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Jawnt Partners with the City of Philadelphia to Support Launch of Zero Fare Program for Philadelphians with Low Income

Jawnt Partners with the City of Philadelphia to Support Launch of Zero Fare Program for Philadelphians with Low Income

The City of Philadelphia's two-year Zero Fare Program is one of the most expansive initiatives in the country to increase public transit access.

Will Sanderson
October 23, 2023

This month, the City of Philadelphia announced that the initial phase of its Zero Fare program is underway. The two-year pilot program is one of the most - if not the single most - expansive initiatives in the country to increase public transit access, with an anticipated 25,000 Philadelphia residents who live in poverty receiving all-access SEPTA passes.

The City is using Jawnt’s unified transit platform to keep participant information up-to-date; coordinate updates across City departments supporting program outreach efforts; enroll immigrant and refugee participants through a partnership with community-based organizations (CBOs) in Philadelphia; activate and deactivate Key cards; and more.

To date, hundreds of participants have successfully received their Zero Fare Key cards, resulting in over 7,000 Zero Fare trips on SEPTA as of early October. By the end of the year, the goal is to engage and enroll 25,000 participants.

Zero Fare Press Conference
Philadelphia Mayor Kenney speaks at the Zero Fare Program launch press conference

The commitment from the City and unwavering support of SEPTA cannot be understated. The City of Philadelphia has committed $62 million to this program, with the goal of improving access to employment and broader socioeconomic outcomes for those residents who are most in need. Participants can use these passes to access all the facilities and services that Philadelphia has to offer, including libraries, medical facilities, and more.

In a recent community engagement survey conducted by the City, 39% of Philadelphia residents in poverty cited transportation as their biggest obstacle to finding and sustaining employment. The 25,000 Zero Fare participants will no longer have this issue. The City has chosen to enroll 90% of these participants directly in the program and 10% through CBOs, ensuring support for both Philadelphia citizens and for immigrant and refugee communities.

“The benefits of this program are wide-ranging with the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for many Philadelphia residents.” - Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney

He continued, “We anticipate that Zero Fare pilot program participants will have better access to healthcare, social services, and employment opportunities. We also hope that they will be able to visit family easier and enjoy all the benefits that Philadelphia has to offer.”

Other cities across the country have rolled out similar programs, but none have reached the magnitude of Philadelphia’s initiative. It is unparalleled in terms of the size of the participant group (25,000), modes of transportation offered (all SEPTA services, including transit, regional rail, and CCT), and subsidy amount (100% covered).

And while 25,000 is a significant number, theCity recognizes that it does not come close to the number of people who meet the program eligibility criteria in Philadelphia— a city infamous for being the country’s ‘Poorest Big City.’ There’s a long road ahead to improve residents’ economic mobility citywide, but this program is a step in the right direction. The City has built in robust program evaluation leveraging the Jawnt platform to understand outcomes and to identify opportunities to sustain and potentially expand the program beyond the two-year pilot phase.

The City and SEPTA continue to demonstrate their commitment to improving the quality of life for those living in poverty and helping them to move to higher income levels, and Jawnt is honored to play a part in this monumental initiative.


There are so many people who have been instrumental in the rollout of this program, but we’d like to especially thank the Program Director Nicola Mammes and Research and Policy Manager Nicola Coakley. Thank you!

Will Sanderson

The Jawnt blog

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