Trains that actually show up on time
It would be unfair to say that this summer’s service is representative of SEPTA’s usual performance, but the rate of delivering trains on time has nonetheless declined in the last three years (2015 was its "worst performance of the decade" with almost one in five trains running late), only worsened by an inability to bounce back during bouts of severe weather. In September, 10 trains will be reintroduced every week to make up for the 120 we lost during the summer, reportedly getting back to a regular schedule by October. Even with these plans, though, will SEPTA ever be able to get back to the 93% on-time rate the Philly Inquirer reported in 2013?
The answer, of course, is complicated, because as improvement projects are underway, the rollout and shiny new end product could still take years. A combination of old equipment, staff shortages, and the day-to-day unexpected issues that arise leave passengers -- and probably SEPTA, too -- longing for the days of 2013.
Likelihood: Somewhat likely, if you have lots of patience -- and time to wait.
An app-based payment system
SEPTA still sells COIN TOKENS in PLASTIC BAGGIES at one of the system’s most major hubs, 30th St Station. If you’re riding the regional rail and happen to be short on cash, or mistakenly thought you could pay by card, it’s not impossible that the conductor will boot you out at the next stop (speaking from personal experience). SEPTA will begin introducing SEPTA Key smartcards throughout the next couple of years, complete with modern payment methods across all transit and train lines, regional rail included. Presumably this would include paying through a smartphone, but SEPTA has been mostly hush on the details of that phase thus far.
Likelihood: Ask again in 10-15 years.
OK, it’s understandable that we'd a long time to wait before we can expect an app-based payment option. But what about a refillable card we can add money to at a kiosk, like they have in New York and DC? No more fishing for exact change on the Norristown High Speed Line, no more standing in line to buy a monthly or weekly pass from a window teller, no more accidentally spending too much in the middle of a transfer. You’ve probably seen those new-ish silver kiosks in some SEPTA stations reading "Just testing…” or the gleaming turnstiles at Dilworth Plaza that are prepped to accept SEPTA Key smartcards.
What you might not know, however, that SEPTA has *just* started rolling out phase two of the transition to smartcards, with a limited number of these flimsy icons of modernity sold in early August. SEPTA also reported that throughout August and September, more stops along the El and BSL will include fare kiosks for riders to reload passes onto a SEPTA Key card. It's all still for early adopters, and though it’s been a seemingly slow crawl to these cards, they do raise hopes of a smartcard future in Philly.
Likelihood: Pretty damn likely, though with, again, a lot of patience.