A pilot program launched by DART on Friday allows bus riders in Delaware’s beach towns to pay for transit with their smart phones.

If successful, the mobile payment service could become available to riders statewide next year, said Julie Theyerl, spokeswoman for Delaware Transit Corporation.

“Really, It’s about improving boarding time and the ease of boarding,” she said. “It makes it convenient for those who like to use their phones and are techies.”

The service, which is contracted to the San Francisco-based Token Transit, launched Friday morning on local buses serving Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island.

The weekend express route 305, which picks up riders in northern Delaware and shuttles them to the Lewes and Rehoboth park and rides, will not be part of the pilot program.

Riders, who download the Token Transit app, can purchase one-way tickets or multi-day passes with a credit card. A digital ticket will then appear on the app and can be shown to drivers while boarding a bus.  

To prevent fraud, the ticket will change color each day and will feature a scrolling image of the current time of day. 

DART launched a mobile pay service for its Beach buses on Friday. (Photo: Token Transit)

Token Transit, for its service, will earn 10 percent of ticket sales for purchases of $2 or more. The company will take 7 percent for the 80-cent reduced fare tickets.

There are no startup costs for the bus agency, DART officials stressed. 

Beach “tourists are a great test market, since they don’t always know where to purchase passes,” DART CEO John Sisson said in a statement. 

During the summer test period, officials will collect feedback from riders and drivers about the app’s ease of use and any potential fraud activity. 

If officials determine the pilot is a success, the transit agency will seek contract proposals from app developers to launch a similar service statewide. 

Token Transit’s head of business development, Samuel Daly, said his company plans to bid on the statewide contract next year. His startup company also has contracted with transit agencies in California, Indiana, Nevada and Nebraska.

Daly declined to say whether Token Transit is profitable. 

Sisson chose the small startup for the pilot project after Daly and other company officials contacted DART in May. Daly was impressed by the transit agency’s willingness to adopt a pilot so quickly, calling DART an “innovative” agency.

“They launched a mobile-tech system in a week,” he said. 

Theyerl said DART officials had been looking at mobile payments options before they were approached by Token Transit.

“We’ve been wanting to do mobile payment for a long time,” Theyerl said. “There were no up front costs and it’s just an easy way to get feedback on something like this.”

DART last year embraced another type of smart-phone technology for its operations when state-employed programmers added a feature on the Delaware Department of Transportation app, which allows riders statewide to see in real-time the location of buses on routes.

Digital smart card technology, which has been adopted by many transit agencies across the country and the globe, is not employed by DART. Theyerl said smart cards bring with them significant capital costs because card readers must be installed on buses.

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Finances for government operations from transportation to health to corrections are constrained as lawmaker battles currently rage over the state budget in Dover.    

Revenues for DART’s operations were boosted last month after Memorial Day weekend ridership on beach buses increased 9 percent from the previous year. 

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback on the new Lewes Park & Ride, the increased frequency of service and the bus lane allowing for faster travel even in traffic,” Theyerl said. 

Contact Karl Baker at kbaker@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.




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