Praise for the Commuter Rail's Mobile Ticketing

It's nice to see Boston transit getting out ahead of its peers.

Commuter rail riders have purchased more than $1 million of tickets using their smartphones as of this week, and in a post at The Atlantic Cities, Emily Badger heaps some high praise on the MBTA for getting ahead of the curve with its mobile ticketing system. We’re the first municipal transit system in the country to offer mobile ticketing, and as the MBTA’s chart of usage shows, more and more of us seem to like it:

To the uninitiated, allowing people to buy and scan tickets on their smartphones might seem like an extravagance. Having attempted to use an iPhone screen in place of a paper airline ticket once, only to be told to wait in a different security line because the first line’s special phone scanner was broken, this writer knows that sometimes, fancy phone technology is a little needlessly space-agey. (Do we really need a robot to answer the question, “Is that rain?“) Plus, the commuter rails hadn’t even adopted Charlie Cards yet when they started making the move to smartphone ticketing. Badger does a good job explaining why mobile ticketing is particularly well-suited to commuter rail travel and why they skipped the Charlie Card system:

Eastern Massachusetts has 200 miles of commuter rail, with 135 stations, most of them on open-air platforms that have neither ticketing kiosks nor entry and exit turnstiles. Riders instead hand over or pay for paper tickets with conductors on-board, or flash their monthly passes. For smart cards to work on commuter rail, conductors would have to walk through train cars carrying a portable, laptop-sized card reader

[…] Mobile ticketing, on the other hand, entails the promise that your ticket office could be anywhere – or, rather, in your back pocket.

As the mobile option gains in popularity, transit systems will likely start saving on the various costs associated with selling and collecting fares for rides. In an age of perpetual whining about mass transit, much of it deserved, it’s nice to give praise when the MBTA does something well, and does it not just to catch up with its peers, but to get out ahead of them. [The Atlantic Cities]