TriMet going ‘app-ward’

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© Trimet
© Trimet

You know how overused the saying “there’s an app for everything” is? Well, it will remain so, because it’s true. Take for instance the one I recently learned about in my Zumba class that allows you to donate the calories you burn toward world hunger. Don’t ask me how, but now your fat-burning could save a life. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to skip a sit-up.

There are ridiculous numbers of apps popping up every day, but how many of them do we really need in our lives? For example, there’s the passion app that gauges your sexual performance. Really? Are people that insecure? Or how about the iPhone blower app (not in any way related to the above) that blows your birthday candles out for you (because that’s such a tedious once-a-year task).

Those aren’t even the dumbest ones.

It’s pleasantly surprising, then, when one comes along that is actually useful. Thankfully, TriMet has decided to join the app bandwagon. According to a KATU report, the transportation agency is currently testing one that will allow you to purchase a MAX or bus e-ticket on your phone. It will be available to iPhone and Android users this summer.

This is long anticipated; even TriMet acknowledges that. “People have been telling us to please come up with something mobile that they can use on their smartphones,” said TriMet spokesperson Roberta Altstadt, and apparently those voices have been heard.

You’ll never have to rifle for that elusive exact change at the bottom of your purse again. No more pleading with the ticket dispenser to hurry and spit out your ticket as the doors whoosh to a close and the MAX glides away. With just a few touches of the screen, you’ll be good to go.

My first question on hearing the news was: What took so long? How is it we can’t buy MAX and bus tickets on our phones when we can measure our sexual performance with them? You can buy “groupons” on your phone and redeem tickets to almost anywhere now—heck, you can even check in for an international flight. We must be the last place on earth that can’t buy a bus ticket this way.

Not so.

Apparently, I’ve joined the ranks of the impatient, attention-deficient, please-me-now masses. Believe it or not, TriMet is actually one of the “first transit agencies in the nation to pilot mobile ticketing on smart phones,” the agency’s website says. Mais, excusez-moi. We’re actually ahead of the game. Next time you want to curse the day TriMet was born, remember that.

You’ll not only be able to buy a ticket on the spot, you’ll also be given the option to buy multiple tickets to use whenever you need to. If you take the MAX, you can buy a ticket even after you’re on board—this would have come in handy several times when a certain Portlander might have had to make the split-second decision to hop on a train as she was unexpectedly swept up in the flash of a Portland monsoon, with no time to pay for admission.
Voila, the ticket to a guilt-free life. Yes, pun intended.

A question automatically arises—doesn’t this mean that we could just hop on and only buy a ticket if we saw a MAX inspector coming through? The answer is no. TriMet’s smartphone app is smarter than that.

The time and date will flash on the screen for a minute after you’ve bought it, meaning that if an inspector does suddenly appear you won’t be able to slyly buy one on the spot without them knowing you just purchased it. A citation will be in order quicker than you can spell app. Not that any of us would consider doing such a thing.

Indeed, things are moving in the Rose City, and public transit riders will be better for it. It feels good to be ahead of the curve. Now if TriMet could just make it so the bus arrives on time and not 10 minutes before or after, I’ll be a very happy camper. Maybe I’m asking for too much. Then again, there’s probably an app for that.

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