Smartphones and apps are quickly replacing the need for printed tickets. Nowadays you can get into many movie theaters, events and even use Groupons without ever having to touch a piece of paper. And now the Metro-North Railroad, a commuter rail that connects northern points with New York City (and called the “nation’s busiest rail line” by Crain’s New York Business) is testing out the concept of e-tickets.
The Metro-North Railroad’s ticketing app is still in testing, but is designed to let riders buy and display tickets from their Android, Blackberry or iPhone. The app makes sense and will help riders who don’t have time to buy a paper ticket or don’t carry cash for an on-board purchase.
The most exciting part of this announcement, though, is just how much testing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is prepared to do. Rail workers were exposed to the app first to learn how to use it, then it was rolled out in a small in-the-wild pilot program to make sure its functionality and usability held up in the real world. Here’s Crain’s New York Business with some details:
“We are as excited to begin testing the next generation ticket-selling technology as we were when we introduced ticket vending machines a quarter of a century ago,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said in the statement. “The latest test is intended to ensure that the newest technology will be equally easy to use, as well as secure and reliable.” …
“Smartphones have the potential to transform the public transit systems across the United States,” Giacomo Biggiero, director of Masabi US, said in the statement. “Passengers will be able to quickly and easily find, buy and display tickets on their phones wherever they are without having to worry about carrying cash or waiting in line.”
Read the full article at Crain’s New York Business >>>
While Howard is concerned with ease-of-use for the passengers (and rightly so), testing the app with a small group of passengers before a full roll out is vital for another reason. You simply cannot replicate the environment of a moving train filled to capacity in a lab. How does the app work on different real-life combinations of handsets and OS versions? What happens when the signal isn’t great – like when the train is underground or many passengers are using the local networks?
This is a great example of the need for in-the-wild testing, and a great example of an organization realizing that thorough testing at many different levels is necessary for a successful product. Kudos MTA!