An MTS bus wrapped with a Compass Cloud advertisement. Courtesy MTS
An MTS bus wrapped with a Compass Cloud advertisement. Courtesy MTS

The Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District jointly launched a mobile ticketing app Thursday.

Passengers can use the Compass Cloud app for bus and rail trips. According to the agencies, the app is available round-the-clock. Other perks include being able to buy tickets in advance and having multiple tickets on one device.

“Compass Cloud gives our passengers a new level of convenience to ride transit throughout San Diego County,” said MTS CEO Paul Jablonski. “For the first time, people can use mobile ticketing every day on all transit modes — bus, light rail and commuter rail.”

A recent survey found that 85 percent of passengers had smartphones, and two-thirds of them would use a mobile-ticketing app, according to the MTS.

“We saw great success with our former Coaster mobile ticketing application and we’re excited to extend that success to Breeze, Sprinter and MTS bus and trolley on this new mobile ticketing platform,” said Matthew Tucker, NCTD executive director. “Passengers now have an additional option to travel conveniently throughout the entire region by purchasing tickets ahead of time on their mobile devices.”

The launch comes almost one year after the MTS board approved a three- year contract with moovel North America to create and implement a mobile ticketing platform. The deal with moovel — a Portland, Oregon-based subsidiary of Germany’s Daimler AG — includes options for three additional years, for what could be a total of six. The firm will receive a 4 percent commission on sales.

The agencies have been under fire for the old-fashioned Compass cards dispensed at ticket machines at trolley stations and transit centers, which turned out to have some security flaws. It was discovered last year that the cards don’t meet payment card industry data security standards, which leaves passengers vulnerable to credit card fraud.

While the Compass Cloud isn’t a replacement for the card, it will provide an alternative since many passengers have mobile devices.

Officials with Circulate San Diego, an advocacy group focused on mobility issues, said the mobile payment option is an improvement, but the transit agencies still need to correct the problems with the Compass cards, which aside from compromised security, include an inability to store funds for future use.

“Transit systems work when they get the basics right, but MTS has failed to get the basics right on fare payment,” said Colin Parent, Policy Counsel for Circulate San Diego.

Parent said that while the new fare payment system is a welcomed enhancement, the agencies still need to make significant improvements to the Compass cards and implement both stored value and compliance with payment card industry data security standards.

MTS officials said they’re working a next-generation fare collection system that may or may not replace the Compass card, but would add convenience and options to purchasing fares.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.