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August 19, 2023

SEPTA testing pilot program featuring contactless payment methods

The system would allow customers to use credit cards or their phones to pay for fares at the turnstile or on buses and trolleys without a Key card

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA contactless payments Brian A. Saunders/PhillyVoice

SEPTA is testing a pilot program that allows transit riders to use contactless payment options, including credit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay instead of Key cards.

It is becoming more common for customers to use contactless payment methods, including digital versions of their credit or debit cards through Apple Pay or Google Pay. SEPTA has yet to install technology that allows riders to pay directly at the turnstile on subway platforms or its buses and trolleys. However, it is testing a pilot program that will allow patrons to do so.

The transit authority is asking for volunteers to sign up for the program that would allow them to test the new system. SEPTA is looking for 200 people to participate in the program, which it says it will continue to test until it is satisfied with the number of daily transactions and when the software is ready for more users without any bugs, Billy Penn reported

"You just pull your bank card out of your pocket or pull your phone out of your pocket with Apple Pay or Google Pay or Samsung Pay, or your iPhone, and you just tap it on the reader and travel," SEPTA Key project manager Kevin O'Brien said, via KYW Newsradio. "They won't have to worry about calculating their fares or buying the right instrument. They just tap and ride."

Rides will cost $2 and include up to two free transfers within two hours, the same as using a SEPTA Key Card.

To participate, customers must tap their cards, Apple Pay, or Google Pay devices on the SEPTA validator at a Broad Street Line or Marke-Frankford Line station before signing up for the program. There is no charge for the initial tap. 

SEPTA says the plan is to roll the program out full-time this fall. 

SEPTA's Regional Rail will not be a part of the program. Because of complexities with that transit line, SEPTA will roll out an additional pilot program for Regional Rail early in 2024 with contactless payment methods, according to the Inquirer

In April, SEPTA said it planned to replace its Key card platform with an upgraded system that allows riders to pay for fares using smartphones, smartwatches, and contactless credit and debit cards. The plan was for SEPTA Key 2.0 to be implemented by 2025 and fully operational by 2029.