new york ferries: the first smartphone payment system for transit?

Ny waterway

That's what I'm being told about the new fare system at the Hudson River ferry operator New York Waterway.  You can now buy a ticket using your smartphone and then use the phone itself to present the ticket to the fare reader, similar to the "digital boarding passes" already used by airlines.  No paper required.  Expect this to spread in high-end commuter markets.

It would be great to see this spread in urban bus transit, where boarding times are still a dominant problem, but that will rely a very easy-to-use app and compatibility with smartcard media now under development.  My guess is that we'll get a ubiquitous commercial smartcard-creditcard first, which will do the same job.

Photo: Hoboken Condos

18 Responses to new york ferries: the first smartphone payment system for transit?

  1. soulz January 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Not that new:

  2. Wai Yip Tung January 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Smart phone is not fast at all. You have to turn on the phone, swipe to unlock it, launch the app, and then probably a few more steps to get what you want. That is if you not run into an assortment of app, UI, or network problem. Pulling a paper ticket from your wallet is actually faster. I don’t know why is all these excitement of mobile phone payment comes from.
    Smart card is the way to go. I don’t see how smart phone can be useful.

  3. Alon Levy January 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Helsinki already has an option to pay for a ticket by text message. And its metro uses POP.

  4. Morten Skou Nicolaisen January 5, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    Denmark has long used both sms and smartphone tickets.

  5. Ncbarnard January 5, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    Unless you’re completely ready with the phone this’ll take more time. I have the Starbucks card app which as far as I can see works the same way. Sometimes I use the app, sometimes its faster to get my card out. Depends how long I’ve been waiting and if I’ve already got the phone in my hand.
    That being said I used a mobile boarding pass for American Airlines onetime, it took the TSA guys so long to scan it I’ll never mess with it again..

  6. TransitPlannerMunich January 5, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    Install a proof of payment system like it is common in most of Europe, with ticket machines at the stops or even inside the vehicles, from time to time some ticket inspectors and all is fine, especially the boarding time. Ticket machines can indeed give back change, accept card payment and any type of cash, so no problem for the rider.
    If you have an additional smartphone-option and you can show that to the ticket inspectors, then okay, another nice option. But the biggest improvement is the proof of payment.

  7. Tom West January 5, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    I’ve been to cities where you board a bus, put money in one slot, the driver presses a button for your ticket type, and your ticket and CHANGE come out of another slot… cunningly placed a step away to get you moving.
    Frankly, transit agencies that don’t give change are a rip-off. Where else must you give exact money for a service?

  8. Jon Frank January 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    For any of you who haven’t actually ridden the NY Waterway ferry (I’m assuming none of the other commenters have), I’d like to point out based on my personal experience in the last couple days that this is actually quite a bit faster than waiting in line at the ticket machine. This is especially great in the winter time. On top of that, with this app I don’t have to worry about losing my monthly pass like I have in the past with my paper one. According to the deckhands, if I lose my phone or change it, the tickets are stored in a cloud so I can just use it on my new phone without even having to call them.
    Also, proof of payment system wouldn’t work because they are boarding 300 of us in about 30 seconds to a minute. This system has definitely made my daily commute faster and warmer and I wish NJ Transit would take a note from these guys.

  9. Alon Levy January 6, 2012 at 12:33 am #

    Jon: in some cities that issue personalized monthly passes, if you get caught by inspectors without a pass but have one that you forgot at home, you can show your pass later and avoid paying the fine.
    Also, you misunderstand how POP works if you think that boarding 300 people is a problem. On the contrary, POP means no ticket checks at boarding, but only after the vehicle is in motion. For a New York example, SBS has a very poorly done version of this (monthly pass holders still need to swipe, ticket machines are at stations only and not also on the buses, inspectors hold the bus while checking tickets).

  10. Maxwell Burick January 6, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    Norfolk’s Tide light rail has been using etickets since October 2011:

  11. Pete Brown January 6, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Arriva, one of the UK’s major bus groups has offered smart phone tickets for a while now:
    First Group are starting to roll out card readers nationwide for contactless credit/debit cards. This is how their Bristol & Bath operating subsidiary announced it:

  12. tacony palmyra January 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    It’s not quite public transit, but I use my phone to show my reservation number whenever I take Megabus. I never bother printing out a page. These days probably about half the riders seem to use their phones.

  13. Steve Yaffe January 8, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Beware of what you wish for.
    Buses would have to be wifi-equipped to upload the charges; hold the call when in a dead-spot; and fares would have to account for MasterCard’s cut of the action.

  14. Alon Levy January 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    MasterCard’s cut is exactly the reason why cities that don’t think that private affluence and public squalor is good don’t go that route. They have cellphones directly interfacing with the transit system, or their own smartcards (licensed as electronic money with a fraction of the fee that credit card companies charge).

  15. Harald Brynlund-Lima January 10, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    Also Trondheim in Norway have started this kind of ticketing system. Via a smartphone app all the buses in the town can be ticketed.

  16. Andreas Hobi January 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Mobile tickets are also known at the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). For more information:
    Some features: Buy and display tickets, door-to-door travel information, real-time information in the event of an incident, “take me home” function with GPS support,

  17. SMS Thailand April 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    The use of SMS and smartphones have long been proposed in order to save time and energy in buying tickets and forming a queue in ticket stores. It is a welcome advancement to New York ferry system.

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