Spotted: Where we’re going, we don’t need SEPTA tokens edition

In one of the greatest scenes in Back to the Future, nay, cinematic history, Dr. Emmett Brown confidently explains to a young Marty McFly, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” The Delorean calmly lifts its wheels and blasts off into the future. Woah.

SEPTA Key kiosk at Tasker/Morris Station.
SEPTA Key kiosk at Tasker/Morris Station.

Enter SEPTA Key, the new payment system that will soon be implemented on all subways, trolleys and buses throughout the city. We spotted one of the new fangled kiosks at the Tasker/Morris Station. While it isn’t as cool as a levitating, time-traveling Delorean that runs on bio-fuels, it’s certainly a new beginning to a brighter future for SEPTA and its riders.

Billy Penn recently broke down the SEPTA Key FAQ section into an easy to understand guide for the new system. It will eliminate the need for tokens and implement a card payment system that’s similar to a debit card. It’s currently in a “pilot program” for testing and begin in earnest sometime next year after they work out some of the kinks.

The gist:

  • Cost of a ride will remain the same (including passes) and you’ll be able to easily load money onto the card.
  • You can register for a card online or over the phone. You can buy a non-personalized card at a SEPTA kiosk.
  • Registering your card helps your keep your money in the event its lost or stolen
  • You can pay via the card or with smartphones that have contactless chips. There’s no need to swipe, just hold it to the sensor.

Give the rest of the SEPTA key 101 a read here. It’s helpful, especially now that we’re starting to see them pop up in South Philly. It’s also kind of bittersweet. We’re glad SEPTA is moving into a brighter, token-less future, but a small part of us will certainly miss the familiar jangle of a few tokens in our pockets.

Are you excited for the new SEPTA Key rollout? This video might tip the scales in either direction:

10 thoughts on “Spotted: Where we’re going, we don’t need SEPTA tokens edition

  • November 12, 2014 at 12:39 pm


    One question i have though is this:

    Are the new ticket machines Chip and Pin compatible?
    I understand going with contactless for turnstyles and fareboxes, but what about just buying tickets at a vending machine? With a 2015 deadline for switching people to chip and pin cards, I would think that the machines would be already setup to work with them.

    Anyone know?

    • November 12, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Your chip & pin card will be chip and pin compatible. I have a C&P card now and use it like a normal card. Also, if you have Visa PayWave on your card, you will be able to use that right on turnstiles instead of having to buy a ticket.

  • November 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    “Back to the Future” is an apt reference, because the year that movie came out is roughly the last time every other city in the world with a public transportation system stopped using tokens. Slow down SEPTA!

    • November 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      SEPTA purposefully skipped the previous generation of fare payment (tickets/reloadable cards) to focus on preparing for the next generation of fare payment (NPT/SEPTA Key). The fact that they held onto tokens for so long is exactly why we will now be ahead of the curve in fare payment technology.

  • November 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    How will they be able to track the $1 dollar transfer.

  • November 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm


    • November 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      Nice Derek

  • November 13, 2014 at 8:49 am

    The senior riders will still need to show their passes to ride.

    • November 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm


      I have heard that there is a solution that may be put into place that will allow seniors to swipe/tap a card to ride without having to physically show their pass to anyone. I’m going off of rumors I’ve heard from people involved in the project at SEPTA, and this was posed as “We want to do this, and think we will be able to” and not “this WILL happen” but, it’s nice to know it’s being considered.

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