SEPTA phases out paper tickets on Regional Rail, marking the end of an era
“In terms of something that a rider can buy, this is it for paper products."
SEPTA is saying goodbye to some of its last outmoded fare options, marking the end of an era for a transportation authority whose riders were using tokens not so long ago.
The sale of single-trip and 10-trip ticket strips ends Friday as SEPTA continues to migrate Regional Rail riders onto the SEPTA Key card, its smart-fare system. Customers holding paper tickets will still be able to use them. Riders can pay with cash, too.
“In terms of something that a rider can buy, this is it for paper products,” SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said.
The authority began phasing out legacy TrailPasses last fall, though some still get the magnetic strip passes through employer programs, like WageWorks. “QuickTrip” tickets, or single ride tickets, remain available for purchase. Paper transfers for subway, bus, and trolley riders ended in 2018.
It was a long time coming, but the SEPTA Key’s Travel Wallet feature, allowing riders to pay per trip on the smart fare card, was made available to Regional Rail riders in July. There have been 58,900 Travel Wallet trips on Regional Rail since then, according to SEPTA.
Right now, Regional Rail riders are nearly nonexistent as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps many suburban workers tied to home offices. The system operates with about 85% fewer riders than before the pandemic.
SEPTA soon expects to introduce three-day passes aimed at riders with flexible work schedules. The product was planned before the pandemic but comes when workers may be considering commuting into the office a few days a week instead of all week.
“As we get more people over to the Key and away from these paper products,” Busch said, “it’s going to allow us to introduce them to new products that we want to offer, things that are probably even more relevant now.”
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Regional Rail was the first service SEPTA reduced as the pandemic started in the region, but the authority anticipates boosting frequency “in the coming months.” Its board heard several comments regarding the status of the suspended Chestnut Hill West line during its most recent meeting last month.
“I want to stress that SEPTA is committed to reopening the Chestnut Hill West,” SEPTA General Manager Leslie S. Richards told listeners. “We understand your concerns. We share many of the concerns.”
During the meeting, its board approved yet another unexpected cost that brings the Key’s primary contract closer to a $200 million price tag. The changes allow the authority to add a handful of customized features as it transitions School District of Philadelphia students using paper passes onto the Key system.