August 17, 2011

Long Island Rail pilots wireless ticketing



The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is launching a pilot program using wireless, hand-held Ticket Issuing Machines (TIMS) that will allow customers to purchase tickets onboard trains with all major credit and debit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

LIRR conductors assigned to trains running between Ronkonkoma and Greenport will be carrying an Apple iPhone 4 equipped with a PaySaber cradle device that uses an application designed by the agency that enables train crews to make credit and debit-as-credit card sales and print out tickets in one easy transaction. The device will be used to process onboard cash sales as well during the pilot program.

To save time and avoid higher, onboard fares, LIRR is urging customers to purchase tickets in advance at station ticket windows or Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs).

Customers who opt to buy tickets onboard will still be required to pay an extra fee of up to $6.50 per ticket if they board at a station that has a ticket machine and/or a ticket window that is open. In situations where a customer must buy onboard the train and isn't carrying sufficient cash, making a ticket purchase with a credit or debit-as-credit card will be an added convenience.

During the pilot, the electronic, hand-held devices will replace the familiar “duplex” paper ticket and ticket punch system that conductors have been using for decades. Instead, customers will be issued a smaller ticket printed by the device with no punching of the ticket required at the time of issue. Customers should retain the ticket to be used on any connecting trip. As part of the pilot, customers will also be able to use credit cards to make bar cart purchases on the North Fork Wine Train.

The pilot project is scheduled to run through Oct. 9. At the conclusion of the pilot, LIRR will determine if more testing is needed before a decision is made about expanding use of the hand-held devices to other branches of the agency.

A select group of LIRR conductors have been training on the new devices. Crew members were involved in the design and development of the application, offering a number of key suggestions that led to improvements. Crew members will also be involved in the evaluation of the devices during and after the pilot program.

The hand-held device is expected to make it easier and faster for LIRR crews to account for cash at the end of their tours. The ability to accept credit cards and debit-as-credit cards also is expected to decrease the number of onboard fare disputes and reduce the need for crews to issue bills that are mailed to customers' homes when they are unable to pay onboard.

During this pilot program, credit cards will be accepted on trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport and Penn Station and Montauk.

The higher, onboard fare will be charged at Ronkonkoma and Medford where either tickets windows are open or ticket machines available.

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