The smart-card pie-in-the-sky is finally in the oven, SEPTA announced today, and its happy baker, SEPTA's chief officer of new-payment technology, John McGee, estimated cooking time at three years.
Meanwhile, McGee invites the riding public to talk with him and his new-payment technology (NPT) techies about anything involved in transitioning from mostly cash to mostly cashless fare collection, starting today at SEPTA headquarters on Market Street near 12th, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also starting today, the riding public can communicate with SEPTA at www.septa.org/fares/ npt/contact.html and can access www.septa.org/fares/npt/ for all the latest NPT updates.
SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney called the transit agency's $175 million NPT project "arguably the biggest . . . in our generation" - surpassing the 10-year rebuilding of the Market Street El, which wasn't exactly small potatoes, because it affects all riders.
"It's not going to be easy," Maloney said, which might be "arguably the biggest" understatement "in our generation," because this is a total makeover of a mass-transit system that makes more than 300 million trips annually and serves 70 percent of the office workers in Center City. SEPTA also has to bring 154 Regional Rail stations, many of which look like scenes from old westerns, into the 21st century, farewise.
SEPTA will award the NPT contract this summer to one of three prospective vendors, but the transit agency has already upgraded bus fareboxes and installed fiber optics on the Market-Frankford El so they are ready for contactless cards no matter who wins the contract.