MARTA’s smartphone app would replace Breeze card

MARTA is testing a smartphone app that would replace Breeze cards and enable riders to buy train and bus passes and scan through gates all on the phone.

MARTA is piloting the app, called Breeze Mobile, with employees this month and moving to a group of 200 customers next month. It will be public by January and fully integrated by the end of next year, General Manager Keith Parker said.

In addition to cutting lines at ticket-vending machines, the app won’t require the same fees physical cards do. The move to digital will also enable people buying tickets for games and other to embed their fare into the ticket, Parker said.

“You don’t have to mail anything, you don’t have to pick up anything new,” Parker said. “It’s all right there.”

Parker said the move makes sense because while not everyone has a smartphone, the option may appeal to the 70 percent of MARTA’s riders who do. Adding that variety saves time and money whether someone prefers paper or digital.

Breeze Mobile is the first of its kind — and not just in Atlanta, said Ming Hsi, assistant general manager of information technology.

Other major cities offer public transportation apps, but a lot of them still require a physical card or other service outside of Breeze Mobile, Hsi said.

“What we’re doing here is completely mobile,” Hsi said. “That’s really why were so unique. There’s absolutely no need to have a breeze card once the system’s implemented.”

She said the first users, MARTA workers, like the simple interface. To use it, riders download the app, create an account and attach their credit card information before buying rides and passes.

MARTA will also set up a separate website where users can access their accounts and track their spending.

As MARTA moves its services to mobile, another big step in tech is on the way for Atlanta’s public transit riders — Wi-Fi.

While wireless connection on a bus or train isn’t a new goal for MARTA, Parker said they’re set to make advances in 2017.

About 50 buses already have Wi-Fi, but MARTA plans to install it on the whole fleet by the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017, Hsi said.

Plans are also underway to bring Wi-Fi to three rail stations — Peachtree Center, Five Points and Georgia Dome/Georgia World Congress Center — sometime next year. The first step in that is installing infrastructure that boosts cell signals underground so phones can access the Wi-Fi. After testing the system at those three stations, it would expand to all 38 by July 2018.

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