For Nat Parker, CEO of GlobeSherpa, mobile ticketing makes a lot of sense in today’s increasingly electronic world.
Mobile phones — especially smartphones — are now common devices possessed by the vast majority of the populous of North America. Everywhere you look, someone is using one of these phones for various tasks ranging from banking to menial updates to their social media accounts.
Parker noticed a lot of people use their smartphones while on a bus or a train, but not to access transit.
“We’re transit riders,” Parker said. “You know, it’s funny, it blows me away how many developers when we go to APTA or the Smart Card Alliance is a lot of them don’t ride the bus and they don’t really ride transit. For us, we believe in staying in touch with the experience of the user on an ongoing basis so we can ask ourselves how we can make this easier.”
Rise of the mobile phone
Fare collection companies and transit agencies are pushing mobile ticketing because of opportunities it presents to lower fare collection costs while offering appealing ways for riders to pay. Kim Green, president of SPX Genfare, said unlike traditional fare media, riders purchase the majority of the equipment as opposed to the transit agency and with a Pew Research Center showing 91 percent of adults have cell phones, it shows a deep market penetration.
“In transit it’s still kind of new, but there have been a number of pilot programs using mobile ticketing with some very impressive results,” Green said. “We expect to see this widely adopted in the next several years.”
According to a mobile ticketing report by Juniper Research, one in eight mobile subscribers will use their device for airline, bus, rail festival, cinema and sporting events by 2015. About 500 million people are projected to use a mobile device for transit access by 2015.
On Sept. 16, Dallas Area Rapid Transit launched GoPass, its new mobile ticketing option for customers. When launched leaders planned to have 50,000 people download the app and use it by year’s end, but just six weeks into the program, officials said 25,000 people had it on their phone.
“At this point we’ve had to revise our overall year end to 60,000,” said David Leininger, executive vice president and chief financial officer for DART. “But when we launched it, we thought at the time that 50,000 was a little aggressive.”
About 1,000 people per day are downloading GoPass, Leininger said. With all the downloads, he said they’re also happy with the feedback DART is getting about the mobile option.
“It has been a very, very good introduction and the customers really, really like it,” Leininger said. “Customers have been giving a lot of positive feedback and we’ve gotten a lot of positive press.”
TriMet and the Portland Streetcar also launched its new ticketing app in September, which was developed by GlobeSherpa to work on both systems. In its first six weeks, Parker said there were 16,000 regular users, 18,000 total users, 158,000 tickets sold and more than $700,000 in sales.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but TriMet had some numbers that were much lower,” Parker said. “We were very bullish on mobile payments.”
Integrating transit with smartphones
Amol Deshmukh, vice president of mobile financial services solutions at Gemalto, said mobile payments are attractive because of the advent of near field communication (NFC) in cell phones, which changes the ticketing infrastructure for transit agencies, who don’t have to use their own equipment as fare media.
It also transforms how passes are used because riders can then use the same app to purchase goods at a nearby store or for other events, which allows agencies to have their app become a common tool for riders to use in everyday life.