WASHINGTON — Excited Virginia Railway Express passengers crowded around app developers and grabbed free cookies Wednesday as the agency shared details about a new app that launches Friday to allow riders to buy and validate tickets on iPhones or Android devices.
The app, which will initially only be available on iOS and Android, allows riders to buy and validate all types of VRE tickets using SmartBenefits, a credit or debit card or a combination of the two. The mobile tickets will include Amtrak Step-Up tickets.
Once a ticket is validated, the phone shows a moving image that the train crew can confirm with a touch of the screen. The screen shows the time that the ticket is valid until, as well as the desired destination and zone.
Federal worker Dan Dennis of Annandale, Virginia was excited to see the app demonstrated Wednesday afternoon at L’Enfant Plaza, after getting kicked off the train last week because his monthly pass had gotten lost.
“All week I had to deal with not having my ticket, or spending my money to purchase one which I already spent $250 for … so I think the app is a fabulous idea,” Dennis says.
While he thinks people might leave their phones at home too, or run into trouble when their batteries run low, he says the benefits from no more tickets getting lost in the mail are worth it.
James Shelton of Fredericksburg, Virginia is certain he will use the app.
“The paper ticket is kind of cumbersome, and you can forget to validate … or it may not work in the machine,” he says. Shelton thinks the app seems very user-friendly.
Nat Parker, CEO of GlobeSherpa, says the app will add even more features down the road. The Portland-based company, which created the app and operates other mobile ticketing services in other American cities, hopes to expand the app to include other transit options in the Washington region.
“All you have to do is ride a train, and everyone is on their smartphone, so I think we’re providing that easy convenience that people want,” he says.
He says they would also like to add information to help plan trips and to update riders on how full parking lots are in the morning.
Dennis Lindsey of Spotsylvania, Virginia says he is going to download the app as soon as it becomes available Friday, mainly because he knows he will not have to worry about losing his paper ticket or wearing a lanyard around his neck on his commute.
“I think this is the most convenient, easy way of doing this whole thing, and I’ve been riding this for a couple years, this will be wonderful,” he says.
More than 100 riders have been testing the app over the last couple of months. They were selected from hundreds of riders who expressed interest through an online survey.