Metro Transit riders soon will be able to pay their fares with their smartphones.

Riders also will be able to access schedules, route maps, plan a trip and get real-time bus arrival and departure times. Riders will be able to buy prepaid tickets usable on any bus or train when the new Metro Transit Mobility App debuts in mid to late summer.

“This will be a game changer,” said Adam Mehl, a marketing department specialist who has been working with the Portland-based contractor GlobeSherpa to develop the app. “We want to give people a way to pay the way they want to.”

Customers will still be able to use Go-To cards and Metropasses, which are used by 54 percent of riders.

The electronic payment feature, which can be used on bus, light-rail and commuter rail lines, could speed boarding by 3 to 6 seconds per passenger and help cut costs associated with riders who pay cash. Processing cash costs Metro Transit about 10 percent of what the agency takes in at the fare box. That compares with 8 percent when riders tag cards and 7 percent from those who will use electronic payments, Mehl said.

But the ultimate goal is to make it easier for riders to access transit and appeal to millennials who are accustomed to using their phones to manage their lives and are less likely to carry cash, Mehl said.

“The backbone of our system has to have a payment system that meets their needs,” Mehl said. “We also want to take away barriers if you are not a regular rider.”

The app also will make it easier for customers who can’t afford to put money on a prepaid card or don’t have a credit card they can use to buy tickets at vending machines. The app will allow users to put small amounts of money in a PayPal account and use it to pay for single rides.

 

Metro Transit predicts the app will attract visitors and those heading to special events, said General Manager Brian Lamb.

Following the rollout, a second phase will include features that will allow riders to report suspicious activity or summon help by sending a text message to Metro Transit police. Plans also call for a ride matching program and opportunities to plan a trip using multiple forms of transportation.

“This will put us on the leading edge of things,” said spokesman Howie Padilla.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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