Metro, streetcar to launch fare purchasing app

Adds to growing list of mobile transit tech

CINCINNATI -- Soon Cincinnati Metro, along with its soon-to-be-launched sibling Cincinnati Streetcar, will hop onboard the ever-lengthening “There’s an app for that” train.

Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority announced Tuesday that they finalized an agreement with mobile payment provider Passport, which will allow for the development of a mobile ticketing app Metro and streetcar riders can use to pay fares on a smartphone or tablet, as an alternative to pass cards or cash.

Riders can purchase fare electronically and then display the purchase on their mobile device to the driver as they board the vehicle.

Metro CEO Dwight Ferrell said the move is part of the transit authority’s efforts to “reinvent” the Tri-State’s largest public transit system by making it easier to use.

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“Our customers want convenience and flexibility in how and when they purchase fare,” Ferrell said in a statement Tuesday. “The mobile app will alleviate the need to carry cash or visit a ticket vending machine.”

The app will also allow riders to track the location of their bus in real-time, according to Metro spokeswoman, Brandy Jones. It’s a feature Metro previously partnered with local developers Gaslight in launching real-time transit tracker Bus Detective and MetroNow, which installed a series of tablets displaying nearby bus arrival times at businesses throughout the city. Riders can also access real-time location information on a desktop computer and by phone.

Metro's push toward mobile technology has been part of a larger effort to appeal to younger riders — Cincinnati’s growing millennial and young professional crowds. Data compiled by the transit authority in 2013 found that people 25 years old or younger accounted for less than a quarter of all rides.

Simultaneously, the American Public Transportation Administration found that, of all age groups, millennials — roughly, people born  in the 1980s and 1990s — place the most value on having access to public transportation.

Officials said they hope to launch the new app by August 2016.

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Follow Pat LaFleur on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) for all things public transit and living car-free in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

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