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Farewell, sweet tokens: SEPTA begins phasing out token fares

The jingle-jingle of SEPTA tokens is a sound that soon will become only memory.
A SEPTA token (Alexis Sachdev)

The inevitablity of change became a little more evident in Philadelphia on Wednesday, when SEPTA announced that in January, it will begin phasing out token sales from subway and el train stations. 

A relic of Philadelphia’s past, considered by some an archaic piece of transit technology that most American cities have ditched in favor of disturbingly inauthentic, plastic swipe cards, SEPTA tokens still occupy a special place in many commuters' hearts. 

But not for long. In mid-January 2018, cashiers at Market-Frankford and Broad Street line stations will stop selling the tokens. Token vending machines will also be phased out, SEPTA announced on Wednesday.

“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,” SEPTA said. “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.”

Tokens won’t be completely gone: They “will continue to be sold at major SEPTA sales offices, Regional Rail stations and at over 200 third-party retailers until further notice,” SEPTA added consolingly. 

But this phase-out indicates that the day when tokens are no longer accepted is not all too distant.

It’s not exactly a shock: If you are a token-lover, you’ve doubtlessly long since noticed the disappearance of token-friendly turnstiles as SEPTA shifts all payments to the SEPTA Key method. 

Reloadable SEPTA Key cards have mostly replaced “legacy” magnetic strip Transpasses, which as of last year are no longer sold at sales offices, SEPTA said.

Key cards are free with a minimum $10 initial payment.

Using the Travel Wallet feature, unused tokens can be transferred to SEPTA Key Cards using fare kiosks at SEPTA stations.

For more information, visit septa.org/key