Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Buying bus and train tickets with your smartphone in Portland

One of the reasons I live in Portland is the simple fact that the mass transit system is good enough that I don’t have to drive.  I hate driving and find it to be both expensive and a huge waste of time.  One of the odd issues though with using mass transit is trying to make sure that you either have some bus passes or the correct amount of cash to buy a ticket when you need one.  Given that I rarely use cash this has actually been more of an issue than it should have been so I have been looking forward to e-tickets to simplify this issue.

Now Trimet, the regional mass transit authority for the Portland area, has a simple smartphone app that lets you buy tickets whenever you need them.  All you need to do is download the app, put in some credit/debit card information and then you can start buying tickets.  When you need to use one you just click a few buttons and you get a valid ticket to show the bus driver, it even has a QR code that the driver can check to ensure that the ticket is valid.

I have been using this app for the last week and it works exactly how I would want an app like this to work. It is simple to use and even looks pretty good.  The only issue I have with the system is that they do force you to buy at least $5 of tickets at a time.  This is undoubtedly due to processing fees and is not that big a deal, but still a bit annoying.  Also some people have complained that the trip planning features are not as developed as they should be, but I already use google maps for my transit directions anyways.

I personally had thought about e-ticketing systems over the years and have used a few in various cities.  What I love about this system is the simplicity of it.  All you need is a smartphone running Android or iOS and you are good to go.  Most other system are much more complicated and involve needing to sign up for some type of card or device.  This system didn’t require any type of overhaul of the current ticketing system that trimet has and is simple enough that most people can start using right away.

I am very impressed with this app and hope that a lot of people start using it and if you live in the Portland area please give it a try!