‘Things are delayed’ 9 times: A timeline of SEPTA Key setbacks

The digital payment system has been in the works for nearly a decade.

Halloween costume of the way a major American city still pays for public transit in the 21st century.

Halloween costume of the way a major American city still pays for public transit in the 21st century.

@spyral_storm on Instagram

We’ve been waiting to use our last SEPTA tokens for nine years.

SEPTA first announced a plan for rolling out a digital fare payment system back in 2007, a more innocent time when Dubya was president and the first iPhone hit the market. Since then, the massive project has been delayed at least nine times and news broke yesterday that there still isn’t a concrete date set for when we’ll be able to digitally pay for our rides throughout the region.

Our thoughts on the matter (h/t Ben Duffy on Facebook):

Here’s a short look back at the SEPTA Key and all its setbacks:


Memorable song of the year: “Crank That” by Soulja Boy

Memorable movie of the year: “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

November: SEPTA announces a plan for RFP for a smart card system and says the system might take three years or more and will cost $100 million.

“Our timeline is very aggressive, but unfortunately,” General Manager Faye Moore said at the time, “the industry might slow it down.”


Memorable song of the year: “Paper Planes” by MIA

Memorable movie of the year: “The Dark Knight”

November: Request for potential vendors to bid goes out.

According to a press release: “SEPTA’s new fare system is a part of its five-year strategic business plan.” 


Memorable song of the year: “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga

Memorable movie of the year: “Avatar”

March: Original deadline for accepting bid proposals on SEPTA Key.


Memorable song of the year: “Tik Tok” by Kesha

Memorable movie of the year: “Inception”

March: SEPTA discloses that if a state proposal to toll Interstate 80 is rejected by the Feds, 20 projects will be delayed or canceled, smart card fare collection among them, as the transit agency would have a $120 million budget hole.

April: Feds reject state proposal to toll Interstate 80.

August: SEPTA hopes to award a contract by the end of summer.


Memorable song of the year: “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO

Memorable movie of the year: “The Hangover Part 2”

January: PIDC approves a five-year, low-interest $175 million loan for SEPTA for the smart card system. 

October: Contractors can still bid; deadline extended to November.

November: SEPTA awards contract to build new fare system; should be finished by end of 2013.

ACS vice president Marc D. Gordon called the three-year time frame “reasonable, but aggressive.”


Memorable song of the year: “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson

Memorable movie of the year: “The Hunger Games”

October: SEPTA working in a test lab, launch slated for 2013 for the subway, 2014 for the Regional Rail. The Inquirer reports there are 5,600 steps needed to be complete before rollout, but SEPTA had only completed about 30 of them.


Memorable song of the year: “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore

Memorable movie of the year: “The Hunger Games”

August: By summer 2014, SEPTA says tokens will be obsolete and the digital fare payment system will be ready after testing; pilot test will take place in October.

“There’s some slippage on the schedule, primarily because of equipment,” then-project manager John McGee said. “…That ball of steam isn’t as large as we’d like, but we’re still moving along.”


Memorable song of the year: “Happy” by Pharrell

Memorable movie of the year: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

April: Project manager McGee retires; immediately takes a new job with the consultant on the same project.

“There have been a lot of challenges,” SEPTA spokesman Fran Kelly said at the time. “But we’re making good progress now.”

June: SEPTA Key will be ready by February or March 2015.

“Things are delayed,” SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said at the time. “But we are not apologizing for that. We want to make sure everything is right. We are pulling back on the reins a bit so that everything is to our liking.”


Memorable song of the year: “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

Memorable movie of the year: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

February: SEPTA Key is nearly 25 percent installed; we predict it would launch by April 2015.

April: SEPTA Key is already live… if you’re old enough.

August: SEPTA says it hopes to have the system installed by the end of the 2015 calendar year.

“We know it’s taking longer than originally projected,” spokesman Andrew Busch said at the time, “but that’s a very important part of the process, and we’re doing everything we can to ensure that when we roll it out to the public, that it’s ready to go.”

September: Outgoing SEPTA GM Joe Casey is asked if he’s happy with how SEPTA Key development has gone: “No. Quite frankly, no,” he told Billy Penn. “I wish it was implemented. But we are in testing now and are in the process of going through friendly testing. We want to roll it out later on this calendar year.”

October: Project manager tells Philly Mag it could be ready by early 2016

“This is really a soft rollout,” Project manager Kevin O’Brien said. “It’s a very complex system, especially to develop on the backend.”

December: SEPTA says the Key should roll out by April 2016.


Memorable song of the year: “Work” by Rhianna

Memorable movie of the year: “Deadpool”

March: SEPTA Key delayed again; decision to be made April 15 for a June launch at the earliest.

Want some more? Explore other SEPTA Key stories.

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