SEPTA phasing out token sales on subway lines

It’s the beginning of the end for SEPTA tokens.

SEPTA is going to stop selling the long-used coinage at stops along the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines, the authority announced Wednesday. The phaseout should begin in mid-January and be complete by March. Tokens are going to still be sold, for now, at SEPTA’s headquarters at 1234 Market St., at Regional Rail stops, and at 200 area retailers.

The transit authority has been transitioning to a single-fare tool, the SEPTA Key smart card, since last year. Key card kiosks are now in every subway stop, and the fare card is expected to be introduced through a pilot program on Regional Rail early in 2018. SEPTA is the last major American transit organization to still use tokens as a payment method. New York City did away with tokens in 2003.

SEPTA has been using tokens since 1968, when they were introduced as a fare for students at 10 for $1, according to a history of the token that SEPTA provided. They became available for all riders nine years later, when the fare for a SEPTA trip was 45 cents. SEPTA didn’t make tokens a cheaper payment option until 1982, when paying with a token was four cents cheaper than the 75-cent fare at the time.

The metal alloy coins have been more or less the same size since their introduction, SEPTA said. Tokens are now worth $2 each, compared with the $2.50 cash fare.

SEPTA is making official a trend that has been underway for more than a year. SEPTA sold 2.2 million tokens last month, compared with 3.2 million in November 2016. Machine sales have declined by 60 percent since July 2016, and window sales have been halved. SEPTA has been removing token machines from subway stops; now there are only 40 left to take away.

SEPTA has yet to set a deadline for the final demise of tokens in Philadelphia. The 15 million tokens now in circulation will eventually be melted down and sold for scrap.