Older commuters get a head start on new SEPTA fare system

As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom.

While many Philadelphians eagerly await the tokenless SEPTA system that’s due by the end of this year, senior citizens have been using the card-swipe technology since March.

SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said the new Key system — which will allow riders to pay for trips using debit, credit, or preloaded SEPTA cards — has been activated in some locations for testing.

The new system includes a plan to allow seniors to swipe their driver’s license at the turnstile in order to receive their free ride. Busch said SEPTA was keeping the test phase quiet, because it’s not guaranteed to work every time — or at every location. But savvy seniors sussed it out.

“It’s pretty much been word of mouth,” said Busch. “They’ve spread the information among themselves and to each other that ‘Hey, this is working.'”

Almost 10,000 riders took advantage of the convenience in March, as was reported in Philadelphia Magazine. Busch anticipated more would catch on.

He also admitted that not everyone is happy about the driver’s license swipe feature either. Two major concerns, Busch said, were that thieves would target seniors to get a license, and that people could abuse the system by using their elder’s card for a free ride.

Whenever someone uses a license, however, it sends an alert to the SEPTA employee inside the booth, he said.

“They’re doing a visual check, and it’s going to stand out to them that this person is not a senior,” said Busch.

Even at the busiest of transit times.

“They’re going to be trained for it,” Busch added. “If it’s something out of the ordinary, we’ll have our personnel ready to handle the situation.”

As for theft concerns, Busch said seniors concerned about pulling out their license in the subway or on the bus can apply for a PennDOT ID card that can be read by the machines.

Busch warned that for now the license may not always work. In that case commuters can revert to the old method of presenting their Medicare or Senior ID card —  and then still pass by the rest of us as we fish in our pockets for a token.

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