Texas transit agencies unveil mobile ticketing app

Posted on September 10, 2013

Photo courtesy DART
Photo courtesy DART

Starting Sept. 16, North Texas transit customers will be able to put away paper passes and pick up their smartphones to buy, store and activate passes for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) and Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA).

The GoPass mobile ticketing application is a new way to buy passes for the region's three transit agencies. The GoPass is free in Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store. The Danish firm Unwire won the contract based on its experience overseas with mobile ticketing in large urban markets with multiple agency participants. The North Texas agencies are among the first in the country to offer mobile ticketing and are Unwire's first U.S. client. Since this is a joint effort, the three agencies chose a neutral name for the product: GoPass.

In recent years, the three agencies have collaborated to improve payment options for customers by issuing a common regional pass and deploying ticket vending machines that accept credit/debit cards. But officials wanted to make transit even easier for riders.

DART, The T and DCTA officials estimate that half of their riders carry smartphones. After evaluating numerous payment systems, the agencies' staffs determined that a mobile solution was the most versatile approach for giving customers more ways to buy transit passes.

Customers who tested early versions of the app agree: "The big benefits are speed and convenience. I may misplace my ticket, but I'd never misplace my phone."

Downloading the app, registering and entering payment information take just a few minutes, and the GoPass app guides users through the process. Once a rider is registered, it takes a matter of seconds to buy a pass.

Before boarding, customers activate a pass from a digital wallet — even when an active Internet connection is not available. Color coding quickly indicates recent activation or expiration to bus operators or fare inspectors. A countdown timer informs customers when the pass expires and prevents riders from using bogus tickets.

"It's not the ticketing that makes this interesting," DART CFO David Leininger said. "It's the convenience factor."

Mobile ticketing makes budgeting easier because a customer can purchase a block of passes at once and activate them as needed, for up to 60 days. Riders don't waste fares when plans change and they can skip lines at the ticket vending machine, which is particularly useful during crowded special events.

"Customers buy passes on their terms, not ours," DART Chief Marketing Officer Nevin Grinnell said.

GoPass also contains a trip-planning tool powered by Google Transit. Customers can access rider alerts and schedule information, check real-time bus and train arrivals, and find information about transit-accessible activities and events.

Beginning this winter, corporate annual and college semester pass participants can keep their 2014 "badge" in the GoPass digital wallet. Next year, the agencies will offer combination tickets that cover transit fare and event admission to a variety of North Texas' arenas, museums, arts facilities, fairs, festivals and expos.

RELATED: "TriMet to launch mobile ticketing app"

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