SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JeffK » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:52 pm

ChesterValley wrote:This leads me to a question I have had for the past two years watching this system develop, What would have been a better way to implement the Key?

Certainly they should have followed basic best-practice steps for creating and implementing any large software project, regardless of whether it's a fare system, automated supermarket checkout, whatever. Some general principles that SEPTA appears to have ignored or minimized:

- Determine what the new system should do, but be very conscious of falling into the "we've always done it that way" tar pit when analyzing.
- Study the existing system to understand what works and what doesn't work. In particular, determine what its most popular and/or heavily-used features are.
- Look at similar operations elsewhere to learn how they handle those same good and bad points, AND whether they offer additional functionality that could be part of the new system (the "oh heck, why didn't we think of that?" moment). Similarly, if there's something proposed for the new system that doesn't exist elsewhere, ask both why and whether it's really needed. (As the confusing Travel Wallet shows, there are reasons that some supposed innovations have never been innovated...)
- Synthesize the prior 3 points to create a high-level functional spec; i.e. one describing what the new system should do and why, NOT how it should do it. Open that document for both internal and public input and where practical, modify it accordingly.

(glossing over vendor selection here ...)

- Build prototypes of client-facing parts of the system and test them on real end-users, NOT just with in-house people . Even if a TVM mockup has a Potemkin Village interface with an engineer & developer responding behind the scenes to user inputs, you'll at least see how the interface works with "real" people, not just internal types who already have a tech bent. If they stumble, find out why and address it!
- Allow a shakeout period during which the old system co-exists with the new one where possible, instead of pulling the plug as soon as new functionality becomes available. Case in point: removing token machines as soon as the first Quick Trip TVMs were installed.

As far as specifics go, I agree by and large with your suggestions.

- The purchase fee could perhaps be kept as an incentive to register the card, but with fewer hoops for users to jump through. I haven't had to deal with it (one of the few advantages of being over 65, haha!) but my understanding is the rebate involves a couple of steps to transfer funds to the $&@! Wallet, then converting them to trips, not sure here ...
- Multi-tap functionality is needed. It's ridiculous to force a group of people like a family, students, tourists, etc. to have to buy separate cards for what may be very limited-term use. (Again, sharability was one of those core functions available with tokens that SEPTA perversely decided to do away with.)
- The reload fee should be reduced. Five bucks may be convenient for bookkeeping on SEPTA's end, but it doesn't correspond to a whole number of trips with or without transfers. At a minimum make it $4 and allow $1 increments. Heck, DC Metro allows increments of a nickel or dime!
- GET RID OF TRANSFER FEES. A trip's cost, whether paid for via the Key, cash, whatever, shouldn't depend on the number of vehicles needed. At a bare minimum, start by allowing free transfers between the five transit rail lines (MFSE, BSS, NHSL, 101, 102) and connecting buses to encourage their use as feeders.
- At least until transfer fees are abolished, relax the 90-minute transfer window for riders connecting to or from long routes. It's all too easy, esp. in the 'burbs, to need more than 90 minutes to make a connection, e.g. the 12X routes from CC to K of P followed by a transfer to a suburban bus that only runs every 30-60 minutes.
- TVMs at ALL Regional Rail stations, and/or elimination of the universally-hated onboard surcharge. Riders shouldn't be charged more just because the agency's incapable of offering reasonable sales options.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby MACTRAXX » Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:31 pm

ChesterValley wrote:
This leads me to a question I have had for the past two years watching this system develop, What would have been a better way to implement the Key?

A couple of fixes I would like to propose: elimination of the 5 dollar key purchase fee, group discounts for four or more people with a steeper discount for more people capped at 25% like NJ transit, reduced fare for college students, elimination of the on board surcharge, elimination of the transfer fee, automatic discount applied to a train that is in excess of 30 minutes late (well, I can dream), TVM's at higher usage stations outside of Center City i.e. Bryn Mawr/Paoli. Perhaps free interchange between the NHSL and El.

The bus division has eaten a 17% decline in ridership in the past 5 years, so SEPTA can only ignore these problems for so long

CV and Everyone:
I will second Jeff K on his reply and add some of my own observations:
1-5 dollar Key initial charge should be applied to Travel Wallet or first incentive pass purchase
2-Discounts for families should be added promotion of the Family Independence Pass.
3-College discounts should be sponsored by area Colleges or other venues of higher education in conjunction with SEPTA.
4-The On-Board surcharge should only be applied when there is an adequate pre-purchase option before the time of boarding
a RRD train. The time allotment used to be 30 minutes before a train's scheduled arrival.
5-Transfer fees have been a perennial problem since SEPTA has increased the fee up and over 50 cents.
There should be a two hour transfer time period (Example: NYC area Metrocard transfers are two hours from the initial use)
to allow for routes with hourly or less service to be covered.
6-TVMs should be installed at stations that have a large enough ridership to justify their expense.
Low-ridership stations should be considered "Exception" stations in which there would be NO PENALTY CHARGE.
This is how the LIRR handles their lowest-ridership stations which do not warrant placement of TVMs.
Everyone should realize that TVMs need to be monitored at all times and be protected from any form of abuse or vandalism.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby ChesterValley » Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:06 pm

I need to make a bit of a correction, I forgot SEPTA does offer a discounted legacy Trailpass for about 10% off for Drexel, Temple, Penn, and several other. The reason I don't use Drexel's is I can't get my permit parking though that program plus you have to order it 2 months in advance. However what I was envisioning what UMTA offers which is $1 per day for unlimited rides on the bus and metro rail, or at least a 30% discount like the London Underground. Or what SEPTA does for the seniors applied to college students or even high school students to a degree, forcing a .edu address for a key card user with only drexel/temple/Penn etc. for registration isn't hard. Just really anything to introduce people to SEPTA and make people think of SEPTA as a first option and not as a last resort.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JeffK » Wed Oct 17, 2018 11:42 pm

MACTRAXX wrote:
ChesterValley wrote: 6-TVMs should be installed at stations that have a large enough ridership to justify their expense. Low-ridership stations should be considered "Exception" stations in which there would be NO PENALTY CHARGE. This is how the LIRR handles their lowest-ridership stations which do not warrant placement of TVMs.
MACTRAXX

And that was how SEPTA and its predecessor agencies handled the penalty charge for decades. Interestingly, the first time they tried to impose unconditional penalties there was such a pushback from riders, unfortunately up to and including confrontations with conductors, that SEPTA backed off. Then someone had the bright idea of rebranding what had been the standard fare as "advanced* [sic] purchase" and the surcharged fare as "on-board". At the same time the surcharge was changed from a fixed $2 to a variable amount intended to limit the need for conductors to carry coins while also skimming yet more from riders **. That level of obfuscation, plus instructions to conductors to deny that the on-board fare amounts to a surcharge, has been a enough of a smokescreen to avoid most opposition despite its inequity.

* S/b "advance", but grammar's not a big deal in SEPTA-speak
** It took a couple of tries for me to reverse-engineer their algorithm. The on-board fare is rounded up to the next whole dollar to avoid needing coins, then an additional dollar is added to that - for no apparent reason other than that SEPTA can get away with it. Based on some admittedly unscientific observations when I ride the Airport Line, the surcharge on that route alone brings in well over $1 million a year in excess payments. :(
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JimBoylan » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:21 pm

JeffK wrote:Certainly they should have followed basic best-practice steps for creating and implementing any large software project. Some general principles that SEPTA appears to have ignored or minimized:
In particular, determine what its most popular and/or heavily-used features are.
Then determine which of them the Authority want to eliminate, and if this can be done by installing the new system.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JeffK » Thu Oct 18, 2018 6:39 pm

JimBoylan wrote:
JeffK wrote:Certainly they should have followed basic best-practice steps for creating and implementing any large software project. Some general principles that SEPTA appears to have ignored or minimized:
In particular, determine what its most popular and/or heavily-used features are.
Then determine which of them the Authority want to eliminate, and if this can be done by installing the new system.
😠 :P 😜 :P 😝 :P
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby zebrasepta » Sat Oct 20, 2018 9:54 pm

Although this doesn't pertain to the Regional Rail, SEPTA had problems with the Key system for the bus riders.

http://www2.philly.com/philly/business/ ... 81019.html

SEPTA bus riders were treated this fall to unintentional free rides that potentially numbered in the thousands due to what appears to be a software problem with the Key, the transit agency's smart-card fare system.

Buses reported failures with the onboard equipment that scans and records digital fare payments about 1,500 times from August to Oct. 12, SEPTA data show. While some of those failures may have been the result of problems as simple as a rider not having enough money on a card to pay for a bus trip, SEPTA officials said, a significant number of the failures resulted from card readers freezing. Once that happened, bus drivers were directed to board all Key-carrying passengers for free until the problem was fixed, which in some cases was not possible until after a bus finished its route.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JeffK » Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:24 am

... which further demonstrates that they pushed the Key out with inadequate testing, and should have the old system to run in parallel for a longer time.

I realize no system hits the streets without some glitches, but this failure rate makes me wonder how much stress testing and scalability testing was actually done. Given that the Key is overcomplicated and behind schedule, I wouldn't be the least surprised that there was enormous pressure to push parts of it out the door before they were solid.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby ChesterValley » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:34 am

I finally got some confirmation, however flimsy, on the next steps of the SEPTA key rollout. From what I overheard: SEPTA is not deploying any additional TVM's at outlying regional rail stations, while cutting the hours of the ticket offices. They will keep in place the surcharge, I heard it referred to as a "ticket office discount" effectively creating a convoluted fare hike that we already figured. Cash will always be accepted on trains for the foreseeable future, tickets will be sold until at least the end of December guaranteed. Zone 2 rollout is scheduled for November and Zone 1 for December based on the timeline, subject to change.

One of the reasons for delays: SEPTA can't figure out how to have someone tap in and tap out with the Key card and have the Conductor scan the card without it charging double between two close intermediate stations.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby Head-end View » Mon Oct 22, 2018 7:35 pm

They just thought of that now???!!!! LOL Shouldn't that have been part of the original design and engineering of the system?
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JeffK » Mon Oct 22, 2018 9:07 pm

Head-end View wrote:They just thought of that now???!!!! LOL Shouldn't that have been part of the original design and engineering of the system?

That’s almost the theme of the whole project! It’s why they had to eliminate suburban transit zones, b/c there’s no rational way to have people tap off when exiting a bus or trolley. It’s also why the $1 RRD senior fare was dropped, b/c there's no way to store funds on a Senior Key card. The irony is that SEPTA's monomaniacal fixation with stopping the last dime of fare leakage blinded them to design flaws that will cost FAR more in the long run.

But still, if TVMs aren’t going to be installed at most RRD stations, that’s gonna be a huge hit for a lot of riders - potentially worse than eliminating transfers. If this plan can be confirmed, it sounds like it’s time to raise more fuss. The Inky's transit writer has finally started to shine a light on just how bad the Key is.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby ChesterValley » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:46 pm

Word of warning, this post is pure technical jargon I tried to water down.

An older post of mine mentioned something about orphaned based transactions, stating "Unlike most other transit fare systems, Key is account-based, not card-based." As it turns out, SEPTA is trying to adopted the new thing in transit fare systems called Account Based Ticketing or ABT for short. Here's a link on that type of new payment type: https://www.calypsonet-asso.org/sites/default/files/White%20Paper%20ABT%20Calypso%20Sept%202017.pdf

The long and short of it, APT is the next logical step in the internet of things. It will give SEPTA almost instant information on all routes, ridership levels, and perhaps other statistics based on info from credit cards.

The fundamental issues with the thing: on pages 25 to 27 of the pdf I'll try to summarize:

1. Network availability:
By its very nature it has to be hooked up to the internet at all times, otherwise it will just drop the transactions. This includes if the unit freezes up, which has been a known problem which still dogs SEPTA

2. Discounts.
According to the document, what's called pure identifies do not have markers for discounted accounts. In English, your account is only a number, and there is no way to assign you as a discounted account. Thus, no real way to discern if its say a senior discount.

3. Ticket inspections.
Without a fast and good network, the system will behave like sludge. For example, riding between Byrn Mawr and Haverford can be too close for the system to bounce a verification between the unit and the main network, but riding between Bryn Mawr and 30th is a sufficient time to clear the transaction. This is a known defect of the system.

4. Accounts
Everyone using the system has to have some sort of account full stop. This system is account based by nature, creating problems for those who cannot access accounts such as the poor. Additionally, this means that the medicare fare card cannot be counted. I'm guessing the quick trip was SEPTA's work around for short trips. On the plus side, we might have mobile ticketing.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby JimBoylan » Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:33 pm

p. 8 of the above link wrote:The back office can then aggregate the transactions, apply algorithms to calculate the appropriate fare and deduct this from a recognized and trusted account.
p. 11 wrote:• Non-anonymous accounts can be associated with special concessionary profiles like 65+, student or family. In this case, the fare can be adapted to the profile.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby zebrasepta » Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:15 pm

SEPTA is going to start charging for current RR parking lots that are free once the Key system is in place with a parking fee hike from the current 1$ to 1.25.
You will also be able to pay for parking with the Key system.
http://www2.philly.com/philly/business/ ... 81031.html
SEPTA plans to convert seven Regional Rail stations with free parking to paid lots.
The change will come to the Woodbourne, Bristol, Wissahickon, Ivy Ridge, Miquon, Conshohocken, and Levittown stations, the transportation agency said. The seven stations' lots combined have 1,500 parking spots.
Parking costs are expected to begin in the seven lots in 2019 to coincide with a parking fare increase systemwide and the installation of devices that can accept SEPTA's fare card, the Key, as payment for parking.
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Re: SEPTA NPT card will be "SEPTA Key"?

Postby dcipjr » Mon Nov 05, 2018 9:47 am

Unfortunate that the parking price is going up, but it'll be nice not to have to go on a coin hunt in the morning and deal with antiquated slot boxes.
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