Avoid Becoming an Expert in Everything: How the MBTA Produced a Service Instead of a Technology

Avoid Becoming an Expert in Everything: How the MBTA Produced a Service Instead of a Technology


Ben Whitaker, Masabi


MBTA (The T) partnered with Masabi to deploy JustRide, a managed end-to-end Mobile Ticketing system. A cost-effective way to expand its Automated Fare Collection system beyond its core subway and bus network.


For an organisation trying to satisfy an increasingly mobile savvy customer base, rolling out a new mobile ticketing solution is a daunting prospect. The MBTA needed to find a cost-effective way to improve and expand its Automated Fare Collection System – dubbed CharlieCard – beyond its core subway and bus network. It began exploring what would be involved in allowing customers to buy and use tickets on their mobile phone, and to better understand the potential possibilities available in the industry, the MBTA conducted an RFI for solutions. Vendor response to this RFI was so positive that it was decided now was the time to pilot a new solution.

In 2012, the MBTA partnered with transport mobile ticketing pioneer Masabi to initiate a large scale pilot of an end-to-end smartphone ticketing system called JustRide that would serve all commuter rail lines and commuter ferries. This system meant the MBTA could reduce lines at transit ticket offices and machines, saving time and reducing missed connections for the end user. The system comprises customer applications for iOS and Android, conductor validation applications for staff, and a cloud based back-office for customer support. Through the application, users are able to purchase mobile tickets anywhere, anytime in seconds. Repeat users are regularly able to make purchases in as little as 15 seconds as the application intelligently remembers previous trip selections and securely stores payment details.

The MBTA was able to deploy mobile ticketing within just seven months of signing the contract, using standard smartphones for validation to effectively remove any upfront cost. Masabi took full ownership of the hosting and maintenance of the ticketing system, allowing the agency to focus on other key areas transit operations.

As a measure of success, nearly two million tickets have been sold since the application launched in November 2012, resulting in over $20 million in revenue. The application has also been extremely well received by passengers and conductors, as well as the local and national media and has also gone on to receive three industry accolades including the America’s Transportation Awards. Most importantly, rolling out JustRide has saved the agency approximately $70 million versus an extension of its smartcard solution.

Its ‘Flexible Fare Collection’ product suite offers a choice of security and validation options that allows operators to scale investment with adoption. During initial rollout, mTickets can be validated visually by simply checking the encrypted ticket watermark. As volumes increase, conductors use JustRide’s scanning apps to authorise tickets, using iPhones or a range of Android devices; all at a far lower cost than traditional ticket validation infrastructure.

Key Session Takeaways:
• Buying a service not a technology to:
a) avoid the risk of getting the specification wrong
b) ensure that the risk is managed by the technology service provider, not the agency
• Using MBTA Boston in the US as a case study, the speaker will provide an overview of how a mobile ticketing solution was successfully implemented in a matter of months
• Present an overview of the deployment and the clear business case for mobile ticketing innovation as adopted by the transit agency
- MBTA was encouraged to take the plunge and adopt this mobile system after speaking to a European partner who had successfully rolled out mTicketing, tried it, tested it and liked the way it worked
• Detail the key consumer and commercial benefits of the ‘Bring Your Own Infrastructure’ model and how MBTA saved $70 million in capex due to not having to install new ticket machines
• Explain how this model is being extended to other markets and geographies such as Europe


Association for European Transport