SEPTA board approves more spending on Key card

The Philadelphia skyline is seen from the Market Frankford platform at 63rd Street

The Philadelphia skyline is seen from the Market Frankford platform at 63rd Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The SEPTA Key fare payment system has now cost the regional transit agency more than $208 million.

On Thursday, SEPTA’S board approved a contract change order of nearly $409,000 from the authority’s capital budget to go toward the fare payment system.

The money is slated to go toward back-end investments such as email communication for customers, enhancing security for validators, and voice-response capabilities.

The change marks the twenty-fifth adjustment since the agency first signed a $122.2 million contract with Conduent, Inc, formerly known as Xerox Transport Solutions, Inc., in 2011.

“Every once in a while, we have to do these change orders as part of the ongoing work that we’re doing with the key,” Busch said.

SEPTA recently announced its plan to roll out SEPTA Key 2.0, which entails gathering input from industry experts on how to improve the fare card and adapt the system to changing technology and rider habits. The process would eventually lead to a request for proposal to identify another, or possibly the same, contractor for the fare payment system.

Currently, the authority is in the process of replacing more than 5,000 Key card readers to prepare for mobile fare payment. By late 2021 or early 2022, riders should be able to finally ditch the cards and use the feature to pay for their trips, first through mobile ticketing, where riders pay with a digital ticket, then with open fare payment where riders can use Apple Pay or another form of digital payment through their phone.

With this option, Philadelphia would join such cities as Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco, where legacy transit has adopted the technology.

The contract change approved Thursday is unrelated to the mobile payment push, Busch said.

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