Mobile App to Save $20 Million for Boston Public Transit

Using a new mobile ticketing app, the City of Boston expects to save $20 million annually and make ticketing more efficient, while also cutting the time conductors need to spend on administration tasks.


What Happened?

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which oversees public transportation in the Boston area, recently announced the launch of a mobile ticketing application for commuter rail customers on its North Station lines. The mobile ticketing portal will allow commuters to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones and tablets for faster, paperless transactions, while saving the city an estimated $20 million in outdated processes.

Why It’s Important

Municipalities across the country are looking for ways to improve efficiency in the delivery of public services through open data strategies, while cutting costs and boosting the speed and ease of use. As more Americans are carrying smartphones with them, the launch of a mobile application for purchasing and sharing public transit ticket information is a trending initiative among local governments.

Mobile-optimized solutions are growing in popularity with municipalities seeking cost-effective ways encourage use of public services through convenience and time-saving benefits. The MBTA mobile ticket initiative will allow commuters to avoid waiting in line to purchase a ticket, speed up the collection process once on the train and allow the transit authority to spend less on ticketing processes. Mobile applications for public services are already in widespread use throughout Europe, and gaining traction in the United States.

Mobile Tech Apps

Just as smartphone applications make use of public services easier for citizens, mobile technology is also simplifying work for local officials. California’s geographic information officer recently announced state plans for a Geoportal that will provide mobile access to GIS information from federal, state and local agencies.

Because 85 percent of the state’s public sector data is geographic-based, it is important that agencies and residents have access to the information through convenient portals. GIS data provides users with a location-based breakdown of trends and patterns in citizen activity, public services and other local behaviors. The information from GIS data can be used to support economic, financial or developmental decisions as part of comprehensive IT strategies. Mobile applications allow agencies to embed public information into agency systems for more accurate reporting and improved outcomes.

Public Data Best Practices

According to the GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, certain strategies can be deployed to help GIS data users find, evaluate and analyze public domain information to overcome location-based challenges.

Before investing in the technology, the guide recommends users consider a number of factors such as:


-Use of cloud computing technology

-Integrity of GIS data

-Online data portals

When brainstorming on the uses of GIS information, officials should consider common practices including:

-Land selection for cultivation

-Efficient use of transit networks

-Areas for business development

-Location-based trends in service inefficiencies

In Sydney, Australia, a coalition of public affairs organizations used GIS information to map out the city’s public transport network. The data revealed areas of the city where a lack of transit services was placing residents at a disadvantage. Through appropriate application of the data, city officials are revamping the transit system to fill in service gaps throughout Sydney.


Governments are developing data strategies that include the use of GIS data to enhance decision-making and improve operational efficiency, with greater reliance on mobile technology.