The Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) announced this week that it has signed a pilot agreement with Masabi, a leader in mobile ticketing and electronic payments for transit, to bring smartphone ticketing to NICE bus riders. The Nassau County, N.Y., service will become among the first U.S. bus transit systems to offer smartphone ticketing to its customers featuring payment apps for both iPhone and Android. NICE’s paratransit system, known as Able-Ride, will allow customers to use the same smartphone app to pay their fares.
NICE is a public-private operating partnership between Nassau County and Veolia Transportation. Veolia manages all aspects of the transit system under contract to the county, effectively serving as the transit agency.
With the new mobile ticketing system, riders will be able to purchase bus tickets at their convenience, and activate them as they board the vehicle. Upon boarding, riders will display to the operator a secure, visually verifiable ticket on their smartphones. For added security, mobile tickets will also feature scannable barcodes for occasional spot checks by NICE officials. In future phases of the project, NICE may install hardware that allows riders to pay by scanning a barcode, or simply bringing their smart device in close proximity to a sensor.
“This project is one of several recent technology initiatives at NICE bus which will help transform the experience of riding transit in Nassau County. We believe our customers will embrace mobile ticketing as they have in other systems around the country” said Michael Setzer, NICE chief executive officer. “Our recent on-board survey revealed that nearly 70 percent of NICE riders own smartphones, suggesting that the mobile platform is a great way to connect with our customers and provide them additional convenience.”
With this new initiative, NICE will dramatically expand the ease and convenience with which its customers can buy bus tickets. Another benefit is that it will speed up the boarding process. Currently, NICE riders have limited payment options: they can either pay with correct change on the bus or use the MTA-issued MetroCard. However, there is only one MTA location in Nassau County with full-service vending machines that allow riders to buy and reload MetroCards.
Over time, mobile ticketing should also help reduce fare collection costs. NICE fareboxes are antiquated, dating back to the late 1990s, and the costs of maintenance, replacement parts and cash handling are rapidly increasing.
“While we will continue to coordinate with the MTA for all customers that transfer between our transit systems, we made it a priority when NICE was launched to start developing our own payment solution,” said Setzer. “We think mobile ticketing is a low cost, rapidly deployable and flexible alternative that will make it easier for many riders to pay their fare.”
NICE is deploying Masabi’s JustRide product, a well tested, end-to-end mobile ticketing and fare collection system. The product includes features such as ticket purchase, user display and easy validation together with sophisticated back-end infrastructure for secure payments, ticket management, customer service, reporting and real-time analytics. Masabi currently serves 17 transportation and retail companies worldwide including Boston’s MBTA and San Diego’s MTS in the U.S. and Virgin Trains and Cross Country in the U.K.
NICE officials plan to start beta testing with a select group of riders this spring, with full rollout this summer. Riders are encouraged to apply at www.nicebus.com to participate in the beta testing. NICE also encourages customers to take a brief survey on the site that will help NICE better understand how they currently use technology.