MTA Metro-North Railroad To Test Smartphone Ticketing This Summer

Images on screens of iPhones, Androids and Blackberries will let people buy their train tickets anywhere, anytime and never have to hold a piece of paper!

Smartphone Ticketing image

Metro-North, working with transit mobile ticketing specialists Masabi US Ltd., will begin testing a smartphone app that could allow customers to use today's phones to quickly and securely buy and display electronic tickets. In this way they can avoid queues at ticket machines or having to use cash on-board trains.

The railroad expects the next generation of ticket selling technology to be as exciting as the introduction of ticket vending machines a quarter of a century ago.

Customers adapted quickly to TVMs and the machines became the preferred way to buy tickets.

Before it is introduced, the railroad must prove that smartphone ticketing is as easy to use and as secure and reliable as ticket vending machines.

During the pilot, railroad employees will act as users and will be able to download the free app to their iPhone, Android or Blackberry phones. Through the app, these users can buy any type of ticket, one-way, round trip, 10-trip, monthly etc., with any origin and destination using their credit or debit cards to make the purchase.

The time and date stamped electronic ticket shows up on the purchaser's phone screen as a secure image that a conductor can validate visually. The electronic ticket also shows as a bar code that can be scanned by a conductor's hand held device to verify that the barcode is valid.

Later this summer, railroad staff will begin testing the mobile ticketing technology including a time measurement study to compare the new method to current on-board ticket selling, collection and inspection. Efficacy and anti-fraud measures also will be tested. If successful, Metro-North will seek to expand the program to its customers.

Masabi US Ltd also is working with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to introduce smartphone rail ticketing system this fall. Masabi's technology also supports the future move to contactless “near-field communications" technology when these handsets become more widely available, allowing tickets to be checked or gates opened by simply tapping a compatible device against a reader.

The company's technology also is used by many transit agencies in the UK, including Virgin Trains, Cross Country Trains, Chiltern Railways and thetrainline.com.