SEPTA disrupts cell phone ticketing functionality | Techy Kings


Mark Chadwick wants to help. He downloaded the software on his Android. He keeps trying to use it, but he can’t.

“I still can’t buy a ticket,” said Chadwick, a volunteer beta tester for SEPTA’s mobile ticketing app. His field test tour began on October 3.

If all goes well, the interface downloads a QR code ticket that can be read at the turnstiles, as well as at the bus or trolley ticket box on city transit. It is paid for by the credit card entered in the program.

One thing it can’t do is use the money stored in the Travel Wallet on the driver’s key card. Several testers, who are mostly frequent SEPTA users, said it was frustrating. They also described the process of downloading mobile tickets as complicated and not suitable for spontaneous excursions.

SEPTA officials acknowledge some hiccups, unclear communication and initial confusion as early testers discovered they couldn’t link their key cards to the mobile ticketing feature or use Apple or Google Pay like passengers on many other U.S. transit systems. However, fixes are being applied and improvements such as contactless debit and credit card payments are coming soon.

“We’re getting constructive feedback,” said SEPTA Chief Information Officer William Zebrowski. “The good thing is that we don’t see anything to block, so we should stop the program.”

The government is pushing forward. It sent out an additional 2,500 invitations by email Wednesday afternoon. by mail to people who have expressed an interest in participating in the trial. At least 1,000 people downloaded the new software in the first 24 hours, officials said. And contactless payments with bank cards are coming soon.

The push to update fare collection technology comes at a crucial time for SEPTA: It needs to revive its ridership before all federal aid to the transit system’s pandemic recovery is released. Overall, public buses, subways, trolleybuses and regional rail trains carry around 60% as many people as in 2019.

Tester Todd Schwartz of South Philadelphia said he was disappointed because he expected an experience similar to using Google or Apple’s payment platforms.

“It’s a demanding task, and adding an extra step defeats the purpose,” he said. “It would be easier to just pull out the key card.”

Cameron Adamez, a tester with years of experience as a web designer and developer, said he had only used the mobile ticketing app a couple of times. “It’s a little good,” they said.

It would be more useful if it was linked to a key card travel wallet. “It was actually very easy to get a ticket, but it’s not as flexible as I expected,” said Adamez, of South Philadelphia. They like the ability to buy multiple tickets at once, the novelty of using mobile tickets.

The target audience for mobile ticketing is more casual SEPTA users than people with key card balances, said Kevin O’Brien, senior manager of SEPTA’s key program.

“They don’t really compete with each other,” O’Brien said. “Travel cards have most of the advantages of mobile ticketing, except for the multi-driver feature. Zebrowski said, “We really looked at convenience … Be at the bus station or take the subway, maybe to an Eagles or Phillies game this weekend. If there are four more in my party, I activate four tickets” and go.

For Jared Cohen, the problem is that SEPTA has insisted on building everything in-house instead of linking to third-party apps that people already use, like the Transit App, Google Maps and Apple Maps.

“The end result was a complete mess of an app that crashes frequently, randomly logs you out, provides inaccurate or hard-to-understand information, and generally seems difficult to use,” said Cohen, a junior at Temple University. majoring in geography and urban planning. “Now add in a mobile ticketing system and you’ve got a mess.

He finds it easiest to use his plastic touch key card most of the time, but he found mobile ticketing handy when he was able to pay for a classmate to ride the bus with him recently.

Key, which introduced plastic card riders loaded with funds at ticket machines and SEPTA sales offices, since its launch in 2016. – two years behind schedule, suffering from disruptions and cost overruns. SEPTA paid about $239 million. USD, almost double the initial agreed price – 122 million.

That’s because SEPTA required Conduent, the contractor that built the system, to fix initial problems and maintain and continually update the system, including adapting to new technologies like mobile ticketing.

Software development and installation of new ticket readers capable of processing mobile tickets cost about $5.75 million, officials said. Conduentas is working to stand up a mobile ticketing system.

Mobile ticketing is planned to be available to the public in 2023. early, SEPTA officials said. The agency will then begin testing whether direct payments from credit and debit cards and Google or Apple Pay are allowed.

» READ MORE: SEPTA key card program just received another 29.5 million This is way over budget.

Chadwick, who lives in South Philly, owns a Center City advertising firm with offices in New York, and is a frequent visitor. He said he likes the MTA’s Omni payment system, which allows you to use Google Pay linked to your transit card to pay for your ride.

“It’s the least friction I’ve ever had [paying for] by public transport,” he said. “You don’t even break your stride at the turnstiles.” On a recent visit to Chicago, he seamlessly integrated the CTA’s Ventra card and noticed about 300 options for transit systems in its payment app.

“How do all these other agencies figure it out and SEPTA can’t?” Chadwick said.


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