The First Smartphone Rail Ticketing System in the United States

Commuters in Boston will be able to purchase and display tickets using a smartphone app before the end of the year, according to Railway Age.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is teaming up with Masabi to implement a ticketing system that uses smartphones instead of traditional passes and paper tickets. The move was partially made to save MBTA money, according to Masabi, but it also benefits commuters. Currently, less than half of MBTA’s commuter rail stations feature machines that sell tickets. Commuters at those stations are currently forced to purchase tickets on the train if they don’t have the plastic CharlieCard.

smartphone-rail-ticketing-system

The app will be available on BlackBerry, Android and iOS devices. It will allow commuters to make purchases at home and avoid waiting in line, which should save them time and frustration. When employees ask to see tickets, the app will display an e-copy of the ticket for perusal. Each ticket will include a barcode, helping to cut down on potential fraud; employees will carry smartphones with apps that identify legitimate barcodes. Similar systems are already in use in the UK, where Masabi is based.

Not only will the new system cut down on train-purchases and lost tickets, but it will also lower the MBTA expense budget. The system won’t cost much once it’s installed, unlike the current cards and tickets that are a daily expense for MBTA. There will be less need for cash handling and ticketing machines. Also, less waste will be generated with a smartphone app in place of traditional paper and plastic tickets.

A focus group will test the app this summer and give feedback to creators. It is expected to go live for all commuters in fall 2012. It is the first smartphone rail ticketing system in the United States.


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