Muni to implement phone app


Lisabelle Panossian and Claire Kosewic

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency plans to launch an app this summer that will allow Muni riders to pay fares with iPhone and Android smartphones.

“We’re always looking for ways to increase service and the level of convenience for our riders,” Paul Rose, spokesman and media relations manager for the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, said. “We have partnered with the company GlobeSherpa to provide a mobile ticketing platform for our riders, allowing them to use their smartphones to store their fares.”

Sixty percent of students ride Muni to and from school, according to a Broadview survey in which 47 percent of students responded.

“I would definitely use an app to pay because I’ve lost my Clipper card,” freshman Lizzie Bruce said. “I’d use it just to save time getting on the bus. I don’t always have a dollar with me, and it’d be really helpful.”

Muni selected GlobeSherpa to develop the app because of the company’s history of providing mobile ticketing and payment software to its customers, according to Rose.

GlobeSherpa will also provide Muni fare inspectors with technology to verify the authenticity of mobile fares using a separate handheld device, which should keep the app and its users free from security problems.

Some riders are not planning to commit to one specific form of payment.

“I’d probably keep both and have a Clipper card and a phone and use them interchangeably, since I already have a Clipper card which I find so convenient,” sophomore Katie Newbold said.

Only limited-use tickets will be available for mobile purchase when the app is released. Muni customers can choose to purchase single-ride fares, cable car rides or 1-day, 3-day or 7-day Muni passes.

App users will need to link a credit card, debit card or PayPal account to their login, allowing them to purchase tickets at any time. Muni customers simply tap a button and money will automatically deduct from their account. Riders may also purchase tickets online.

Other Muni riders plan to wait a while before downloading the app.  

“I’m not an early-adopter person ordinarily,” theology teacher Rachel Bundang, who often rides Muni to and from school, said. “I would probably wait to make sure that the kinks were worked out before I downloaded it.”

There will be no reduction in fares with the introduction of the app, and paper transfers will still be available for cash-paying customers. The app will support iOS and Android operating systems and will possibly expand later in the year.

More than 32 percent of San Francisco residents use public transportation daily, ranking the city third in overall ridership in the U.S., according to GlobeSherpa.

“We are really exploring what we can do with technology, and integrating this as an option for our riders really seems to be doing just that,” Rose said. “We are gathering data with the technology we have now, and putting it into practical solutions for the future.”