by Al Sacco

Boston’s First-of-Its-Kind Mobile Transit-Ticket App Wins State CIO Honors

Aug 27, 20133 mins

The MBTA and its unique mTicket app will reportedly be recognized by the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) in the fall.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) and its “mTicket” mobile transit app will be honored this fall with the Digital Government – Government to Citizen Award at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) annual conference, according to Gary Foster, MBTA CIO, and Robert Creedon, deputy director of fare systems, are expected to accept the award.

The first-of-its-kind mTicket app lets Massachusetts commuter-rail and ferry riders purchase credits that can be used as rail tickets so they don’t have to wait in line to buy paper tickets or hold onto repeat-use train passes.

The app is unique because it does not require conductors to scan any barcodes; users simply open the app, show a valid time stamp, and they’re all set. (After you open up a new ticket within the app, it expires if you don’t use it within a short period of time.) This is noteworthy, because it means conductors spend less time processing mTickets than they do physical tickets. The app is not only convenient for riders, it’s convenient for MBTA staff.

Amtrak customers throughout the United States can use the company’s app and associated digital tickets, but I can tell you from experience that the process is sometimes painful. It’s not uncommon to see a frustrated Amtrak conductor manually checking passenger information after he is unable to succesfully scan a customer’s barcode. That adds time to the ticket-taking process. (Hint: Before presenting an e-ticket to an Amtrak conductor, bump up your device display’s screen brightness to its highest setting.)

mTicket customers can also purchase tickets in advance or when they get on the train; tickets can be purchased wherever and whenever users have wireless connectivity.

I’ve used the mTicket app, which is available for iOS and Android, many times since it was launched nine months ago, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. It just works. The only setback was that until recently, it was only available on select MBTA commuter rail lines. (The app is for commuter rail tickets, not subway or bus tickets.) But today, mTicket can be use on all of the MBTA’s commuter-rail and ferry lines.

The app has also reportedly been a financial success for the MBTA, which recently passed $10 million in mTicket sales, representing roughly 15 percent of all non-corporate commuter-rail ticket sales, according to

The MBTA’s mTicket success will very likely serve as a model for other cities looking to implement similar programs, and it could be expanded to other modes of public transit in and around Boston.