Civic News
Apps / Transportation

CharmPass takes tickets mobile on Maryland public transit

Looking to make paying and transferring easier, the MTA rolled out the fare app across transit services.

An MTA bus on the streets. (Photo by Flickr user Elvert Barnes, used under a Creative Commons license)
Correction: An earlier version of this piece misidentified the name of a software company that provided GPS systems in Baltimore. (11:42 a.m., 10/1/18)

Riders can use an app to pay for public transit in Baltimore and across the state.
The Maryland Transit Administration launched CharmPass, a mobile ticketing app that’s designed to make it easier to purchase a fare.
“CharmPass is an innovative tool that will eliminate the need for people to fumble with cash, which will help speed the boarding process and improve reliability,” MTA administration Kevin Quinn said in a statement.

The free app, available for iPhone and Android, stores and displays a ticket for a ride by bus, subway, light rail or MARC train. Passes and reduced fares are also available.
After a ticket is purchased, it’s stored on a phone. That makes it accessible even if there is poor WiFi. To board, it just has to be displayed to MTA personnel.  The tickets on the app are animated, and have security codes that change daily. To verify the ticket’s validity, a representative may ask a rider to tap the ticket, which causes it to change color, according to MTA. When a ticket expires, it turns gray.
The app is also designed to make it easier to transfer. Within 90 minutes of buying a fare, it allows riders to transfer for free between bus, subway and light rail routes.
After rebranding Baltimore’s bus service under the Link system, the MTA has been moving on tech upgrades for riders.
In June, the MTA also announced a partnership with Montreal-–based app Transit to provide real-time bus tracking in Baltimore. You may remember Transit as the app that swooped in to deliver bus tracking in 2015 after civic hackers opened it up amid criticism of the MTA’s own service. But now, with the formal partnership, the Montreal-based service uses data from GPS systems installed on all buses earlier this year by San Francisco–based software firm Swiftly.

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