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Newly-sustainable SEPTA moving forward with its smart-card fare system

While it's certainly true that there is something inherently quaint and romantic about a major metropolitan subway system that still accepts tokens, as Philadelphia's SEPTA system does, it's also true that technology has a way of moving unstoppably forward. SEPTA's long-discussed plans to replace its own token with a smart card system were unexpectedly canceled when its fiscal year 2011 budget experienced a 25 percent funding reduction. But on Jan. 27, it was announced that the PIDC Regional Center had just as unexpectedly come to SEPTA's rescue: In a proposal recently approved by the SEPTA Board, it was agreed upon that the PIDC would loan the transit system up to $175 million for its smart card project, "as well as related improvements to infrastructure, communications and customer service," according to a press release written by SEPTA Press Officer Andrew Busch. The PIDC is offering the loan at a low interest rate--1.75 percent.

Interestingly enough, SEPTA is planning to implement a fare collection system known as an open system, "where a customer is not going to need a SEPTA fare instrument to ride the system," says Busch. In other words, while smart cards will eventually replace tokens and paper transfers, customers will also have the option of swiping a debit or credit card as they pass through the turnstile. According to Busch, SEPTA is hoping to award a contract to build the new fare system by May or June, and the system is expected to be in place by January 2014.

SEPTA also released a rather ambitious sustainability plan in January known as SEP-TAINABLE: The Route to Regional Sustainability. The plan involves a total of 12 economic, social and environmental goals and initiatives that SEPTA hopes to attain between now and 2015; stay tuned to Flying Kite for more details and information. 

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA
Writer: Dan Eldridge

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