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Fire Island Water Taxi: There’s an app for that (and ferries, too)

A water taxi arrives at Fire Island's Ocean

A water taxi arrives at Fire Island's Ocean Beach terminal on May 31, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Fire Island Water Taxi is test-piloting mobile technology this summer to give riders the option to pay by credit card — with hopes to bring it aboard ferries by Labor Day, company officials said Thursday.

The app, powered by London-based technology company Masabi, which has created apps used for the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, went live for use on the water taxis after Memorial Day weekend, said Tim Mooney, president of Fire Island Ferries, which also owns the water taxi company.

Mooney said he found out about the technology from a friend who operates ferries in London.

The rollout has been smooth sailing so far, Mooney said, and if all goes as planned tickets for ferry rides will be added in September.

“When things slow down a bit and we work any kinks out, we’ll add the ferries,” Mooney said. “So far, we haven’t hit any road blocks, but for the taxis, we’re talking about tens of thousands of passengers each summer. For the ferries, its hundreds of thousands. We just want to make sure we have everything in line.”

Sean Carlin, a manager with the water taxi, said there have been customers interested in being able to pay by credit card for years.

“It’s a long time coming for us,” Carlin said.

While “convenience” for riders is the biggest sell, both Mooney and Carlin believe it will help speed up the boarding process, especially on packed boats. Carlin hopes the ease of mobile payments will increase ridership as well.

“People are on vacation and, it being Fire Island, it’s a little secluded and it’s not easy to have a bunch of cash on you all the time,” Carlin said.

Paper tickets can still be purchased at ports or on board boats, but only with cash. While it will cost the companies a “standard fee” for each credit card transaction, the companies, for now, will not pass that charge on to customers, Mooney and Carlin said.

Mooney expects the app to “grow organically” as riders see others using the new option.

“We’re excited. We had been looking to do something like this for a long time but didn’t find the right technology until now,” Mooney said. “Everybody’s carrying around the infrastructure on their phone already. We don’t have to invest in networking or hardware or infrastructure. You already have it in your pocket.”


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