T invites commuter rail riders to sign up for updates on smartphone ticket app

The MBTA’s plan to allow commuter rail customers to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones took a step closer to becoming a reality over the weekend, when the MBTA launched a website for customers to sign up for project updates. T officials said the website is the first step in a process that will also involve a pilot program this fall.

Customers with an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry will eventually be able to download a free application that will serve as an interface to buy one-way, round trip, 10-ride, and monthly tickets and passes using debit or credit cards, the T said. The app is being developed by Masabi US Ltd., a firm that has created similar apps for rail agencies in England.

“Customers now have the ability to sign up to receive updates on the implementation of the pilot program,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis. “As it develops, we will provide them with information so that if they want to participate in the pilot, they will be able to do that.”

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The app will also serve as the ticket itself, Davis said. Once a rider purchases a pass, it can be displayed on the phone’s screen, and validated by a conductor.

“The pass will be displayed on their phone and they would show it to a conductor, who will be able to readily discern that it is valid fare media,” Davis said. “What we wanted to do is implement a more convenient way for customers to pay their fare.”

Davis said he expects the T to launch the pilot program on one commuter rail line in the early fall and expand the pilot to all lines by late fall. He said the MBTA will be the first commuter rail system in the country to roll out mobile ticketing.

“With this new and innovative approach, we are putting a ticket machine right in the palms of our customers’ hands,” Davis said in a statement when the project was announced in April.

With an estimated two-thirds of riders carrying smartphones, the application could also make fare collection more efficient on crowded trains and reduce on-board cash transactions for the MBTA, the agency said. The MBTA runs the nation’s fifth-busiest commuter rail network.

To sign up for program updates, visit mbta.com/fares_and_passes/passes/MobileTicketing/.

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