SEPTA is working out kinks in its mobile phone ticketing feature. Volunteer testers report frustration

The authority is forging ahead. It sent an additional 2,500 email invitations Wednesday afternoon to people who had expressed an interest in participating in the trial. At least 1,000 people downloaded the new software in the first 24 hours, officials said. And contactless payments with bank cards are coming soon.

The drive to upgrade its fare-collection technology comes at a pivotal time for SEPTA: It needs to revive its ridership before federal pandemic-recovery aid for transit systems is all spent. Overall, about 60% as many people are taking the authority’s buses, subways, trolleys, and Regional Rail trains as did in 2019.

Tester Todd Schwartz, of South Philadelphia, said he was disappointed because he expected an experience similar to using the Google or Apple payment platforms.

“It’s laborious, and they’re defeating the purpose by adding an extra step,” he said. “It would be easier just to flick out your Key Card.”