The South Shore became the first commuter railroad Friday in the greater Chicago region where passengers can buy and store their tickets on smart phones and mobile devices.
The new South Shore app basically allows people to use their phones as their tickets on the train, simply by showing the conductor the screen of the phone, which displays how many tickets were purchased, travel zones and expiration time.
"It allows people to make an almost real-time decision on purchasing their tickets," Boris Matakovic, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District chief information officer, told railroad trustees on Friday.
In other action, the NICTD Board of Trustees voted 8-0 on Friday to accept a 20-year Strategic Business Plan prepared by URS Corp. for the South Shore that outlines $1.16 billion in new investments to draw new riders. The plan details what will be needed to build the South Shore extension to Dyer, as well as for a variety of projects on the existing line, including new stations, 20 more miles of double tracking, and a South Bend reroute.
The goal of the plan is to grow the South Shore's existing market, as well as expand into new markets, URS executive Kenneth Kinney told the NICTD board.
The goal of the new South Shore app is similar. Matakovic said it should make ticket purchases much more convenient for existing riders. And it should make it easier for those considering riding the South Shore for the first time to understand the system because it has customizable schedules and route maps.
The official launch of the free South Shore app was Friday, with a softer launch earlier in the month. As of the 10 a.m. meeting of NICTD trustees at the Dune Park station on Friday, 145 users already had registered with their email addresses and credit cards, Matakovic told the board.
Passengers with the app will not have to run into the station to buy a ticket from an agent or machine, Matakovic told the board. They could simply buy the ticket before leaving home. Or they could even hop on the train and make their purchase before the conductor comes around.
The app was produced by Bytemark, of New York, which also has produced similar apps for the NY Waterway ferry service and for Capital Metro, the public transportation provider for Austin, Texas.
Every type of ticket is for sale on the app and most can be bought at any time. Once bought, a ticket does not have to be activated until the purchaser is ready to ride. Once activated, the ticket remains good for an hour.
Only the monthly pass has a purchase restriction in that it cannot be bought until the first of the month in which it will be used. Their are versions of the app for Apple iOS and Android devices. It can be purchased at the iPhone app store and Google Play.