SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has launched a new smartphone app that allows passengers to pay for transit fares online.

MuniMobile is designed as an alternative to cash and the existing reloadable Clipper card.

SFMTA’s director of transportation Ed Reiskin said the app would save time for transit riders and decrease costs for Muni.

Reiskin said most transit riders in San Francisco have smartphones with Internet access, but that roughly half of all riders are still using cash to ride Muni.

He said the app, designed by GlobeSherpa, a software company that specializes in mobile payments and ticketing, will decrease the number of people who are using cash to purchase their Muni tickets.

Reiskin said “stuffing the dollar bills and coins into the fare box” takes time and slows down the entire transportation system.

Not only will the app help speed up the boarding process, but it is expected to decrease the costs associated with physically moving cash from Muni stations and vehicles to banks.

To use the new system smartphone users download the app, create an account and pay using PayPal or a credit or debit card. Once the fare has been purchased, riders just hop on board and flash the screen at Muni operators or fare inspectors.

The GlobeSherpa contract cost the city $95,000 up front and then 4 percent of all Muni fares generated via the app, according to SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

GlobeSherpa chief executive officer Nat Parker said the app is live and that transit riders can expect to see enhanced features in the coming month, including Spanish and Cantonese language options and support for vision impaired riders.

Standing next to a cluster of Muni ticket machines inside San Francisco’s Powell Street station Monday, Parker demonstrated the ease of purchasing various types of tickets on a smartphone. Within seconds, Parker had selected the type of rider and type of fare and purchased a digital ticket that lasts for an hour.

To prevent fare evasion, GlobeSherpa designed a dynamic animated ticket for visual authentication, which changes color when touched. Riders simply need to tap the screen to show the operator the authentic ticket. A QR code is also used to ensure the ticket’s authenticity and validity.

In addition to easy online ticket purchase, the app also includes a transit prediction feature that let’s you know when your cable car, bus, rail or paratranist vehicle is scheduled to arrive.

While the app requires Internet access to make purchases, transit riders can then use ticket in the station without an Internet connection.

Reiskin said that while Clipper cards and cash would continue to be accepted, MuniMobile would help move San Francisco’s public transportation in a more tech savvy and efficient direction.

© Copyright 2015 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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