At Last: SEPTA Key expected to begin replacing tokens next week, as seniors get new ID cards starting this week

Next week SEPTA plans to launch SEPTA Key’s “travel wallet” function, which replaces tokens with reloadable funds on the new fare cards.

Current SEPTA Key “Early Adopters” who have used the card for weekly and monthly transit passes will be able to add or switch to the travel wallet function. SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said there will be a limited number of new cards made available at the start of this next, exciting phase in the fare technology’s long rollout.

SEPTA may make an announcement as early as Monday, said Busch. At that time, more details will be made available.

SEPTA announced Friday that it began replacing the current photo identification cards that allow senior citizens to ride for free (or just $1) with senior-specific SEPTA Key cards.

From Tokens to Travel Wallet:

SEPTA Key holders will be able to add money to their card’s “travel wallet” at SEPTA ticket windows, SEPTA Key kiosks, or online via the SEPTA Key website. Riders can add money to the travel wallet using cash, credit/debit cards, or by trading in tokens. When riders tap their cards to get onto a bus or trolley or get onto the subway platform, the system will deduct $1.80 from the travel wallet, providing the $0.45 discount riders now get by using tokens (unless the holder also has a valid weekly or monthly transpass at the time).

If you don’t already have your hands on a SEPTA Key card, they are available at many SEPTA subway stations and a few bus loops. New SEPTA Key cards can only be purchased from certain kiosks; not every kiosk allows new riders to sign up—so go to the stations listed as “Current Locations” on SEPTA’s list of kiosk locations, not the “additional fare kiosk locations”.  

SEPTA has more details and instructions available on its SEPTA Key website.

For seniors the move to SEPTA Key will allow riders to simply tap the new cards to use SEPTA’s bus, subway and trolley lines for free, instead of showing the separate identification card to a vehicle operator or station attendant. Seniors can also board the Norristown High Speed Line for free.

On Regional Rail, where the identification provides seniors $1 rides, senior passengers will be able to show the new SEPTA Key-equipped cards to conductors. SEPTA plans to begin installing the tap-card receivers at Regional Rail stations sometime in early 2017.

Previously, seniors could show a specific transit identification card, a Pennsylvania driver’s license, a medicare card, or a railroad retirement card to get SEPTA’s discount. During the ongoing SEPTA Key transition period, these forms of ID will still be accepted.

The new senior cards will differ slightly from other SEPTA Key cards. They will have the rider’s photo on it and will designate them as a senior citizen.

SEPTA said that around 40,000 seniors have already applied for the new cards. Seniors who have not applied yet can do so at SEPTA headquarters at 1234 Market Street, the offices of many local elected officials such as state representatives and senators.

SEPTA had hoped to start transitioning away from tokens by December 2013, but numerous delays caused by repeated changes to the payment system’s technical specifications and programming bugs hampered progress.

The new payment system launched over the summer with functionality limited to just weekly and monthly transit passes. It expanded to replace the exact change payment option in September.

Regional Rail and Norristown High Speed Line will begin getting SEPTA Key in 2017.

For updated information, see Jim Saksa’s SEPTA Key story from Monday, November 14.


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