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Boston will host the first smartphone rail ticketing system in the US this fall

April 26, 2012

Everyone who’s been traveling by train in the US lately knows how much of a hassle it is to get a ticket and how inconvenient the whole process is in most stations. If you’re lucky enough to have ticket vending machines at your local station, they are often flooded by commuters, which means wasted time and the risk to lose the train. There are also many stations where you cannot find vending machines, so you have to buy your tickets directly on the train, which is even more troublesome and time-consuming.

However, if you happen to live in Boston, own a smartphone and travel a lot by train, most of the hassle should go away by this fall. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has just announced the launch of US’ first smartphone rail ticketing system, which should be in place in just a few months.

How will the service work? Well, it’s pretty simple, and it only entails owning a smartphone with an Internet connection. You will be able to buy your train tickets and passes online, and, with the help of an iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry app, you will have your virtual ticket checked or scanned in no time.

The app will show a unique bar code and an animated watermark with a background color that changes according to the day. Train conductors will either conduct quick visual inspections of your phone or scan the bar code to ensure you’re not trying to fraudulently travel across the great state of Massachusetts.

The new rail ticketing service will be tested over the summer with a pilot group, and, if everything goes according to plan, train traveling should become funner and more hassle-free in Boston starting this September. It’s also worth mentioning that the system should work smoothly with MBTA’s contactless CharlieCard as well, allowing monthly pass holders to link their cards to their accounts and charge them via their smartphones.

Aside from speeding up the ticketing process for commuters, the new service should be financially profitable for the MBTA as well, if we are to believe the authority’s own claims, as they will no longer have to buy or maintain vending machines and will also cut the costs of handling cash.

It’s a win-win situation, folks, at least in theory, because for the time being we have no idea how will the system work in reality and if it will in fact improve the process of purchasing train tickets. It will also be interesting to see if other transportation authorities across America will follow Massachusetts’ suite and will try to turn into reality what was until a few years ago subject for science-fiction movies.

In any case, stay tuned on our website and we will bring you additional news on the matter as soon as we will get a hold of them!