Metro Transit's got a brand new app.
It let's you buy a handful of different passes, use trip planner, and check for the next available bus or train.
The app has been in development for more than a year, Metro Transit spokesperson Howie Padilla told GoMN. The goal is to offer another ticket-buying option "that some folks will use and find convenient," he said.
Even if the features are limited at this point.
"This is the first iteration of it," he said. "And undoubtedly there are going to be updates," .
Gimme the rundown
How it works: Download the app, sign in (it's just your normal Metro Transit account if you have one), accept the terms and conditions, and continue.
What you can buy: For purchase are 2.5-hour weekend or weekday passes, or daily fare passes. You buy them, and when you want to use it, activate it (so you could buy a pass today, to use tomorrow). When you get on the bus, show the active ticket. If you're on the train and an officer asks for your ticket, just show your phone.
What you can't do: Load up your Go-To card, or even use it as a replacement for the card (which Padilla said more than half of riders use).
Where the app goes next – what features are added, what gets tweaked – will be based on rider feedback, Padilla said. That's social media reaction, surveys for users, and speaking with their own staff (many of whom ride the train or bus). They can also track which options are used a lot within the app, which will help dictate improvements.
What's up with the prices?
Right now there are three purchase options:
You'll notice the weekday fare is $2.25 for all hours. Regular fare is $1.75 during non-peak hours, and $2.25 only during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Padilla though said those figures are just a starting point for getting the app out there
"That’s not to say that’s not coming soon," he said of the $1.75 off-peak pricing, adding: "It's not a situation where we're looking to make a lot of extra money off this."
It's not meant to replace cash, or a Go-To card, Padilla said. It's just another option.
I want to be a bad person and not pay
So you might be asking: Couldn't I just buy a pass, screengrab it, and send it to a friend for a free ride? Good question (though come on, don't be that person). The answer though is no.
There are at least three built-in security features:
One, the pass moves. There are trains and buses that are animated and go back and forth on the screen that shows your tickets.
Two, it changes colors. An officer can ask you to tap the screen. If it's a legit ticket, the background will switch between blue and yellow.
Three, there's a timer. If you skip your fare, get on the light rail, then see an officer come around and quickly buy a ticket, they'll know. If the ticket was purchased within the last few minutes, the screen displays that timer, Padilla said.
What else should I know?
Once you buy a pass, it's good for a year. So you can stock up months ahead of time if you want.
There is an order minimum of $4.50, so if you're considering the 2.5-hour passes, you'll need at least a couple (then only use one, saving the other, if that's all you need).
But with the limited pass options, who's the app for at this point?
"The rider who maybe just on a spontaneous moment says you know, there's a chance I can take a bus right how," Padilla said. "Or if you're at a Vikings game, if you're at another event and you're going to take transit home, you know that, but maybe you don't want to stand in line at the ticket booth waiting to get in. Now you can do it from your seat from your phone."
If you're one of the many Go-To card users, Padilla said the app is useful as a back-up if you happen to forget your card and need an option in a pinch.
"What we understand is, there's certainly people out there who are carrying less cash, and who frankly are carrying more smartphones," Padilla said.
Metro Transit said in a news release about 16 percent of fares are bought online – and according to Padilla, they're interested to see what happens to that number with the app.
"Those are all things we're excited to learn about," he said. "As we're able to examine data, and as we're able to look at some of what our riders are telling us, we're excited to see what direction it's going to take us."