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December 15, 2022

SEPTA bus, trolley and subway riders can now purchase tickets using their smartphone

More than 1,200 residents tested the mobile program earlier this fall; the transit agency hopes to add options for Regional Rail in the new year

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA Mobile Ticketing Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

SEPTA riders can now purchase one or more tickets for buses, trolleys, subways and the Norristown High Speed Line using their smartphone. The transit agency made its mobile ticketing pilot program available to the public on Thursday.

SEPTA riders who are constantly losing their Key Cards may have another way to pay. On Thursday, the transit agency made its mobile ticketing platform available to the public, allowing travelers to purchase fares with a few taps of their smartphones.

Riders can purchase one or more tickets for buses, trolleys, subways and the Norristown High Speed Line through the SEPTA app, thanks to the pilot program. Customers who use credit cards to buy fares on their devices will receive a QR-code "ticket" to tap at subway turnstiles and bus and trolley fareboxes. 

SEPTA plans to expand the program to include Regional Rail passengers early next year. The main reasons for the delay are outdated tech and Regional Rail's different fare structure, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told Billy Penn earlier this year. Once the transit agency is able to install updated technology at some of the outlying stations, mobile ticketing will be available across the entire system.

Mobile ticketing software allows friends and family members traveling together to scan in up to five riders with a single barcode, which can come in handy for last-minute holiday traveling and tourists visiting the city in the new year. 

While not a replacement for the regular Key Card, the mobile ticketing platform provides a solution for occasional riders looking for the same benefits as daily cardholders, without having to purchase multiple passes or plastic cards. Mobile tickets also include one free transfer per transit trip, a major benefit of using a plastic Key Card. 

"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," said Leslie S. Richards, CEO and general manager at SEPTA. "As the holiday season quickly approaches, now is the perfect time to take advantage of these features while traveling in groups to visit loved ones." 

SEPTA has been testing the mobile ticketing platform for much of this year, beginning with an initial round of 200 beta testers in May and another group of 1,000 people this fall. Though the program seems to be running on schedule, there have been some glitches and user issues since it was expanded for beta testing. 

Earlier versions of the beta did not allow riders to use existing Key Card funds for mobile tickets, but the public version of the app allows riders to add funds using any credit or debit card. In order to use Key Card funds, riders must connect their Key Card account to their SEPTA app. 

Mobile ticketing is available on iPhone and Android devices, though the process for accessing the program is different depending on which smartphone riders own. 

Those with iPhone devices can use this public beta invitation to download the beta testing app and SEPTA's official app. Once both have been downloaded, the SEPTA app will open and allow riders to connect to their SEPTA Key accounts and purchase tickets using the debit or credit card on file. 

Android users should make sure they have the SEPTA app already downloaded onto their device. Once it's there, they can go into the Google Play Store and tap the profile icon in the top left corner of the screen. Then, riders can click on "manage apps and devices," and scroll until they find the details on the SEPTA app. 

There should be an option to join the beta, which will allow riders to access SEPTA's app and connect to their SEPTA Key Card accounts in order to buy tickets. 

Over the next few months, SEPTA will begin accepting contactless debit cards and bankcards for trips on buses, trolleys, subways and the Norristown High Speed Line. The added feature will allow riders to tap their credit card or phone with mobile payment services like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.