You’ve probably been here before: You’re the 50th person in line waiting to buy a SEPTA ticket to get on the Broad Street Line after a Sixers game in 20-degree weather. Or maybe your parents from out of town are visiting for the weekend, and you’re all trying to head to Center City, but they don’t have a Key card.
It would be so nice to just buy tickets on your phone, you think to yourself.
It’s the sentiment SEPTA executives have been hearing for years, and the motivation behind a new rollout called SEPTA Key Tix, a forthcoming app feature that allows users to buy up to 10 one-way rides in their SEPTA app. A user can scan the ticket’s barcode at any station on SEPTA subway lines, trolleys, buses and the Norristown High Speed Line. And unlike the Key, one Key Tix user can scan up to five people through with five tickets at once.
Right now, the transit authority is running a beta test of the new feature with more than 3,000 riders. While leaders of the project say they don’t see it replacing the Key card use for frequent riders, it’s perfect for those who ride a few times a month, want to ride with a group, or have a backup option if they don’t have their Key card with them.
Those interested in trying out the feature before its wider release can do so by downloading the beta app. SEPTA’s how-to-use guide can be found here.
Kevin O’Brien, SEPTA’s senior program manager, said the project started in early 2020 when the transit authority began replacing card readers with ones that had a bar code scanning capability.
“We wanted to take advantage of that,” O’Brien said.
The technology is available at all stations, though only at about 70% of all turnstiles, O’Brien said. All accessible turnstiles do currently have the technology.
Yannick Baudru, the director of emerging and speciality technologies at SEPTA , said the transit authority’s technologists worked through design and customer surveys to validate the program before implementing the current solution on the app. The UX was a lift, but integrating the digital tickets came down to using APIs within the SEPTA Key backend. Payment and other information is not stored within the app, rather your SEPTA account, he noted for those who might have fintech concerns.
Anyone who wants to may participate in the beta pilot of this feature, which will likely continue through the next month. A larger rollout to all users should be available by the end of January, the pair said.
Though there weren’t more details, SEPTA announced it will also start to explore a pilot for contactless bank cards for buses, trolleys, the Broad Street Line, Market-Frankford Line and the Norristown High Speed Line. These cards would allow riders to pay for rides with a credit card, phone and mobile payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
“We are thrilled to launch this exciting new program, which makes SEPTA more convenient for
customers looking to pay for their trips in advance without purchasing a physical card,” SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards said in a statement. “As the holiday season quickly approaches, now is the perfect time for people to take advantage of these features while traveling in groups to visit loved ones.”
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