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NICE bus GoMobile app downloaded 6,700 times in two months, officials say

Mary Jirsa, of Hicksville, tests the NICE mobile

Mary Jirsa, of Hicksville, tests the NICE mobile app on April 23, 2014. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

About 11 percent of Nassau bus riders have downloaded NICE's new mobile fare payment application in the two months since its release.

Since its June 3 launch, Nassau Inter-County Express' GoMobile app, which allows customers to pay bus fares using their smartphones, has been downloaded about 6,700 times, NICE officials said.

As of July 25, customers have used the app more than 21,000 times, and bought nearly 9,000 tickets, according to NICE. GoMobile has also received strong reviews from users. The app has averaged a rating of more than 4 out of 5 from both Apple iOS and Android users.

"It's obviously very early and we're still in the rollout phase, but we're really happy with all the numbers and all the indicators," NICE spokesman Jack Kzhous said Tuesday. "It's all about trying to improve the riders' experience and make it easier to travel."

The app allows riders to buy tickets in advance using a credit or bank account, then activate a fare as they board a bus. Riders display a flashing, colored screen to a bus driver to confirm they have paid.

The 6,700 downloads represent 11.1 percent of NICE's 60,000 average weekday customers. Kzhous said the agency expects to steadily increase that number, and to get a boost from returning college students next month.

NICE rider Kimberly Saget, 22, of Valley Stream, said Wednesday GoMobile has worked well for her, and saved her the trouble of having to travel to the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center to buy a new MetroCard.

"I like it a lot," said Saget, who quickly learned how to use her phone to pay for her rides. "For the younger generation, because we're used to smartphones, it's easier to use."

Aaron Watkins-Lopez, a NICE rider and organizer with the nonprofit Long Island Bus Riders Union, said GoMobile is not ideal for everyone, including riders who are blind or have other disabilities that prevent them from using it.

"Even though we're moving forward and technology is growing . . . there's always going to be people who need the cash fare," Watkins-Lopez said. "I don't want [riders] to think this app is an end-all, cure-all for all their problems."

NICE and London-based app developer Masabi have already begun work on the next phase of their mobile fare plan. One bus on the N43 line has been fitted with a "multimodal scanner" that riders can use to scan a bar code on their mobile ticket as they board.

Kzhous said NICE plans to eventually install the scanners on all Nassau buses.

"We can see a time when a customer can pay their fare using anything in their wallet. They can use their phone, a smart card, a credit card, maybe a preloaded student ID," Kzhous said.

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