One, Two, Free: SEPTA’s New Key Card Program Launches at Swarthmore 

Swarthmore SEPTA Station

On May 11, President Val Smith announced the SEPTA Key Advantage UPass Pilot Program, an initiative that provides all Swarthmore students with free SEPTA passes for the 2023-24 academic year. The program gives students up to 8 rides a day on SEPTA affiliated lines, including rail and bus. For returning students, this means day trips and commutes are more convenient and cheaper than previous years. For first years, this gives an opportunity to explore the area cost-free. Train stations are abundant in Philadelphia, and regional rails connect disparate suburban communities. The metro runs from Fishtown to Packer Park, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many metro stations in Philadelphia are as close as a two minute walk from a stop on the main line. 

 In an interview with The Phoenix, Akira Tanglao-Aguas ’27 spoke about the benefits of the SEPTA program for ease of travel. 

 “I think it’s really useful, and it’s also way [more] convenient,” Tanglao-Aguas said. “I went to Philly with some friends before the SEPTA passes were activated and it was hard, at least much harder. It was so awful. We were trying to get tickets before a train left, and it just was not fun. [The program] also allows us to make mistakes; if I miss a train, it’s fine, because it’s free.” 

However, Zeyu Xie ’27 has reservations about the SEPTA metro system in Philadelphia and the inconvenience of a physical key card. 

“The metro smelled terrible,” Xie said. “I didn’t feel safe … It’s also pretty annoying that you can’t add your SEPTA pass to the Apple Wallet and have to carry it around all the time.” 

However, Xie also takes the main line frequently, saying he feels safe on the Media/Wawa line. 

In addition to their wide-range over Philadelphia, SEPTA also branches out into a vast network. New Jersey resident Pedro Ennes ’27 explained that free access to greater SEPTA allows students to visit home without financial strain. 

“I’ve used it quite a bit,” Ennes said. “Ever since I moved in [to Swarthmore], I’ve been back home on three weekends. It takes me three trains to get home and two of those are SEPTA. More than half my ride home is paid for by the College. Instead of 30 dollars, it only takes me 10 to go home and come back each way. Considering I’m also a FLI student, it takes this financial burden off of me to see my family when I’m homesick.” 

Students who commute into Philadelphia to work have also seen a benefit. 

“I work two jobs in Philly,” said Elaine Kim ’23.5.  “The card is super helpful since my lab job has me commuting around the city; transportation becomes pretty pricey.”.

The college previously issued daily SEPTA passes ad-hoc through the Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility. Passes were granted strictly to students pursuing certain internships, course field trips, and other academic activities. Today, standardized and streamlined, these new passes are here for everyone. So, make haste. A trip to the city is not a wasted evening. 

Even if it was, it wouldn’t matter: it’s free.

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