SEPTA is preparing to launch an institutional pass program that will help bolster an inclusive recovery for the region.
“SEPTA Key Advantage” will allow participating institutions to acquire SEPTA Key cards directly from the Authority and distribute them to employees. Phase I of the program will be a six-month pilot with three introductory partners – Drexel University, Penn Medicine, and Wawa stores in the city of Philadelphia. These partners are ideal to help SEPTA launch this program, as they all have multi-site facilities and represent a broad range of organizational types, including retail, medical, and higher education.
Drexel, Penn Medicine, and Wawa will be reaching out to employees with information on how to register for the program in the coming weeks. The passes will be ready for their employees to use starting on May 1, 2022.
Participants can use a new or existing SEPTA Key card for their pass. Just like the Monthly Anywhere TrailPass, SEPTA Key Advantage passes can be used on all SEPTA modes, including Regional Rail, Market-Frankford Line, Broad Street Line, Norristown High Speed Line, and city and suburban buses and trolleys. The passes will be automatically reloaded each month for the six-month period.
“SEPTA is thrilled to launch this exciting new program, which will provide real benefits for people working in our city and region,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “This has the potential to provide a significant boost in ridership, which is critical to ensuring that SEPTA can sustain and grow service as we recover from the pandemic.”
Programs like SEPTA Key Advantage have proven to increase ridership at peer transit agencies across the country, including Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.
The benefits extend to everyone traveling in the region, not just those who use SEPTA. By encouraging more people to take public transit, SEPTA Key Advantage will help reduce traffic congestion that is significantly impacting mobility as the pandemic recovery continues. In addition, by providing this incentive for using SEPTA to employees at these organizations, this program will help alleviate demand for parking, particularly at facilities such as hospitals where spaces are needed for patients.
“Penn Medicine’s employees are deeply invested in our collective efforts to be strong stewards of the environment, from our green-building initiatives to supporting our workforce and visitors with tools that support more eco-friendly transit, including bike racks and electric vehicle charging stations,” said University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Kevin B. Mahoney. “We are proud to be an employer of choice in Philadelphia and a longtime collaborator with SEPTA leaders, which has enabled us to bring to life our shared vision of creative new programs to support our employees who use public transportation.”
“Participating in this pilot program aligns with Drexel’s ongoing commitment to improving sustainability practices at the University and being part of the solution to climate change,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “As one of the largest private employers in the region, we recognize the substantial impact that we could make by providing additional support to eligible employees who wish to take public transit through this pathbreaking partnership with SEPTA.”
“We are honored that SEPTA turned to us to participate alongside Drexel and Penn Medicine in SEPTA’s Key Advantage pilot program, as we are always looking for ways to take care of our associates and make a positive impact in our community,” said Wawa Sr. Director of Store Operations Dave Simonetti. “We value the public transportation system and are proud to play a role in bolstering the recovery from the pandemic.”
The passes can also be a powerful recruitment tool for businesses as they compete to hire and retain talent in the current job market.
Several local advocate groups and elected officials played critical roles in the development of SEPTA Key Advantage. Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym supported early outreach efforts.
“I am thrilled to help launch SEPTA’s institutional pass program — a creative, bold investment in building ridership and opportunity to get our city back on track,” said Gym. “It’s good for workers, good for employers, and good for the environment. I commend SEPTA and its partners for their commitment to a livable, connected, and thriving Philadelphia.”
The SEPTA Youth Advisory Council advocated for the creation of an institutional pass program, as did the Clean Air Council. SEPTA also partnered with 5th Square and Transit Forward Philadelphia to secure an APTA Local Coalition Grant to help fund the initial research and program design.
“Institutional pass programs are an important way the Philadelphia region can get more residents back to riding transit, and this is going to be a critical piece of greater Philadelphia’s economic recovery as we emerge from COVID-19,” said Transit Forward Philadelphia Executive Committee Member Jon Geeting. “We are thrilled to see such significant progress from SEPTA on one of our long-running goals and appreciate their collaborative spirit in working with advocates and companies in rethinking their approach to transit benefits.”
The Authority plans to expand the availability of SEPTA Key Advantage to additional organizations. While Phase I gets underway with Drexel, Penn Medicine, and Wawa, SEPTA will soon propose a tariff change to make the program permanent and allow for a wider Phase II expansion. A public hearing on the tariff and vote by the SEPTA Board are expected this spring.
“This rollout is just the start of what we hope will be a revolutionary initiative,” said Richards. “Our goal is to expand SEPTA Key Advantage to a diverse and inclusive group of employers, universities, and other businesses that are committed to the future of Greater Philadelphia.”