SEPTA tokens enjoy their swan song

SEPTA is continuing to phase-out its famous tokens, even as the beloved coins take on an extra-special meaning to nostalgic Philadelphians who seem them as a reminder of Philly’s past.

All SEPTA bus districts will stop telling tokens and TransPasses at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 2, marking the token’s final month. As of April 30, all SEPTA-operated locations will halt selling tokens.

“The end of token sales represents a major step forward in the implementation of the SEPTA Key,” SEPTA general manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel said in a statement. “For customers who are still using tokens or other legacy fare products, now is a great time to move to the future of fare payment with the SEPTA Key.”

It’s all part of the transition toward the SEPTA Key and away from coins, one that other cities made years ago. (New York City stopped selling token in 2003, Boston in 2006). Since January, SEPTA has been phasing out token vending machines and ending sales at more and more stations.

To forward-thinking Philadelphians, the Key makes sense, although it comes with a bit of a learning curve. Instead of buying a single ride at a time, you can use SEPTA Key kiosks to put a weekly or monthly pass on your card, or load individual fares on to the “Travel Wallet,” and you can do all of it at a kiosk or via computer. If you want a single ride you can buy that too, known as a “Quick Trip.”

Most token turnstiles have long since been removed from most SEPTA stations. To use a token at these stations you have to drop them in the teller’s window, or load them on to a SEPTA Key Travel wallet. But stodgy Philadelphians have been resistant to changing their transit habits.

Despite more than 5 million rides on SEPTA Key and more than 25,000 SEPTA Keys sold so far, SEPTA commuters told Metro they would “never buy that piece of junk,” as one older woman said of a SEPTA Key kiosk.

“I have always used tokens,” Temple employee Rachel Cox told Metro, saying that after token turnstiles disappeared, having to wait in line at the teller’s window to deposit a token messed up her commute.”What can we do? I really don’t want to support the Key in any way but it’s starting to hamper my lifestyle … Yes, you can put a token in the Septa Key machine, but the lines there can be even slower than the teller window. That’s a pathetic solution.”

For now, even if you’re frustrated, don’t throw your tokens in the recycling bin just yet, because they’re still good for the price of one ride.

“SEPTA will continue to accept purchased tokens for the foreseeable future,” SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said in an email. “Customers are reminded that tokens can be loaded onto SEPTA Key cards, with the full value added to the Travel Wallet.”

In the meantime, if you really love tokens, you can wear them. Artists at shops like Token of Affection on Etsy and Vix Emporium in West Philly are selling jewelry designed to incorporate tokens. Prices range from $12 to $25 a piece.

Moving to SEPTA Key

Getting a SEPTA Key will be free when buying a transit pass or loading a Travel Wallet through April 30. After that, a $4.95 fee will be in  effect to purchase a new Key.

Third-party retailers and social service agencies that acquire tokens in bulk will be the last sources of tokens after April 30.

The SEPTA Key Mobile Truck will be at bus districts this week helping people make the switch to the Key as those locations stop selling tokens: at Allegheny District on March 30, Germantown District on March 31, and Callowhill District on April 2.

Token sales are being gradually phased out from Regional Rail stations through April 6.

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