Mobile ticketing for mass transit has a rare quality in mobile payments — it addresses a pain point that consumers actually long to have solved.
Using PayPal's Braintree technology for payments and GlobeSherpa for mobile ticketing, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is the latest in a line of city transportation systems to launch a mobile ticketing and payment app.
"This is being driven by consumers because they are the ones demanding it," said PayPal spokesman Anuj Nayar. "The transportation agency is realizing it needs to update the payments technology to help consumers and help the agency."
MuniMobile operates on the iOS and Android handsets and allows commuters to pay fares and display tickets on the phone's screen. PayPal is delivering the payments technology, and the agency benefits by reducing the handling of cash, which is still used by more than half of San Francisco Muni commuters, Nayar said. The remainder use the Clipper plastic card to pay fares.
"Use of cash causes issues in terms of delays, waiting for people to put cash in slots, and also that the agency has to deal with taking the cash, counting it, storing it and transporting it," Nayar said.
GlobeSherpa accepts only PayPal, credit and debit cards, but those PayPal transactions can be funded through other means, Nayar said.
"One of the key things with the Braintree platform is that the user can add other payment types with a single click," Nayar added. "If they wanted to add Android Pay or Apple Pay, they could do it."
Since acquiring Braintree in 2013, PayPal has had more flexibility in providing mobile payment capabilities for clients, as well as enjoying the growing popularity of Braintree's Venmo person-to-person payment app.
More than 1,600 applicants expressed an interest in the MuniMobile app when the agency promoted an opportunity to participate in beta testing. The agency chose 300 Muni riders to test the app.
It's not enough to only have commuter interest in the concept of a modernized ticketing system; the technology has to live up to expectations. The Metra system in Chicago, for example, put its Ventra app through years of testing and revision before launching it this week.
Cubic Transportation Systems developed the Ventra fare payment system for Chicago.The company faced numerous obstacles, including a software issue that resulted in riders being double-charged when using Ventra cards on the city's elevated train system.