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E-ticket app pilot program rolls out on LIRR, Metro-North

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's eTix app made its

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's eTix app made its debut Thursday, June 30, 2016, as a pilot program on the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington branch and Metro-North Hudson line. Credit: MTA

Some Long Island Railroad riders no longer need to fumble with cash or wait in kiosk lines to buy train tickets.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority on Thursday rolled out a pilot program for MTA eTix, a free app that allows riders to buy and display tickets for the LIRR and Metro-North Railroad using mobile devices.

Users can download the app to purchase tickets through a credit card, refund unused tickets and update their account with new payment information. After a purchase, the app delivers tickets to a device’s virtual wallet and displays recent trips on its home screen.

“The convenience to riders is quite obvious,’’ said Mark Epstein, LIRR Commuter Council chairman. ‘‘It’s a system that is long overdue.”

The pilot, on the LIRR’s Port Washington branch and Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson line, met its June deadline, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo initially promised in January. App use on both railroads’ remaining branches and lines is to begin in late August, according to the MTA, ahead of Cuomo’s previously indicated end-of-year deadline.

The digital capability initially met resistance from the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, representing the LIRR’s 1,200 conductors. Railroad workers worried the new digital capabilities — including links to station information, maps and schedules — would affect jobs. Cuomo has indicated this will not be the case.

Masabi Ltd., a London e-ticketing firm, created and implemented the app after the LIRR hired the company in April 2014.

Riders can purchase round-trip and one-way tickets as well as bulk 10-trip, weekly and monthly packages. Senior citizens and military members can access discounts as well. The service is also accessible through the LIRR’s TrainTime app.

The app does not currently support Mail&Ride, a service that allows users to buy monthly or unlimited tickets at a discounted rate. Epstein and the Commuter Council are concerned program users might lose their discount if purchasing a monthly ticket package through the app.

Mail&Ride is not affected by the app rollout, and will still be available via the traditional application, said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

The LIRR also announced Thursday it was improving service to Suffolk’s East End during the summer in response to calls from elected officials and residents there.

The enhanced service, which begins Friday and lasts through Sept. 2, includes more cars on trains to and from Greenport, and two new trains on the Montauk Line, timed to connect with Fire Island ferries at Bay Shore, Sayville and Patchogue. The new service also aims to reduce crowding on the LIRR’s busy weekend trains to and from the Hamptons.

“The changes we are launching will make it easier to get to eastern Long Island’s popular getaway destinations,” LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said. “That means more customers for the region’s businesses and a stronger economy on the East End of Long Island.”

On Friday, the LIRR will operate 10 extra eastbound trains from Penn Station between 1:49 p.m. and 3:48 p.m. There will be four added trains on the Babylon branch, three on the Port Jefferson branch and one each on the Port Washington, Far Rockaway & Ronkonkoma branches.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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