Paying for the Bus With Your Smartphone Just Happened

That day in the future when you'll be able to flash your smartphone at the driver of a bus in order to pay for your trip? That day is now!

Sort of.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a man so tech-friendly that he really, really deserves a role on the show Silicon Valley, this week announced that city buses are now accepting payment via a bespoke smartphone app called LA Mobile.

"The launch makes LADOT the first transit agency in California to create a systemwide mobile ticketing app," the mayor's office said in a statement.

The technology allows you to use a credit card to purchase passes and tickets for L.A. Department of Transportation DASH and Commuter Express buses via your smartphone. Then, when you board, you "present the animated, interactive ticket ... to the driver," says the mayor's office.

That's, like, pretty cool, as Miley Cyrus might say. Garcetti, who demonstrated the iOS and Android app while boarding a DASH bus downtown yesterday, is proud:

My back-to-basics agenda is about improving the daily lives of our residents, and technology is an important tool in our efforts to fight traffic and make city government more customer-friendly. Making it more convenient to use transit will encourage more people to do so, helping cut traffic and smog.

But there's a catch. Have you caught it yet? It doesn't apply to Greater Los Angeles' main bus and light-rail system, L.A. Metro.

Garcetti's spokesman, Yusef Robb, said the larger system is soliciting bids for, in Metro's words, "a mobile system solution that enables a TAP Regional customer to maximize the use of their existing mobile device for transit while leveraging the regional standards-based TAP infrastructure."

In other words, Metro is working on providing a pay-to-ride app, too, a spokesman for the system confirmed.

And Robb noted that "the first motion the mayor introduced as MTA [Metro] chair was to improve technology there." Of course.

But this is where it really gets interesting. Tony Tom, executive vice president of GlobeSherpa, the Portland-based company behind the city's LA Mobile app, said in a statement that his firm looks "forward to bringing this technology to other agencies in the L.A. basin."

Hmm. The name's LA Mobile. It's already up and running for LADOT Transit buses. And none other than the mayor of Los Angeles, who happens to be the chair of L.A. Metro, appears to be smitten with it.

We'd say GlobeSherpa has an edge for this Metro contract.

In any case, it would suck to have to download two different apps just to board different LADOT and Metro buses each day, which some of you do.

Happy riding.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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