Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile phones have gone beyond being simply communicative devices. And earlier this year, select San Francisco Bay area transit passengers used phones as their ticket to ride.
Fifty-one percent of Americans have said that they could not give up their cell phones -- and why would they? Mobile phones have gone beyond being simply communicative devices. And earlier this year, select San Francisco Bay area transit passengers used phones as their ticket to ride. The Bay Area Rapid Transit District, along with partner Jack in the Box, recently finished a four-month trial period in which 230 riders were loaned Sprint mobile phones with smart chips that would allow them to use them to pay for transit fares and meals. When used for BART, a Near Field Communication chip within the phone deducts fares when passed on top of a contactless reader at any of BART's gates. The chip can also receive offers and information from "smart advertisements" within stations when a rider approaches an ad. Passengers can check their account balances on the phone, and if the stored fare drops below $10, the phone will reload additional fare with a potential discount. BART Board Vice President James Fang will present findings from the trial this week at Near Field Communications Europe 2009, saying the pay-by-phone system could cut down on paper tickets and energy costs. In 2007, New York City's subway system, with the help of a number of partners including MasterCard, ran a similiar trial in which NFC-enabled cell phones were used as transit passes at a limited number of stations. A more recent program where subway riders swipe tags or cards to pay fares will expire at the end of May.