SEPTA offers details of smart card system

    Let’s be clear: This is no April Fools joke.

    SEPTA officials will finally release details on the long-awaited smart card fare technology for comment. The transit agency will hold a public information session on the proposal Friday at its Center City headquarters.

    “This is arguably the biggest, near-biggest project SEPTA, in our generation, has undertaken,” said SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney.

    The transit agency won’t choose a contractor to install the system until the summer, but some elements of the system are already planned. The fare system will accept multiple “contactless” forms of payment, such as a smart card, credit card or even a cell phone. On regional rail lines, conductors may scan passengers’ payment cards on inbound trains, while Center City locations will have turnstiles where passengers scan cards before they board.

    John McGee, SEPTA’s chief officer of new payment technology, said any system will be flexible enough to incorporate new forms of payment as yet unknown.

    “There’s a lot of real estate from where we are today to what’s possible tomorrow with different fare policies,” he said. “And that’s why we’re trying to begin the process here with discussions through the general public. What’s the best fit?”

    SEPTA’s board has authorized borrowing up to $175 million for the project. Three companies are in the running for the contract to install the system, so it’s unclear exactly what the system will cost.

    It will take two and a half to three years to complete the project after the contract is awarded.

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