N.Y. Metro North introduces hand-held ticketing

Posted on January 30, 2008

Metro-North Railroad has developed a technology for hand-held electronic ticket machines for on-board sales. Using wireless, real-time credit authorization, conductors will soon be able to accept credit and debit cards as well as cash.  

The Metro-North Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board of directors approved a one-year, not to exceed $420,000 contract with Verizon Wireless to enable the system. The software, developed in-house by Metro-North’s IT department was tested last year by 30 conductors. Training of the railroad’s 800 conductors is underway.  

The hand-held ticket machines begin replacing the old "duplex" ticket blanks currently used for on-board ticket sales. Using the new device, a conductor will select from a menu the departure and arrival stations. The device then calculates the fare and issues a receipt using a wireless printer. 

The devices’ cellular capability also allows them to receive text messages about train operations, including service updates and disruptions. The start-up costs for the hand-helds, including the devices, software, new receipt stock and training is $3.6 million, which is included in the railroad’s 2007 and 2008 operating budgets. 

The railroad has purchased 1,000 hand-held devices from Intermec of Everett, Wash., and 1,000 printers from Zebra of Vernon Hills, Ill. The devices will be phased in beginning April 1.

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