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186 years of transit tokens being used for fare collection in the US to come to an end.

Posted by Luke Upton on Jan 4, 2018

186 years of transit tokens being used for fare collection in the US to come to an end. (SmartRail World) The earliest recorded transit token in the U.S. dates back to 1831, when brass coins stamped with ‘good for one ride to the bearer’ were minted for a horse-drawn stagecoach which ran for three miles in New Jersey and New York.

And since those early days there has been a continuing line of transit tokens used in US public transport but now, the end is nigh. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia, which has accepted token payments since 1968, and is the last major transit agency in America to do so, will sell them for the last time on March 1st of this year. It’s the final phase of a lengthy overhaul of its fare collection systems.

Early in 2017, SEPTA ended sales of "legacy" magnetic strip TransPasses at its sales offices, which has resulted in most weekly and monthly TransPass customers moving to reloadable SEPTA Key Cards. In addition, the Travel Wallet - the pay-as-you-go option that provides the same discounted fare as a token - has enticed customers to move to the SEPTA Key. Key Cards are currently free with a $10 minimum load.

The Travel Wallet feature allows customers to add value to a SEPTA Key Card for tap-and-go travel on all Transit modes, including buses, city and suburban trolleys, trackless trolleys, the Market-Frankford Line, the Broad Street-Line/Broad-Ridge Spur and the Norristown High Speed Line. Customers who currently use tokens, paper transfers or pay with cash can transition to the Key - and leave behind the days of worrying about having exact change or pre-purchasing tokens. The Travel Wallet will automatically deduct single-rides at the discounted token rate, and process transfers.


With token sales declining due to riders moving to the SEPTA Key, approximately half of the station vending machines on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines have already been removed. Beginning in mid-January, cashier sales will end and the 40 remaining token machines will be removed over a six-week period - with token sales at all these locations ending on or about March 1, 2018. The full phase-out schedule will be posted on SEPTA's website,, in early January.

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Download: ‘New frontiers in transport ticketing’ industry guide

Watch: Siemens-Südostbahn ticket-free smartphone app.

Attend: SmartRail (Amsterdam, April 17th-19th, 2018). 

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Topics: Fare Collection

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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