Users of the VIA goMobile app can purchase passes and show bus operators their mobile tickets to board buses. Credit: Courtesy / VIA Metropolitan Transit

New ways to pay and novel security features are coming to VIA Metropolitan Transit’s ticketing app in a makeover planned for early 2019 – with more updates due later in the year.

Steve Young, VIA’s vice president of technology & innovation, gave a demo of the planned goMobile app update at a VIA meeting Tuesday. A new layout puts menu options on the bottom of the main screen instead of in a collapsible button on the side.

Beyond that, one of the more noticeable changes will appear in the payment system, which will accept Apple Pay and Google Pay. The current version of the app accepts only Visa and MasterCard. The minimum payment of $2.50 when buying tickets through the app is going away, too, Young said.

Smartphone users with fingerprint or face recognition security options will be able to use those to confirm payment of mobile tickets.

Credit: Courtesy / VIA Metropolitan Transit

VIA plans to roll out several more updates throughout 2019, such as next bus arrivals and improved trip planning. In the current app, activating the trip planner merely opens Google Maps.

Integrated trip planning will be released sometime in the first half of 2019, Young said. He envisions other mobility providers, such as rideshare and e-scooter companies, providing data on the goMobile app to show scooters or cars in the user’s area. The update will set the stage for future integrations, he said.

“No one knows what transportation is going to look like in five to 10 years. …  Our customers need options, and sometimes they need to go an extra mile that VIA doesn’t go,” he said. “To us, it’s about integration as much as possible.”

Young said he thinks the biggest change to the app is the ability to add more features as needed.

“Transportation is changing,” he said. “Something new might come.”

The app first launched last June. Moovel, the company that won VIA’s 2016 contract to build an app, has continued to work with VIA for this updated version, Young said.

“That’s going to make this update process a lot smoother,” he said. “While it’s a completely new code base, it’s the same developers. It’s just going to be a bigger change than the average update.”

In the meeting, VIA Chairwoman Hope Andrade brought up customers who rely on cash only.

“If they wanted to purchase a ticket [in person] with cash, can they do that” and still use the app for mobile bus ticket? she asked.

Young said they are discussing ways to do that.

“It’s hard to convince a company of millennials to understand the importance of this,” he joked.

Overall, VIA is seeing more people use the goMobile app.

“We’re seeing good growth in sales in goMobile,” Young said. “The general trend is upward.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.