From General Manager Brian Lamb
When people leave their homes, there are a few essential items they’re likely carrying with them, including identification, credit or bank cards and a mobile phone.
Less likely to be in their pocket: a Go-To Card or the exact change it costs to board a bus or light-rail train.
Confusion about the fare and the need to have the right amount ready to board has long been a challenge for new or infrequent riders, sometimes discouraging them from using transit altogether.
Ticket vending machines that accept cash and credit cards at rail and rapid bus stations helped us begin to address this challenge. This week, we took another major step forward as we introduced a new Metro Transit app that allows people to buy and instantly use fares using a smartphone.
With the app, customers can purchase mobile tickets in advance and use them when they’re ready to ride. These customers will prove they’ve paid their fare by showing bus operators or police officers a screen with a unique, moving image that can’t be replicated or used after time has expired.
Created in partnership with tech company moovel, the app also provides access to our website’s most popular trip planning tools. In the future, it will give customers a simple way to let us know about immediate concerns and to receive alerts about the routes they most often use.
Operators and police have been trained to recognize valid mobile tickets over the last several months and a number of employees have successfully tested it in the field over the last few weeks.
Time will tell how the successful the app and mobile ticketing will be in attracting new customers, but there are several reasons to believe it will be a powerful tool. Consider:
> Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. adults own a smartphone, and a third have used them to make a mobile payment. Our largest customer group, Millennials, are even more likely to own a smartphone and use it to make purchases. For many low-income residents, smartphones are the only reliable access to online resources.
> The Twin Cities has become a top tourist destination, attracting more than 30 million visitors a year. An even greater number of visitors will arrive in the coming years for the Super Bowl and other large events. While special fare products that serve travelers have been introduced, mobile tickets are more immediate and convenient.
> About 72 percent of our website’s visits are from mobile devices and 16 percent of fares are sold through our online store. Use of a new service that allows customers to access NexTrip information by text message has grown exponentially since being introduced last June.
There are advantages for our operations, too. Cash-paying customers take more time at the farebox when boarding and face longer lines when buying tickets after large events. Customers who use mobile tickets will board just as efficiently as those using Go-To Cards.
While there are several clear advantages, the number of customers expected to use mobile tickets is likely to be small – we hope they will account for around 5 percent of all fare payments within the next year.
But getting customers to purchase their fares through the app on a regular basis isn’t really our goal. Instead, we want the app and mobile ticketing to move transit up on the list of options people consider when making a trip, eventually earning their trust so Go-To Cards become just as indispensable as their smartphones.
Learn how to download the app, create an account and purchase mobile tickets at metrotransit.org/app