Mobile Ticketing’s Next Stop: Mass Transit

Digital tickets making their way to commercial air, rail and bus services.

By John O'Malley on November 4, 2013

Millions of smartphone owners use mass transit or commercial air, rail and bus service every day, whether it be for early morning commutes or jetting off on a business trip or family vacation. Anyone who travels frequently knows one thing: it can be a hassle. From ticketing to security to transferring, “getting there” can be half the battle. But at least one of these irritants could one day be a thing of the past.

A recent study conducted by Juniper Research predicts that mobile ticketing will triple over the next five years. The report noted that mobile ticketing can offer smartphone users a more positive travel experience by making the whole process, well, mobile. And commercial travel carriers are already jumping on board with apps and mobile platforms that make mobile e-ticketing the go-to method for the savvy traveler.

Many apps for major airlines and railways use QR codes, allowing customers to check in for flights, trains or bus rides with their mobile devices, which effectively become an electronic boarding pass. It’s easy, and it allows passengers to ditch long lines and paper boarding passes.

Mobile ticketing apps can also keep travelers well informed. For example, United Airlines allows travelers experiencing flight delays and cancellations to explore other itineraries, including options for alternate routes, airports or travel dates. 

In Portland, Ore., for instance, the city’s TriMet ticket app offers smartphone-based ticketing across all of its operations, including the region's commuter rail, light rail, streetcar and bus lines. Riders have no need to carry cash or count exact change. Tickets can also be stored on a smartphone for future use. 

Mobile ticketing is another example of how technology is making travel easier for commuters and jetsetters alike.