Peabody award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Massachusetts Has First Smart Phone Rail Ticketing in U.S.
Monday, April 23, 2012 - 12:24 PM
By fall, MBTA riders will be able to purchase and display commuter rail tickets on their smart phones. The MBTA says this is the first for a commuter rail system in the U.S.
Less than half of the MBTA's 140 commuter rail stations have vending machines, forcing customers to buy tickets on board.
The MBTA says 2/3 of riders now have smart phones.
“With this new and innovative approach, we are putting a ticket machine right in the palms of our customers’ hands,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis, in a statement.
The tickets will work through barcodes that conductors will check -- also using smart phones.
The MBTA will pay the developer, Masabi US Ltd, 2.8 percent of each ticket price, the same price it pays small retail stores (coffee shops, newsstands), to sell their tickets.
"We're using the 'bring your own infrastructure' model," said the MBTA's Joshua K. Robin. "Instead of our buying vending machines, customers bring their own smart phones." Robin says a vending machine/smart card ticketing system for the MBTA was projected to cost $50-70 million.
The MBTA says it will use focus groups to design the new application, and will run a pilot in late summer. The full system will see the application in the fall.
Boston was one of the first transit systems in the nation to release real-time bus arrival information to software developers, a system now used by as many as a third of bus riders.