before 10,000 others.

Of course, there’s a nice irony to the name “early adopters” anyway. SEPTA Key is more than two years behind schedule on its latest contract, and it’s been about a decade since the new payment system was first announced.


Early and late are relative here. The attendants at Snyder Station told me I was only the 11th or 12th passenger to sign up there today. After I got my card, I tapped it against the sensor on the gates, which then swung open with a kindly, robotic “bleep-bloop” sound.

I hope everyone who wants to gets to experience that today.

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