Smart Cards

Smart Cards are Here! Tokens are Gone! Candy Canes for Everyone!

The Daily News has a cover story about how SEPTA smart cards are on the verge of being here! Now, with our ultra smart cards, tokens are a thing of the past. Awesome:

THIS IS the dawning of the Age of SEPTArius!


Philadelphia, the last major American city where transit riders line up to pay cash for tokens, is on the verge of getting a high-tech fare system that will make riding SEPTA as easy as using E-ZPass on the turnpike.

Or as easy as riding public transit in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Seattle, where smart cards have replaced tokens, and long lines for tokens, and discovering too late that you don't have exact change for tokens and the toll-booth attendant doesn't make change for tokens and you're stuck.

Or as easy as buying morning coffee at Wawa, or a pack of gum at CVS, or a lawnmower at Home Depot or just about anything in Philly - except a SEPTA fare.


Oh, so, without any context, there is also this little bit of info:

The token, which has been a pain-in-the-mass-transit here for decades, could go the way of horse-drawn trolleys by 2011, said John McGee, SEPTA's chief officer of new-payment technology.

Oh.... so tokens could be obsolete by 2011? Interesting. Why only 'could,' amidst this article about the fantasical, whimsical smart cards that will change lives?

Could it be that today is July 21, 2009, and on June 24, 2009, the Inquirer ran this little nugget?

SEPTA has postponed for a third time its deadline for a "smart-card" fare system.

The latest deadline is Aug. 18, five months later than the original March 17 requirement for manufacturers to submit proposals for an electronic system to replace tokens and paper tickets for its buses, subways, trolleys, and trains.

Or, how about this line, from November of 2007:

SEPTA took its first tentative step today out of the era of tokens and paper tickets, announcing its plan to award a contract for a "smart card" by the end of next year.

The end of "next year" was... 2008.

Which is all to say, that while I am all for positive stories on mass transit, it seems really strange that a project that has yet to even close a deadline for accepting proposals, now almost 2 years late, is touted as "finally" coming.

Or, how about this: Would anyone like to make a bet as to whether smartcards will be available and in use system-wide in 2011? If so, I can give you some great odds...

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