Just days after local transit officials proclaimed the end of the line for the system's venerable bus and subway tokens, they unveiled 21st century technology allowing commuters to simply flash a smartphone for rides aboard Metro Bus and Rail.
The new mobile ticketing app will soon allow transit riders to buy bus and rail passes on their phones, eliminating the need for many to find ticket machines or pay with cash.
With commuters in dozens of other cities around the country already using the method, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has decided to not wait for the new fare collection system it will introduce late this year and make the app available beginning April 1.
“You simply show your phone to the operator, the operator verifies that it’s a pass, and on you go,” said Thomas George, NFTA director of public transit. “You won’t have to look for a ticket vending machine or have $2 in cash to get on a bus.”
The authority now will contract with a private company to develop and implement the “MetGo” pass, as well as a “Token Transit” system catering to occasional users or visitors. Token Transit is available through many transit agencies and allows texting or emailing tickets to users.
George explained the new system allows credit card purchase via phone for individual rides, round trips, day passes or special event packages (monthly passes are not yet available). He said the system will prove ideal for visitors in town for NCAA playoffs or suburbanites heading to Canalside events, Bisons and Sabres games or the Taste of Buffalo.
Out-of-town visitors can also use their own apps in Buffalo, George said, since the MetGo system is already functioning in more than 50 U.S. cities.
“It’s broadly used across the industry,” he said. “We think it will be a big advantage for us.”
The authority plans a major marketing campaign in coming weeks to introduce the new concept.
Plans have always called for implementing the system as part of the new $22 million fare collection overhaul slated to debut late this year, George explained. But the authority decided to introduce the new app as soon as possible and not wait for the new system featuring fare cards and turnstiles similar to those in New York City and other transit systems.
The announcement follows the NFTA’s decision to phase out on March 1 the tokens that commuters have purchased for bus rides since 1918.
“Now, as we’re retiring our tokens in the next couple of months, we introduce this,” George said. “It’s a little bit of change for the authority as we move forward.”