Monday, December 10, 2012

Experiencing Payments: Flawless MBTA App

December 9 - Back in Boston, Taking the Train Home

And then there's an app that just works.  The new app from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) commuter rail system is a delight.  Straightforward flow.  Big buttons for data entry that are context sensitive.  A number pad when you need it (CVV entry).  

The app comes from UK-based Masabi.  It's been used by a dozen other systems.

Now that I've learned how to take screenshots on my S3 (hold the power and home buttons down at the same time, way easy), here's the flow for buying a ticket.  

The splash screen, the main screen, and my options once I'd gone through the From / To station list (didn't think you needed to see that).

Then I chose the card I'd already loaded into the app, i.e. this is a card-on-file, in the cloud, and card not present transaction.

Once the transaction goes through, the ticket is loaded into the My Tickets section.  I've now got two round trips to Boston waiting for me.  The last panel is a shot of my ticket from last night. The rectangle at the top shows the current time, the time block moves back and forth, and the three blocks are multi-colored.  Apparently the color scheme changes on a daily basis according to a scheme that the conductor knows.  My conductor just glanced at the screen, nodded with a "thanks" and put a paper slip in the holder above my head.  Done.

This apps works.  I'm done with digging for cash and coin when purchasing tickets on the train or paying by cash or card at the ticket counter at North Station.  Definitely an improvement.  The user interface makes good use of the mobile phone's limited screen real estate.  The app also caches my past ride routes and email address so it gets easier on subsequent use, just as it should.

Way to go MBTA.  

UPDATE: What the live ticket looks like.

Taking a screenshot on my Galaxy S3 is drop dead simple.  Hold the Home and Power keys down at the same time.  A second or two later, click, it's captured.   

Here are a couple of shots of the tickets I used yesterday for my train ride into North Station.

The color scheme changes regularly.  The time display moves back and forth across the screen so it's clear to the conductor that it's a live ticket.

On the way home last night, I was reading Eric Jackson's The PayPal Wars and was surprised by the conductor who was looking for my ticket.  I fumbled with the phone for a bit to bring up the ticket.  While I was switching to the MBTA app, he moved forward to others on the train.  He turned around a few rows beyond me.  I held up my mobile, he squinted at it, and gave me a thumbs up.  That was it.

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