Come Sept. 1, seniors will need new Key Cards (or old driver’s licenses) to ride SEPTA for free.

SEPTA’s effort to replace all its tickets, tokens and other fare instruments with the Key Card continues to creep along.

Close-up of a SEPTA turnstile

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

SEPTA’s effort to replace all its tickets, tokens and other fare instruments with the Key Card continues to creep along.

The latest step in the long, slow path to full implementation of SEPTA Key affects senior citizens. The good news: Now they can ride Regional Rail for free (trips had been $1 for seniors). The bad news: They may need to get new ID cards before they can do so.

Starting Sept. 1, SEPTA will no longer accept the blue-and-yellow, paper senior citizen transit ID cards for free trips. Seniors will need to have either SEPTA Key photo ID cards – which have pictures of the riders on them to prove ownership – or valid PennDOT-issued IDs equipped with magnetic strips.

PennDOT’s newest IDs – driver’s licenses and non-driver ID cards – no longer have magnetic strips, however. So, if you’re over the age of 65 and you got a new one in the last few months  and you want to ride SEPTA for free, you’ll need to get a SEPTA Key Photo ID card. They’re available at SEPTA’s headquarters at 1234 Market St., at Suburban Station, and through the offices of local elected officials. (Going through the politicians will take a few weeks; SEPTA offices provide same-day service).

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Though seniors will be able to take most Regional Rail rides for free, the previous half-fare discount on trips to and from Delaware and New Jersey will stay the same.

SEPTA Deputy Managing Director Rich Burnfield said SEPTA has already issued 157,000 of the senior-specific SEPTA Key Cards, estimating that nearly 90 percent of senior riders already use the Key Card or a Pennsylvania driver’s license to board trains and buses.

Burnfield, who spoke with PlanPhilly right after a family vacation to Florida, said he doesn’t think the queues for the remaining riders that need new cards will be that bad. “Hopefully, the lines at SEPTA will be significantly shorter than the lines at Disney World,” he said with a laugh.

To accommodate those who may still need new cards, SEPTA will extend some office hours this week. On weekdays, SEPTA’s headquarters will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Suburban Station’s Accessible Travel Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Seniors will need to prove their age by bringing valid forms of ID, such as a PennDOT ID, a birth certificate, a resident-alien card, a passport, or naturalization papers.

In addition, the transit agency will keep the SEPTA Key photo ID counter open Saturday, Sept. 1, and the following Saturday, Sept. 8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to help seniors who need to make the switch.

On Wednesday, SEPTA also expanded its Regional Rail pilot program, allowing Zone 4 customers to purchase Key Cards loaded with weekly TrailPasses. The “Early Adopter” program started in August by allowing passengers to buy Key Cards equipped with monthly TrailPasses. Eventually, any Key Card will work on Regional Rail – provided, of course, there is either money or a pass loaded on its account.

SEPTA made the Key switch on other transit in the spring, when it stopped selling tokens.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal