SEPTA releases smart card survey

Now that Philadelphia’s surrounding counties and regional transit planners have had their say, SEPTA is giving its riders a chance to weigh in about their preferences for the design and implementation of the new smart card system for regional rail.

The transit authority is conducting an online survey ( of riders, asking for their opinions of various regional rail payment technology options. SEPTA acknowledges the new fare system is still a fews years away from becoming a reality.

The survey was announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon following the release of a report of a working group ( that was looking at fare collection policies with the new system.

The work group was composed of stakeholders including county and city planners and transit advocates and was convened by SEPTA to analyze smart card implementation on regional rail in the wake of criticism of internal SEPTA plans.

Meetings are being mediated by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

The group voted 11-1 in favor of continuing with two-way fares under the new payment system. Riders would have to tag in and out at the beginning and end of each trip. That could be accomplished at turnstiles to be installed at the five Center City stations, validating machines to be installed at many outlying stations or by a conductor.

The report noted that a two-way fare collection system would reduce fare evasion and “better facilitates the needs of one-way travelers.

In a statement, Rina Cutler, the city’s deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, said the city plans on having continued discussions with SEPTA about the smart card system and that “we also look forward to working with SEPTA to have discussions with city riders about the implementation of and opportunities provided by new payment technology.”

John McGee, who is heading the smart card project for SEPTA, said the easy-to-take survey would be up through at least the end of September. SEPTA will be advertising the survey in stations and on train cars.

The authority has also updated its new payment technologies website ( with a FAQ for how the news system will work.

McGee also confirmed that gates would be installed at all five Center City regional rail stations and that SEPTA was on track to award a contract to build the system by September or October.

Decisions on issues like one-way or two-way fares and transfer policies will be decided after a vendor is selected, he said.

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