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Portland transit agency launches mobile ticketing for buses, trains

Portland, OR, transit riders can now easily purchase and use tickets from their smartphones via a new mobile ticketing application from local transit agency TriMet.

The TriMet Tickets app is available for use on both local buses and trains. The app enables user to purchase transit tickets anywhere at any time that can be used on TriMet buses, MAX trains, WES Commuter Rail and the Portland Streetcar.

“With mobile ticketing, transit customers can buy tickets and passes anytime, anywhere, with no need to carry exact change, wait in lines or make an extra stop at a ticket vending machine or retail ticket outlet,” said Mac Brown, director of Communications at GlobeSherpa, Portland, OR. “Tickets can be purchased in advance and validated when ready to board buses or trains.

“Also, mobile ticketing is paperless, so there is no paper ticket to keep track of and no need for riders to carry cash,” he said.

“For TriMet, mobile payments and ticketing adds a convenient option for customers with no capital investment or need for additional equipment on each bus or rail platform. Also, mobile tickets reduce the need for cash handling, secure transport, and counting. As a result, mobile tickets have the potential to save TriMet and other transit agencies millions of dollars a year.”

Mobile tickets
TriMet, which provides bus, light rail and commuter rail transit services in the Portland, OR, metro area partnered on the app with local software developer GlobeSherpa.

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play. After downloading it, users can register a debit or credit card to fund purchases.

To purchase tickets, users go to the “Buy Tickets” tab and choose rider type, fare and how many tickets they want. Next, users tap “checkout,” which takes them to the “My Tickets” tab.

To use a ticket, riders must open the app and press “Use” in the “My Tickets” tab to display their ticket. Riders then show their phone screen to the bus operator when boarding.

The mobile tickets are animated and feature the expiration date, fare type and correct day code.

Reducing operational costs
The tickets can be authenticated by tapping on any of the windows of a bus, which turns on the lights inside the bus to demonstrate that the animated ticket is not a video recording.

Tickets can also be authenticated by launching the unique QR code embedded in each ticket. The QR code can be displayed by tapping the blue button in the bottom right corner of the ticket.

TriMet personnel can then use a fare enforcement app to scan the code and verify the ticket.

Tickets can also be purchased from a computer on the TriMet Web site for use in the app. A minimum purchase of $5 purchase is required.

The app can also be used to check arrival times and will provide notifications and service updates.

A network or wireless connection is required to buy tickets via the mobile app. Once tickets are purchased, they are stored on the rider’s smartphone.

TriMet expects the app to help it save millions of dollars by reducing operating costs associated with printed and cash fares.

“There are a couple of mobile ticketing pilot programs in place today in limited markets, MBTA commuter rail line, NY Waterways, but TriMet is the largest and first to allow riders to use mobile tickets system wide – on both busses and trains,” Mr. Brown said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York