Riders at the Allegheny Station. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is ready to spend $2.85 million to bring all of us into a post-paper era.

On Friday, May 31, the Port Authority Board formally approved a three-year contract with the London-based software company Masabi LLC to revamp our city’s ticketing system for public transit.

The crown jewel of the new initiative: payments via smartphone.

“This is a step toward making public transit in Allegheny County easier to use and more convenient,” said Jennifer Liptak, the board’s vice president and technology committee chair. “More and more of our customers use smartphones when they ride with us, and being able to buy tickets on those devices will make riding public transit that much easier.”

Via the app, which is expected to be available next year, commuters can purchase any kind of ticket — from a single fare to an annual pass — and pay via credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Port Authority Public Relations Manager Adam Brandolph stresses that the new app will not replace cash payments or ConnectCards in the city’s transit network.

“We understand that not everyone has a smartphone,” Brandolph says.

The new system will go online for buses in early 2020, with updated ticketing for the light rail coming a few months later. Masabi will collect 5.95 percent of ticket revenues once the system is online.

In addition to working with transit departments in New York City, Boston and Westmoreland County, Masabi has also built networks in Sydney, Australia and The Hague, Netherlands. Theirs was among the 11 proposals submitted to the Port Authority during an open bidding process last year.

“Paying for transit should be simple, convenient and equitable,” Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman said in a media release. “This system gives our customers yet another option to help make their riding experience even easier.”

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.