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San Francisco transit agency makes fare payments easier via app

Starting this summer, users of the app will no longer be required to have exact change or rely on fare vending machines to ride. The move underscores mobile’s ability to give customers a more convenient option in transit fare payments.

“Mobile ticketing brings a convenient, non-cash alternative to our customers’ hands,” said Travis Fox, the SFMTA’s chief information officer. “Tickets can be purchased in seconds anywhere there is cellular or Wi-Fi service, and can be activated anywhere and anytime.

“For the SFMTA, this is an opportunity to reach customers who currently use cash or non-Cliipper regional fare card media leveraging existing technology with minimal investment,” he said. “It’s a win-win for our customers and the agency.”

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SFMTA is partnering with GlobeSherpa, a provider of mobile ticketing and payment software, to deliver the project to Muni customers.

To purchase a fare for SF Muni, a consumer opens the mobile ticketing app to the “Buy Tickets” tab. Users indicate their rider type and fare type from the drop down menus provided. Their selection populates in the cart below.

Existing transit app.

If a rider requires more than one of a certain fare type, he or she can use the quantity selectors in the cart to increase the ticket quantity. The purchase total changes as items are added to the cart.

Once a user is ready to complete a purchase he or she simply proceeds to “Checkout.” Riders are able to save multiple credit/debit cards and purchases made within the app are completed in seconds.

After a slow start, public transportation organizations around the world have been embracing mobile ticketing to make it easy for riders to purchase and use tickets from their smartphones.

For example, in Portland, OR, the TriMet Tickets app is available for use on both local buses and trains, enabling users to purchase transit tickets anywhere at any time that can be used on TriMet buses, MAX trains, WES Commuter Rail and the Portland Streetcar.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority also rolled out a new mobile ticketing service, giving commuters a way to purchase and display rail tickets on their smartphones.

Last week, Barclays Pingit gave riders of Britain’s First West Yorkshire bus service a mobile payment option.

Besides providing consumers with a secure way to pay with their phone and not have to carry cash or exact change, mobile ticketing saves transportation agencies the cost of printing tickets.

It also is a way to introduce customers to making payments from their mobile device, a timely development coming as 2015 shapes up as year when mobile payments are expected to accelerate with the advent of Apple Pay.

Bright outlook
“Mobile ticketing has moved from a nice to have, optional technology to a must have requirement for riders of transit,” Mr. Fox said. “So the outlook is very bright indeed.

Providing value to both riders and the transit agency.

“Mobile ticketing provides value to both regular and incidental transit riders by providing a low-barrier, convenient sales channel for purchasing and the use of tickets for transit.

“It also provides access to real-time information for riders needing transit arrival times and parking availability,” he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.