After writing about SEPTA's plans to debut its smart card SEPTA Key next year, I received a number of emails about what the new card would mean for senior citizens and those who receive reduced fares. The short answer is all those benefits that exist now will remain intact and available through SEPTA Key.

Now here’s the long answer.

The first SEPTA Key cards are expected to roll out toward the end of March 2016. Those are going to be an alternative to existing monthly and weekly rail passes on transit only, which means subways, buses and trolleys. This rollout really won’t affect senior citizens or those with disabilities at all.

If everything goes according to a plan which, granted, has been delayed by several years, the fully functioning smart cards will be offered at the end of the summer. That's when senior citizens can begin to expect alternatives to their current fare systems, which offer free rides to those over the age of 65.

One alternative would be for senior citizens to use their drivers licenses as passes. There will be swipers on turnstiles that will be able to read licenses. If transit users want to use licenses and avoid the smart card entirely, that will work.

If seniors do want a smart card, though, they will need to receive one through SEPTA. The agency is asking people to call (215) 580-7800 for more information, but said they will need to issue seniors smart cards with photo identification included to ensure the cards aren’t being used fraudulently. Those photo IDs are already being taken at SEPTA offices, and the agency is looking into sending out a mobile photo lab to community events.

The benefits of using a smart card over a driver’s license will come when Regional Rail is brought onto the system, potentially by 2017. It costs seniors $1 to board a regional rail train. Having a smart card will allow them to move from subway to commuter train with one fare tool.

Disabled riders who receive a discounted fare now should be able to get the same through a personalized Key card by the same route used to get a special transit card now. Instructions are on SEPTA’s web site, but they require either a doctor’s note confirming a medical condition or a medicare card either mailed to SEPTA or brought in person to the Customer Service Center at the agency’s headquarters at 1234 Market Street.