SEPTA seeks $29.3M from feds for smart card system

Posted on August 26, 2010

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) submitted a federal grant application seeking $29.3 million in funding for a program that would begin to modernize its fare collection system.


Under the proposal, the transit system would use the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER II program, along with $48 million in SEPTA funding, to begin building the smart card system. This payment technology would mean a move away from traditional payment methods such as tokens, passes and tickets toward a common retail purchase method using bank credit and debit cards, prepaid SEPTA cards and emerging "smart" technologies.


If awarded the TIGER II grant, SEPTA would begin this much-needed overhaul to its payment system with surface transportation modes, including buses, trolleys and the Norristown High-Speed Line. The project would include installing hardware and software needed to operate the system, along with card readers on the vehicles. This system would be expanded to include Regional Rail and the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines as other funding becomes available.


The total new payment technology initiative, which is expected to cost approximately $100 million to install system-wide, was among 22 projects SEPTA was forced to cut from this year's Capital Budget due to insufficient state funding.


In the grant application, SEPTA emphasizes the benefits this type of "open" payment system will have not just for customers and the Authority, but for the region as a whole. With a new, simplified payment system in place, SEPTA hopes to attract new customers. This has potential environmental and livability benefits — with more people using SEPTA for their daily commute, there are fewer cars on area roadways, reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.


SEPTA has received 41 letters of endorsement for this project from a wide range of stakeholders, including elected officials in Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties; transportation management organizations such as Amtrak and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; and advocacy groups such as the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers and the SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee.

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