SEPTA: More than 1600 get new fare card in Key pilot launch

So far, so good.

SEPTA reported smooth sailing during today’s launch of SEPTA Key, the authority’s new fare card. As of early Monday afternoon, 1,685 total cards were sold, said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for SEPTA.

“We’re happy with that number,” said Busch.

SEPTA is making up to 10,000 SEPTA Key cards available during the “Early Adopter” public pilot of the payment system. During this phase of SEPTA Key’s rollout, the fare card only works for daily, weekly and monthly passes. Today’s launch was limited to just daily and weekly passes, as passes for next month will only become available on June 20th. Frequent riders prefer monthly passes, and SEPTA expects the number of SEPTA Key sales to jump next week “when we get big sales with the monthlies,” said Busch.

The new payment technology’s biggest hiccup on the day? Nothing digital, just a couple of jammed bills in the kiosk, said Busch.

So far, riders seem pleased with the ease of getting the cards, which are available at activated SEPTA Key kiosks at 13 locations on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines. Daily SEPTA commuter Graham O’Neill praised the “ambassadors,” SEPTA employees staffed at the stations specifically to assist customers with the new cards. “The ambassadors were very helpful. They even reminded me to grab a receipt in case anything went wrong,” said O’Neill. “Every SEPTA staff member I’ve encountered has been helpful and genuinely excited to see the program launch.”

When this reporter snagged his card this morning at Dilworth Park, none other than Leslie Hickman, SEPTA’s deputy chief officer for SEPTA Key integration, came by to offer assistance. None was needed.

My one complaint with SEPTA Key so far: The turnstile validators cannot read the card while it is still in my wallet. Other transit agencies’ contactless cards, like PATCO’s Freedom Card, London’s Oyster Card and the D.C. Metro’s SmartTrip Card, do not require me to remove the card from my wallet in order to work. (PlanPhilly editor Ashley Hahn questioned the wisdom of whipping out one’s wallet in a crowded subway system, but that’s where I keep all my various cards, so I’d be forced to remove my wallet from my back pocket anyway.) Removing the Key card from my wallet is an added step, costing precious seconds, which can sometimes count when trying to catch a train.

Still, if this and a few dollar bill jams are the biggest complaints, it’s tough to argue with Busch’s assessment for SEPTA Key’s debut: “Good showing for the first day.”

If you have a more serious complaint—or any complaint about SEPTA Key at all—both SEPTA and I want to hear it. Submit feedback to SEPTA here, and feel free to email me at

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