Passengers on the Quincy, Hull, and Hingham commuter boats will soon be able to use their phones for their tickets, leaving the days of scrounging for cash or standing in line for ticketing machines behind.
According to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the mobile ticketing initiative will be expanded not only to commuter train customers, but will make their way into the commuting boats as well, possibly by late fall.
Similar to an existing Starbucks or LevelUp app, the mobile application enables customers to use their credit or debit cards to put money on the mobile ticket, which is then accessible by phone.
Once purchased, the app enables customers to see a scannable QR codes for a short period of time – long enough to be scanned by a conductor, but short enough to only be accessible for one trip – which is then scanned by a hand-held device by the conductor.
As a pilot program, the MBTA plans to first roll out the platform to commuter train passengers in the South Shore, selecting only approximately 300 customers starting in September.
“Before we do the roll out to every line, we will test it on a small set of lines – the Greenbush and Old Colony Line. We received a lot of interest on those lines. Customers signed up on MBTA.com are included in that pilot,” said Joshua K. Robin, director of innovation for the MBTA.
Though the technology won’t be available on the boats until it is available to all commuter customers later this fall, the news is still exciting, Robin said.
“Our feeling on it is rather than investing in machines that would take years, we’re able to put a vending machine in someone’s pocket, it would save us some money and is a real big improvement [on the current ticket],” Robin said.
The strategy follows a similar idea to use phones to transfer real-time data to customers. Rather than installing a countdown sign at the station, customers can access the location of the train themselves.
The new initiative also eliminates the need for increased ticket vending machines, not to mention the cost of installing more CharlieCard vending machines.
Similarly to the commuter rail, initially only some boat conductors will be equipped with the mobile scanning devices, using them for spot checks.
“We plan to tweak regularly on the pilot after a few months in the program. We will tweak the strategy very rapidly as we go,” Robin said.
To sign up for the new initiative, click here.