August 29, 2023
Most Philadelphia city workers can begin riding SEPTA for free Friday thanks to the city joining the transit authority's Key Advantage program.
About 22,000 employees are eligible to receive transit passes, which the city is buying a wholesale cost and distributing for free. As of Monday, nearly 10,000 workers had signed up for the passes.
The city has joined the Key Advantage program for the two next years at $9 million annually. City officials hope the job benefit will cut transit costs for workers, promote environmentally-conscious travel and help bolster employment rates. The city has more than 5,700 open positions. It needs police officers, librarians, sanitation workers, social workers and accountants, among other workers.
"This two-year pilot is an opportunity to boost the city's hiring and retention efforts, and support our goals of sustainability, traffic safety and equity as well," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
Enrollment opened last month. Eligible employees – full-time, part-time and temporary workers that earn paid sick time – received an email to begin the process. The city also held 13 in-person distribution event for workers who needed to pick up a Key card.
SEPTA's Key Advantage program allows employers to purchase discounted Key cards to be given to their employees. SEPTA started the program last year with Drexel University, Penn Medicine and Wawa as its initial participants. The city is the largest employer to enter the program.
The city also committed $31 million in this year's budget to provide free passes to at least 25,000 residents near or below the poverty level. Postcards alerting eligible residents of their enrollment are expected to be sent this week, the Inquirer reported.
Earlier this summer, Swarthmore College in Delaware County became the first institution to join an off-shoot of Key Advantage known as the UPass program. That program provides free transit passes to all full-time students at participating colleges.
Currently, about 55,000 workers at nearly two dozen employers are eligible for the Key Advantage program. SEPTA says the program has increased ridership among these employers' workforces and helped it recover from the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, when ridership was cut in half.
Employers and schools can apply to join SEPTA's Key Advantage program online.