If you haven't yet learned about the new initiative that's part of a broader strategy for an inclusive post-pandemic plan for the region, Key Advantage is SEPTA's new institutional pass program. It allows institutions to purchase passes for all their eligible members at a fraction of the price of an all-access pass. The commitment to purchase passes for everyone helps an organization spread costs out across the entire population, significantly reducing per-person costs to less than $1 per day.
The program was first piloted with three major employers in the region: Penn Medicine, Drexel University, and Wawa stores. While the pilot helped uncover some challenges of the program, it was ultimately a huge success. In July, SEPTA opened the program up beyond the three pilot partners, making Key Advantage available to large corporations with 500 or more employees. FMC will soon be joining the program, offering their employees free transit starting in November.
Earlier this month, SEPTA lowered the threshold: now companies with 50 or more employees are eligible to sign up for Key Advantage. The timing of this rollout aligns nicely with Philadelphia's new commuter benefits bill that goes into effect in January 2023. Employers with 50 employees or more will soon be required to offer some sort of transit benefit to their employees. While Key Advantage isn't the only option to fulfill this requirement, it's a great way for companies to help employees lower their commuting costs, support return-to-office plans, reduce parking demand, and improve sustainability efforts.
Along with the announcement to expand to program to more employers in the region, SEPTA announced the Key Advantage UPass: an all-access pass for college and university students. Structured much like the employer program, schools can purchase passes for all of their students, or can pass these costs along to students via a small transportation fee. Not only could these passes help students get to school and to jobs or internships, but also help encourage younger folks to explore Philadelphia. This could be a great opportunity to reduce brain drain in the region and keep more students in Philadelphia following graduation.
It's an exciting time for SEPTA and for the institutions that are signing up for Key Advantage. The program will eventually expand to cover employers of all sizes, and also allow commercial and residential landlords to offer passes to their tenants.
In 2022, ESI assisted Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) with research, development, and implementation of the Key Advantage program. In support of this program, ESI led a research effort into comparable programs in other regions such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Seattle, analyzed potential pricing models, and provided strategic recommendations and support on implementation. ESI continues to support planning efforts to expand the availability of the SEPTA Key Advantage to additional organizations through the development of a permanent program structure and guidelines.
Tiffany Hudson is a senior analyst at ESI. Ms. Hudson provides expertise in economic development, marketing strategies, infrastructure planning, as well as business and government strategies. Her experience dates back to 2013 when she was a sales analyst and category manager for Kao, USA. Ms. Hudson has 8 years of professional experience in project management, data analysis, client management, spatial analysis, design thinking, and strategic planning.