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Caltrain mobile ticketing

written by andy on

Last month, Caltrain presented a proposal on mobile ticketing to its Citizens Advisory Committee. Here’s a brief summary of the presentation from the meeting minutes:

  • Project goal
    • Enhance customer experience
    • Reduce ticket machine usage
    • Provide additional ticket purchase options
      • One-way
      • Day pass
      • Zone upgrade
    • Eighteen-month pilot program
  • Background
    • Industry
      • Peer agencies – pros and cons of their experience with the project
      • Vendors – integration issues, software updates
    • Customer surveys
      • Caltrain Triennial Customer Survey
      • Ticket Vending Machine (TVM) Replacement Survey
    • Revenue data
    • Internal stakeholders
  • Features
    • Ticket purchases
    • Ticket repository
    • Map, schedule, trip planning
    • In-application push notifications
    • Content
      • Terms and conditions
      • Frequently asked questions
      • Customer service
    • Ticket validation
  • Timeline
    • Request for Proposals (RFP) – Spring 2015
    • Implementation – Summer 2015

After the presentation, some CAC members have concerns particularly with some riders cheating fares. If someone could purchase a ticket with an app onboard the train, they may choose not to buy a ticket until they know a fare inspection is coming their way.

While the concern about people cheating with the app is legitimate, I don’t think it is a difficult problem to solve. Considering that Clipper usage is over 50% on Caltrain, the role for mobile ticketing is to help occasional riders to plan and prepay their fare. Many riders take Caltrain only to events like the Giants games and they often are willing to plan and potentially prepay their fares (like people do when they buy airline tickets for vacation). Currently Caltrain does not have a way to buy tickets for rides ahead of time (all tickets sold by ticket machines are good for the following four hours, even if the last train of the day has left).

A mobile ticketing app would make the ticket purchase process easy especially for families. They no longer have to get in line and purchase a ticket from the machines just before they board the train. With that in mind, the cut off time for mobile ticketing could be half an hour or an hour before the train, and fare evasion would not be an issue. Riders who just show up can still buy a paper ticket and frequent riders can still use Clipper. Caltrain wouldn’t be making any rider more difficult to buy a ticket then they do now.

Another feature that Caltrain should include is the ability to pay for parking. Even for riders with Clipper, they still have to pay for parking at a ticket machine.