Smartphones Are the New Ticket Machines as Metro-North Tests App

Commuters on Metro-North Railroad, the nation’s busiest rail line, will soon be able to buy and display tickets on their smartphones if a pilot program proves successful.

Workers will begin trying the mobile-ticketing application next month, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the railroad, said in a statement today. The app will be expanded to customers if the test goes smoothly, the agency said without specifying a date, and will be offered on iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys.

“We are as excited to begin testing the next generation ticket-selling technology as we were when we introduced ticket vending machines a quarter of a century ago,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said in the statement. “The latest test is intended to ensure that the newest technology will be equally easy to use, as well as secure and reliable.”

The MTA is working with the U.S. branch of London-based Masabi Ltd., which developed the mobile-phone ticketing technology used by 13 transit agencies in the U.K.. Masabi is also working with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to introduce a similar system this year.

“Smartphones have the potential to transform the public transit systems across the United States,” Giacomo Biggiero, Director of Masabi US Ltd., said in the statement. “Passengers will be able to quickly and easily find, buy and display tickets on their phones wherever they are without having to worry about carrying cash or waiting in line.”

Masabi’s technology also supports contactless “near-field communications,” which allows tickets to be checked or gates opened when phones are waved over a sensor.

That technology, though not yet widely used, is similar to a New Jersey Transit program that lets some commuters pay for fares using sensors set up by Google Inc. (GOOG) The third-largest U.S. transit system became the first to partner with the company on its Google Wallet “tap-and-pay” system last year, joining retailers including The Container Store, Foot Locker and Macy’s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Esmé E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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