Philadelphia’s SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) still has passengers use tokens in order to ride the rails. However, the transit system announced last year that contactless cards and smart phones will begin make their way in as tokens and magnetic strip cards are phased out over the next three years. While there are many transit systems who currently use magnetic strip cards, SEPTA is the last to utilize tokens.
The switch from token to contactless cards (think Amsterdam’s Chipkaart or credit cards that you “tap” rather than swipe) is a huge leap, and will make SEPTA go from being one of the most outdated systems to one of the most advanced in terms of fare. The idea has been in the works for a few years, and SEPTA officially announced the switch last November when they awarded a contract to the company designing the new fare method.
The new system will be smart – users will have a SEPTA card that they can load up and manage their account online. Magnetic strip cards of the past do not really have a long shelf life, as rail riders typically print out the card for their single ride and toss it after the ride is over. This way, people will have a single hard plastic card that they can use over and over. In addition to the contactless card technology that will come into place, those who don’t want to spend the $5 on the plastic card can simply use their smartphone to pay for their ride. This will be particularly advantageous to tourists.
2015 is the target year for the system to really come into place – the “New Payment Technologies” is still in its design phase. Now that one of America’s most outdated transit systems is entering the 21st century, perhaps others will follow suit.
Info from NextCity and Wikipedia.