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The MTA’s mobile ticketing app is almost done rolling out

The MTA’s mobile ticketing app is almost done rolling out


It’s like Netflix for trains

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This week, the MTA completed the launch of its Metro North eTix app, which lets commuters in Connecticut, Long Island, and upstate New York purchase train tickets directly on their phones. The initial release of the app came earlier this summer with a grandiose celebration from New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who proclaimed the death of the ticket line at train stations all over New York.

The MTA was able to launch this app fairly painlessly, mostly because tickets on the Metro North commuter rail are still checked by conductors. There was no massive infrastructure expansion needed to tell the conductors to look at phone screens. Mobile ticketing plans for New York City’s subway system are estimated to cost $450 million by the time they’re ready five years from now.

Because verification relies on a visual marker, a screen recording of the ticket could potentially be saved and reused every day by fraud-inclined commuters. However, when asked for comment, an MTA representative told The Verge, “MTA eTix use cryptographic operations to generate an inherently unpredictable animation that is difficult to replicate, but can still be easily visually validated.”

iPhone screen recording of a metro north eticket
The eTix app relies on a moving color bar with the time to verify the ticket.
Matthew Davis

The MTA says it will be conducting field testing of ticket scanning starting this fall.