Smartphone ticketing rolls out for train riders

The mTicket application is available for both iOS and Android devices

In the first U.S. implementation of smartphone ticketing for train passengers, Boston commuters can purchase and display tickets using the mTicket application for iOS and Android smartphones.

London based Masabi developed the technology and manages the back end of the system. New York's Metro North Railroad piloted the ticketing technology earlier this year. Masabi is working with a number of other transit agencies in the U.S., but wouldn't say which ones. The company's technology is already being used in the U.K. by Virgin Trains and other rail companies.

"Their phone becomes their vending machine and their ticket," said director of innovation for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) Joshua Robin[cq]. "In just the first few days we've seen 7,000 downloads of the app and about $20,000 in tickets purchased."

The mTicket application could ease the frustration of both passengers and conductors. Less than half of the MBTA's 140 commuter rail stations have fare vending machines, which means customers boarding on those stops need to buy tickets on the train. If the stations do have vending machines and customers still opt to buy tickets on the train, there's a $3 surcharge. For conductors, mTicket means not having to handle the millions of dollars in fares collected every year. There would also be less debris in the train cars from punched paper tickets.

After downloading the app, riders can purchase their tickets, then activate them, which allows their smartphones to display a series of colored bars for the conductors to verify. There's also a QR code that can be scanned, but that won't happen for every rider, Robin said.

To see the mTicket app in action at Boston's North Station, watch a video on YouTube.

Riders to and from Boston's South Station will be able to buy tickets using the app by December and monthly passes will be rolling out soon, according to Robin.

"We know we're doing well because the biggest complaint is that it's not available for everything yet," Robin said.

Two years ago the MBTA developed an application that allowed commuters to track buses on their smartphones. Robin said that the mTicket application is the next step in the MBTA's vision "to allow customers to do just about any transaction on their phones."

Robin said that originally the MBTA wanted to bring its contactless payment system used on the subways and trolley cars, called Charlie Cards, to the commuter rail, but found that it would cost $70 million.

"We just want customers to be able to come up to the gate and use whatever device or whatever they already have in their wallets," he said.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags mobile applicationstransportationmobileindustry verticals

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nick Barber

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?