A SmarTer Way to Pay

Originally published in the Metro Boston

July 19, 2012
Morgan Rousseau (Metro Boston City Desk, Metro Boston)

MBTA officials have said they want riders to weigh in on a new mobile app that would make buying a commuter rail ticket a breeze, and this week, they got their feedback.
About 60 smartphone users participated in three separate hour-long focus groups that helped T officials get the feedback it needs to perfect the technology, which will allow customers to buy the passes using an iPhone, Android or Blackberry.
The participants were videotaped as they went through the steps of buying a mobile ticket. Developers paid attention to where users got stuck, or seemed confused.
According to MBTA Director of Innovation Joshua Robin, customers overall seemed pleased with the app.
"I think people are certainly excited about it. Most of the feedback has been very positive," Robin said.
On Thursday, @Drewcon, a focus group participant, Tweeted to @MetroGM, "Happy to help. App looked & worked great for my needs. Good step in the right direction and huge credit for usability testing EARLY!"
Most of the criticism surrounded terminology within the app, Robin said, with some customers complaining that they were confused about certain words or terms, like what to do when it prompts them to "activate," and asked what a "ticket wallet" is.
"Of course you can’t make every change, but the feedback really helps, because there is always one or two things that can be changed," Robin said.
The MBTA and transit mobile ticketing pioneer, Masabi US Ltd, announced in April that they were partnering on the project.
Earlier this month, to collect data, MBTA officials sent out a 10-question survey asking users which commuter rail line they usually ride, where they usually board the train, their age, whether they typically buy single rides or monthly fares, what type of smart phone they use, and how often they use them to make purchases.
The survey also allowed people to sign up to participate the focus groups, which this week met Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Robin said participants were chosen in a way that ensures a "mixed bag" of smartphone-using commuters.
More focus groups will likely be put together come late August, Robin said, to give developers one last chance to refine the app before the formal roll out this fall.