Management & Operations

Mobile app helps MTS move San Diego Comic-Con attendees

Posted on August 7, 2014

Riders entering and exiting Trolley at Gaslamp Quarter station.
Riders entering and exiting Trolley at Gaslamp Quarter station.
In late July, it’s not uncommon to see Klingons, Darth Vader, Spiderman and Superwoman all boarding the Trolley at the same time in downtown San Diego. Comic-Con — a five-day celebration of popular art and entertainment at the annual convention along downtown San Diego’s scenic bay front — attracts 130,000 attendees and the San Diego Trolley system handles more than 215,000 extra passenger trips during the festivities.

PHOTO GALLERY: MTS Service at San Diego Comic Con

To help Comic-Con passengers avoid long Trolley ticket lines and provide a convenient ticket purchasing option, MTS introduced mTicket — a mobile ticketing app that puts the Trolley ticket vending machine in the pocket of the passenger.

Artwork for mTicket advertising
Artwork for mTicket advertising
Mobile ticketing options are becoming more popular for transit agencies across the U.S., including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and TriMet in Portland, Ore.  Fare systems professionals predict that up to 25% of sales will eventually come through mobile ticketing options.

RELATED: San Diego adds historic trolley to fleet

MTS first introduced mTicket in 2013 for San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztec football games. Comic-Con was the third step for the mTicket pilot program in the San Diego market.

“We thought this was a good tech-savvy audience and that many Comic-Con passengers would embrace this option,” said Rob Schupp, director of marketing and communications at MTS. “The biggest challenge was making them aware that mobile ticketing was available.”

The MTS marketing and communications team used aggressive outreach tactics to boost awareness for mTicket leading up to Comic-Con week. mTicket promotions began about two weeks ahead of Comic-Con, including clever comic-themed artwork for stations and ticket vending machines, advertisements in local papers, outdoor signage at select Trolley stations, social media sharing, blog posts through popular Comic-Con bloggers and on-air television network interviews.  

“Riding the Trolley to Comic-Con is always part of news coverage, but mTickets gave us a news hook that really boosted coverage. We were on all the major television news station in San Diego,” added Schupp.  
The marketing campaign paid off.  There were more than 4,100 ticket sales transactions totaling nearly $58,800 in value.  Sales started immediately after it was announced and took off two days prior to the festivities.

“mTickets were just one of the ways people could buy their fares,” Schupp said. “We also printed commemorative tickets that are always real popular with collectors. And, of course, ticket vending machines were the workhorse in terms of volume. But when it was all said and done, about ten percent of our volume was in mTickets, which was a big success for our first year.”

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