It has been a long, slow, deliberate rollout – designed to not shock SEPTA riders with any sudden changes – but SEPTA Key is finally fully here, with the last two zones of Regional Rail stations accepting the Key as this Wednesday.
May 1 marks the day that Regional Rail riders in Zones 1 and 2 will get to start using their Key to buy fare products, including single rides, weeklies and monthlies. SEPTA conductors will be toting card-readers to scan passenger’s Keys as they ride the rails.
If you ride SEPTA, at this point, after two years, you probably already use Key. But SEPTA knows it will still be a change for some riders used to paper tickets.
“It’s firmly implanted on the city transit side; on the railroad we’re still in a rollout phase,” said Leslie Hickman, SEPTA’s Chief Officer for Revenue Operations. “It’s a shifting of that paradigm of how I ride, how I’ve ridden for 50 years. The time to change is now.”
SEPTA Key first went into service with its early adopters program in June 2016. Sales of Keys to the public began in February 2017. Now, more than two years later, bus and trolley-riders, passengers on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street line, and riders to Zones 3 and 4 are all already been using the Key, SEPTA’s innovative chip-card paperless system for fare payment.
As of April 2019, 1.1 million SEPTA Keycards were in circulation. So far there have been 300 million rides using the SEPTA Key, and some 10 million Keys have been reloaded.”
“The railroad is the largest of the culture changes,” Hickman said. “Zones 2 and 3 are our heaviest zones with the largest riderships, 3 is more higher than 2.”
SEPTA has been rolling out their new paperless fare system slowly and deliberately over the last three years with a combination of passenger-education programs and more subtle devices. To gradually accommodate Regional Rail riders to the new system, SEPTA Key turnstiles were put in place at the main stations months ago; then passengers were asked to start entering through the turnstiles and present their tickets there.
Now Zone 1 and 2 riders will officially be using the turnstiles, tapping their Key cards to “wake up” the Key for the ride. Cards get scanned onboard by conductors, and then riders tap their Keys once more to end the ride more as they exit the system. SEPTA staff will be on-hand to explain the new system to any bewildered riders.
Hickman noted that there are still a few Key-related changes left to go. SEPTA is still negotiating its corporate program for businesses to buy their employees Keys using pre-tax dollars. SEPTA’s CCT Connect paratransit service isn’t on the Key yet. And paper fares are still accepted aboard Regional Rail trains, so you’re not required to have a Key just yet.
“It won’t be mandatory in May, but eventually, just like on the city side, it will be mandatory; but not for the foreseeable future,” she said. “Eventually, if you don’t move to Key, you’ll have to pay cash.”
Hickman added that SEPTA is listening closely to customer complaints and issues as they arise and trying to address all complaints with the Key system. But in the long run, they expect save money, reduce paper waste and give passengers a more efficient ride.
“We want them to understand the system and be happy that they made the move to the SEPTA Key,” Hickman said. “If I’m traveling down from Doylestown and I want to go to a Phillies game, I just need one thing, my Key card. We want them to see the Key is the right choice to have that seamless transportation.”