Swipe multiple riders on one SEPTA Key? Not yet. The website post was a mistake, but the feature is promised soon

The transit authority inadvertently faked out some riders, who got excited about a weekend update that went out too early.

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

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SEPTA officials say major updates to the Key fare system are rolling out later this year, including mobile ticketing and a multiple rider function. The latter is not available yet, however — despite a post over the weekend that seemed to indicate it was.

A page on the transit authority’s website detailed how riders could use their Key card to pay for multiple people on one trip. The feature has long existed in other big cities like New York and Boston, and could be a boon to parents traveling with kids, groups of friends heading out together, or anyone with a visitor from out of town.

But the page went up accidentally and wasn’t actually ready for the public yet, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told Billy Penn.

“A regularly scheduled software update overnight Friday into Saturday inadvertently resulted in information being posted to the SEPTA Key website indicating that customers could enable their Key Cards for use by multiple riders at once,” Busch said. “It was quickly removed, and we regret any confusion that this may have caused.”

He said the policies around the feature aren’t yet refined. In the post that went up by mistake, it required customers to enable the auto-load function, where a credit or debit card is connected to the Key account, and it would only work with a max of five riders at a time.

Still, stakeholders like Philly’s Transit Riders Union praised the update as a sign of slow progress.

Multiple rider fares will become reality, Busch said, confirming the target date only as “later this year.”

He gave the same timeline for a new feature that will allow you to buy tickets using the SEPTA app, and then pay for your trip with a tap of your phone. The agency has started to prepare for that by installing thousands of new card readers.

“Customers who ride buses and trolleys have likely noticed new Key readers that have been installed on the vehicles over the last few months to accommodate these upgrades,” Busch said.

Of the total 1,600 buses and trolleys in the fleet, SEPTA has replaced Key card readers on all but 50. Those remaining vehicles, Busch said, are already in the shop to get the same treatment.

After that, SEPTA crews will begin replacing the Key card readers at stops along the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines. Regional Rail will come after that.

On the software side, tests are underway with Conduent, SEPTA’s vendor on the Key project.

The updates are part of a broader refresh of the entire SEPTA Key system. Called SEPTA Key 2.0, the reboot started last summer. It has included a review of new fare payment systems, and a collection of expert opinions on how to improve the often-troubled Key card.


Want some more? Explore other SEPTA Key stories.

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Transit, SEPTA