VIA Metropolitan Transit unveiled its goMobile application Wednesday at a “download and dancing” event held in Travis Park. Users can now purchase and store bus fares on the application, and can also access a trip planning feature.

VIA goMobile was released free of charge on the iOS and Android application stores on June 27.

“[goMobile] is a move away from cash fares and paper ticketing to all-digital options that are designed to streamline the ticketing and boarding process for our bus and VIAtrans passengers,” VIA President and CEO Jeffrey Arndt said. “Now purchasing fares can be as simple and familiar as buying a movie ticket, concert ticket, or any number of other convenient purchases we make with our smartphones.”

After downloading the application, users can create an account using their first and last names, a phone number, and an email address in order to purchase bus fares on the app. Full fare, reduced fare, and VIAtrans users can select 2.5 hour passes, day passes, seven-day passes, 31-day passes, or special event passes. A credit card is necessary for fare purchasing, but after the first purchase the credit card information entered is kept on file for future purchases. The amount of fare purchase must be at least $2.50.

Fares are stored in the “My Tickets” section of the application. Tapping a stored ticket activates it for use. Once activated, the driver of any VIA bus may visually validate the fare and allow the user to board. Reduced fare and VIAtrans users must have a valid ID to present to drivers along with their online bus fare. This rule does not apply to children or uniformed military members.

A trip-planning feature, which opens on a web browser outside of the application, is also available through the application.

“You can, for example, go to a map and say, ‘Here’s where I am and here’s where I want to be,’” Arndt said. “Touch those two points and it will give you a variety of options or ways to make that trip in transit. It will show you where to walk [and] what stop to get on at. If you have a transfer it will tell you where that transfer takes place. It will tell you the approximate time you should expect for that trip to take.”

VIA’s goMobile app includes a trip-planning feature.

Route information is provided through the trip planning function, but currently with less ease than its apparent host service Google Maps.

The release of the goMobile app this year follows other actions by VIA, including building more bus shelters, adding solar panels to some of those shelters, implementing a Primo line, and replacing aging buses with near-zero-emission ones.

“The goMobile app is the next step in a series of technological advancements VIA has introduced to enhance passenger amenities and modernize the agency’s programs and services,” Arndt said. “It was designed in partnership with a transit technology provider, moovel North America.”

Moovel group is a Portland, Ore.-based company that seeks to connect technologies with the ever-changing methods of urban transportation.

“What we at moovel believe is that public transit is actually the backbone of transportation in a community,” said Tony Tom, VP of accounts at moovel. “So we are creating these kinds of mobile experiences that really are aimed at bringing our transportation systems up to parity with parts of the private sector, specifically Uber and Lyft.”

Arndt believes that users will save both time and money by using the application. However, the organization did not share specific figures. Moreover, the amount of money spent developing and implementing the application is not clear.

“Through VIA’s partnership with moovel North America, the app technology was developed at no cost to VIA,” VIA Communications Manager Lorraine Pulido stated in an email sent to the Rivard Report. “There will be a moderate annual fee paid to moovel to host the app.”

Hosting the application includes collecting and analyzing data from application use.

“The scope of data collection is actually as light as we can make it,” Tom said. “If we know where people are buying tickets, where they’re actually getting on vehicles, where they’re getting off vehicles, we’ll be able to help [VIA] do route-planning better and to essentially provide a better service to the community.”

VIA plans to implement Quick Response (QR) code readers to identify specific information on bus fares when it releases its smart card technology in the fall of 2017. Arndt believes that VIA buses now offer mobile ticketing services comparable to those provided by airlines and ridesharing companies.

“Its a big step forward,” Arndt said. “Now we have advanced public transportation to that same level of convenience.”

A quick response code allows smartphone users to locate and download the new VIA goMobile app. Credit: Jeffrey Sullivan / San Antonio Report

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.