The city of Atlanta says, starting next month, there will be a new way to pay for the Atlanta Streetcar: a mobile app.
This is after a long delay in getting the app ready for riders.
Mayor Kasim Reed said last spring that one reason the streetcar would be free for all of 2015 was to allow for time to get a mobile payment app ready.
“We've been approached by a number of businesses that could allow us to purchase the service with an app," Reed said at the time. "And so we need time in order to have better technology, paperless technology."
But the new year started with no app. So the city of Atlanta started charging the $1 fare using paper tickets and MARTA BreezeCards. The Atlanta Streetcar even put out this video featuring retired Atlanta Hawks player Dikembe Mutombo to explain how to use the vending machines at four of its stops:
A company called GlobeSherpa, based in Portland is developing the app for the Atlanta Streetcar. In September, City Council authorized a payment of $177,272 for the app.
"The procurement took a little longer than we expected and the contract and getting everything signed and then the holidays hit," said Mac Brown, director of communications with GlobeSherpa. "We're just working to get it out as quickly as possible and we're really excited to roll that out this Spring."
City officials said they expect the app to be ready by the end of March, after it is validated by platforms like the Apple Store.
There's mostly an honor system to using the streetcar right now. Riders pay a dollar at the vending machine, hop on and there may or may not be an officer who comes around to check for tickets.
With the streetcar app, it's still an honor system, but instead of a physical ticket, a fare inspection officer will scan your smartphone.
Melissa Mullinax, senior advisor to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, explained:
"You'll be able to purchase tickets for single-ride; day passes; five, seven or 30-day passes through your phone and you'll have a validation on your phone so that when you are asked to show your ticket, it will be on your phone."
Mullinax said the app will make purchasing group tickets easier since you can currently only purchase single-ride or one-day passes at the vending machines.
Mac Brown with GlobeSherpa said there will be testers who ride the streetcar for free and launch events to educate riders on how to use the mobile app.
"They could be approached by a fare inspection officer that would scan that ticket with a separate handheld device to scan the QR code, at which point they could educate the rider, or they could issue a citation," Brown said.
Mullinax said riders who get caught evading the $1 streetcar fare face a $100 fine.