SEPTA first officially introduced the Key card back in 2016, nine years after the authority announced it would move away from tokens to smart cards for fare payment. The Key suffered a series of hiccups and delays leading up to its introduction.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last year that the cost of the original contract with Conduent Inc. for the fare payment system ballooned from over $122 million to more than $200 million. And somehow Key seems no better for it.
The authority still requires Key users to tote a card, while other peer legacy agencies in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, for example, have adopted mobile fare payment. Furthermore, complaints of Key malfunctions continue.
My Septakey isn’t working but I’m not surprised
— Ben Garvey (@bengarvey) June 20, 2021
More than 500 million transactions have been made using the Key, according to SEPTA officials. They say those transactions will get easier with the advancements on the way. For example, this summer, SEPTA officials plan to roll out SEPTA Key to CCT Connect service, and, in September, officials plan to roll out a Key card program for School District of Philadelphia students.
The authority is also in the process of replacing more than 5,000 Key card readers to prepare for mobile fare payment, officials said, and by late 2021 or early 2022, riders can finally ditch the cards and use their mobile phones 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 these changes in mind, SEPTA wants to use the RFI process to create a bid that would offer multiple vendors an opportunity to take the Key into the future.