Metro North’s Electronic Tickets Will Make You Feel Worse About Losing Your Phone

07.12.12 David Lumb

What’s wrong with sitting on a train while a conductor walks by and punches your ticket? It’s the past…in the present! Sure, it would be nice to have a safety net if you pat your vest pocket and find a pocketwatch but no ticket, but MTA’s plan to let you use a scannable QR code on your phone as a ticket has more holes than a ticket at the end of the line.

First, the obvious: what if I lose my phone? Can I even order ahead if I have no smartphone to display the code? Banking on patrons owning a smartphone is ridiculous, to say nothing of the folks who haven’t given up their 8-bit color Samsungs–will their old flip phones even be able to display QR codes? Let’s say I have a QR-capable smartphone, but it “fell down some stairs”: if I’ve already endured the shame of a splintered screen, it’s not cool for me to gamble with my train ticket in the event Mr. Conductor’s scanner can’t read the code. But let’s say it can…and my phone runs out of juice? Taking Metro North instead of wasting money on an Amtrak ticket means there really aren’t accessible outlets unless I want to huddle in the luggage area next to the train car’s bathroom. Wait, can I…pull up the code on my computer? Same issue. Print out the code? Might as well print out a regular ticket.

MTA: there needs to be a human element who can give me the benefit of the doubt if my cracked/drowned/paint-splattered screen isn’t clear enough for unforgiving scanners.