By Marjorie Nesin
---- — GLOUCESTER — Whether you sprint to the bank for cash before jumping on a commuter rail, or try to remember to purchase tickets from a fare vending machine at your regular destination, your commuter fare shuffle could come to an end if you download a new smartphone application that allows commuters to purchase and load tickets on Android and Apple smartphones.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) his week became the first commuter rail system in the United States to host a mobile ticketing option, when the MBTA launched their mobile application, called MBTA mTicket, this week. The application has been the source of $3,500 in ticket sales on the Newburyport/Rockport Line since its Nov. 12 launch, according to Acting MBTA General Manager Jonathan Davis.
“We’ve gotten a considerable amount of favorable feedback from our customers,” Davis said. “We’ve worked closely with our conductors and they were very supportive, too.”
With the closest ticket kiosk to Cape Ann located in Lynn, riders in and out of stations at Rockport, Gloucester, West Gloucester and Manchester have, to this point, been excused from the normal $3 fee for purchasing tickets while aboard the train. Davis, however, said that — even as the smartphone application picks up steam — the MBTA will continue allowing commuters at stations without the fare vending machine to pay cash without the $3 surcharge.
“That won’t change. But, it’ll be much more convenient for them. They won’t have to deal with cash,” Davis said. “I see it as a very good convenience to our customers that they don’t have to be concerned with having the currency or the cash to pay their fare.”
Using the application, a commuter clicks a big “buy tickets” button, selects where to travel to and from, then selects whether to purchase a round-trip or one-way ticket. The user enters a credit or debit card number, which they can choose to save or not, then activates the ticket with a unique bar code. The large, simple buttons add ease for users, and the process is favorable not only to users but to the MBTA operational system as well.
“We’re doing it primarily to enhance the experience our customers have on commuter rail. But, yes certainly taking cash out of the system will lower our overall cost of collecting, counting and depositing cash.”
Rockporter Ellie Harris, who travels to Beverly Farms Station a few days a week, was waiting for the Gloucester train headed inbound Thursday and said she was glad the fares will stay the same for those without smartphones, even with the new payment option.
“I don’t have one of those little phones so I’m not going to get it,” Harris said.
At the Gloucester train station Thursday afternoon, as the 3:06 p.m. train to Rockport arrived, few people on the platform had heard of the application and many, like Harris would be unable to access it, not owning smartphones.
“I saw it at North Station yesterday, but I don’t know much about it,” Courtney Richiuts said as she waited for a ride home after exiting the train. “But it seems convenient.”
Richiuts rides the train to Bunker Hill Community College in Boston four days a week.
Gloucester teen Chris Rogers similarly rides the train to school at North Shore Academy in Beverly about once weekly.
“I would definitely use it ... it seems easier,” Rogers said. And, not having to pay cash, he said, “would be helpful.”
In coming months, the mTicket application, accessible now only to those on the northern commuter lines and buying only up to ten trips per ticket, will become available to commuters in the southern zones too, as well as to Blackberry users and monthly pass holders.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.