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MTS Board Approves Mobile Ticketing Contract

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Photo credit: Michael Schuerman

A San Diego trolley pulls out of the downtown stop at 12th Street and Imperial Avenue, June 1, 2014.

Public transit riders in San Diego can look forward to a more convenient way to pay their bus and trolley fares, after the Metropolitan Transit System board approved plans for a new smartphone ticketing app.

The Metropolitan Transit System board of directors on Thursday unanimously approved a three-year contract with moovel North America to develop a new smart phone ticketing app for passengers.

The system, which will replace a pilot mobile ticketing program that was used for special events, is expected to be available by August. The North County Transit District is expected to approve a similar deal, which would allow the agencies to share development and maintenance costs.

RELATED: MTS Compass Card Was Insecure From The Beginning

"Nearly 70 percent of our customers carry a smart phone and two-thirds of them said they would likely use mobile ticketing if it were available," MTS CEO Paul Jablonski said.

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MTS Mobile Ticketing Presentation

MTS Mobile Ticketing Presentation

MTS staffers gave a PowerPoint presentation to their board of directors explaining details of their new mobile ticketing app.

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"Mobile ticketing speeds up the boarding process, and puts the ticket vending machine in the pocket of our passengers," he said. "It will make riding transit in San Diego much easier and convenient in the future."

Mobile users will be able to purchase day and monthly passes, as well as one-way tickets, according to MTS. The app was approved on the same day tech firm GlobeSherpa, which was originally named in the contract, announced a merger to become moovel North America.

Updates to the Compass Card?

The mobile ticketing system is not a replacement for the troubled Compass Card, which has turned out to have security flaws. However, with numerous riders having access to mobile applications, MTS expects the app technology will provide many passengers with a more convenient ticketing arrangement.

The deal includes options for three additional years, for what could be a total of six. The firm, an Oregon-based subsidiary of Germany's Daimler AG, will receive a 4 percent commission on sales.

MTS staffers also gave the board an update on plans to add a stored value function to the Compass Card. Those plans have been delayed for years, as MTS opted to put resources toward purchasing new trolley cars and buses. San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, who sits on the MTS board, has put pressure on the transit agency to accelerate upgrades to its fare collection system.

"I'm frustrated by the fact that there is no clear indication of stored value coming to the Compass Card anytime soon," Alvarez said in an e-mail.

Colin Parent, policy advocate for the transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego, agreed that improvements to the Compass Card system were still very necessary, especially given that many transit riders still don't have smart phones or credit cards they can use on the app.

“It just doesn’t make sense not to make the system that is the most common, that most people are going to use and are familiar with, as functional as it can be,” Parent said.

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