New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is testing a system on the Long Island Rail Road to allow riders to pay for their fares using a mobile phone. Railroad employees are experimenting with the “near-field communication” payment system using Nokia smartphones. Later this spring, nearly 100 riders will be provided with free smartphones to test the system.
“Near-field communication” technology allows customers to tap their smartphones to pay for purchases using a touch point or sensor. The technology is only available on certain phones but can also be used to make purchases in stores which have the corresponding sensors.
The innovative technology could make commuting easier for customers, who would no longer have to remember to reload city-specific fare cards or wait in line to purchase tickets. But it also has perks for transit system owners and operators. Already, providers of fare payment systems are considering switching from existing fare cards to credit-card payments, meaning that the iconic NYC Metrocard is facing extinction. If such further technology is adopted by customers, it can reduce ticketing costs by simplifying transit machines, reducing needed personnel and streamlining the payment process.
The transportation industry around the world has begun to embrace new technologies in taxis, buses and trains. In the same region late last year, New Jersey Transit began testing smartphone sensor payment using Android phones and Google Wallet’s “tap-and-pay.” Similarly, New York City taxi cabs are also testing mobile payment systems in a move toward lowering processing fees.
Should the “near-field communication” test on the Long Island Rail Road go smoothly, it could mean further innovation for all of the 1.6 billion annual subway trips on the MTA.