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 newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobilemobile applicationsindustry verticalstransportation

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?