SEPTA’s transition to SEPTA Key — a new system that will require plastic cards to be used as fare payment for all services next year— will also raise issues for nonprofits that dole out tokens to the homeless and economically disadvantaged.
Nonprofits cannot give out cash for fares, but they can give out tokens, which are used for one ride on SEPTA’s subways, buses and trolleys.
A report in our news section this week notes that access to public transit is important for economically disadvantaged people to get to medical appointments and other public welfare appointments. A SEPTA spokesman said the shift is still in the early stages and SEPTA is working with organizations that buy tokens in bulk.
“We give them tokens so they can go to the welfare office, so they can discuss their benefits,” said Rachel Falkove, the executive director of the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, in East Mount Airy. “If they can’t afford to get there, they lose their food stamps.”
Small assistance in physical mobility can, in the long term, help social mobility. That’s why it’s important for SEPTA to ensure that fare assistance programs can continue in the SEPTA Key era.
New Jersey Transit sells reduced-fare passes to social service organizations to help lower-income people commute. SEPTA, however, is not listed in a registry of fare-assistance programs from the Community Transportation Association of America.
In Philadelphia, fare assistance falls to nonprofits.
The implementation of SEPTA Key has been trumpeted as a belated upgrade to a more modern system. We hope that it can help local nonprofits continue with fare assistance.