Toronto airport rail line to use mobile ticket system

Toronto’s new airport line will be using a mobile ticketing app when it opens next year. The Union Pearson Express will be using an app from New York-based Bytemark, which lets passengers buy and present tickets using their smart phones, in a move targeting visitors to the city.

The Union Pearson Express, operated by Ontario government agency Metrolinx, will transport roughly 5000 people each day between Union Station in downtown Toronto, and Toronto Pearson International Airport, when the line opens in the spring. Metrolinx covers regional transport between Toronto and other cities with its GO network of trains.

Bytemark will let people buy Union Pearson Express tickets online, either via a mobile app or a Web site. They can then print the ticket out, or store it on their phone. Either way, it can be scanned by mobile ticket validators carried by staff on the train.

The Bytemark system is incompatible with the Presto card, which is an near field communication (NFC)-based card used on the rest of the Metrolinx GO network, and which is also now being rolled out on the Toronto Transit Commission’s urban subway system.

“I can’t confirm exactly what will happen at launch date but at this point in time they are two different systems,” said Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, which is not ruling out an expansion of the Bytemark system.

In-town Presto card owners can use their NFC cards on the Union Pearson Express, making it easy to go the other way on their card, and passengers can still buy tickets on board using a debit or credit card.
Bytemark’s CEO Micah Bergdale said that Bytemark served a specific need for out of town visitors who don’t own a Presto card.

“There have been a number of different times where I’ve had business in the Toronto area where there are meetings downtown. I’m not going to have any other need to be able to go to other transit systems in the entire Toronto area,” he said. “It’s just about getting from the airport to downtown for me.”

The app is available on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. Regular visitors to Toronto can also register an online account and link it to a credit card to buy tickets without having to continually re-enter their details.

Bytemark has already sold its mobile ticket system to several cities in the US, including New York, but this is the first city that it has dealt with in Canada.

“We’ve talked to every major single transit system in the Canadian market. We will be participating in Canadian Urban Transit Assocation meetings next week and doing a presentation around our solution,” said Bergdale.

We don’t have any immediate contracts that we announce, but there are some things that we expect to close here over the next few months,” he concluded.

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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