Train ticket app around the bend

WATERBURY — As work to upgrade the Waterbury Branch to a modern railroad continues, the line will unveil a new form of payment — the eTix cellphone app.

Soon, customers will be able to purchase tickets using their cellphones. The eTix app will be implemented on the New Haven Line and on Metro-North Railroad’s three Connecticut branches — Waterbury, Danbury and New Canaan — the week of Aug. 22.

The app will be especially useful on the Waterbury Branch, which has no ticket vending machines. Customers who make last-minute plans to travel by train or don’t have access to a computer can use the app to avoid paying the higher on-board fares.

“The eTix app is an exciting initiative that should result in making the ticket-buying process much easier for the commuter,” said Jim Gildea, chairman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, who rides the Waterbury Branch.

Currently, riders can purchase tickets in advance using the Metro-North’s website, or by ordering them through the mail. If they pay after boarding a train, there is an additional fee of $5.75 to $6.50.

During the initial rollout, conductors will read the tickets manually from a cellphone screen. Eventually, they’ll carry devices that scan tickets.

The app is already being used on several Metro-North lines in New York.

While Metro-North “should be commended for its effort to make communing easier,” Gildea said, he believes the agency needs to work to ensure conductors are more scrupulous about checking tickets.

“The MTA now needs to turn their attention on improving the ticket collection process,” Gildea said. “Far too often tickets go uncollected, which not only represents lost income but is also an issue for monthly pass holders who consistently pay for their ticket.”

Purchasing items using a cellphone isn’t a new technology. Travelers can already check in at airports using cellphones and airlines can scan tickets displayed on a cellphone screen. Many chain retail stores accept cellphone coupons.

Upgrading the ticketing system is the latest improvement on the Waterbury Branch, but long-term infrastructure projects are also underway.

Work to add signalization and passing sidings to the diesel-only Waterbury Branch is expected to be finished in November 2020.

The branch runs from Waterbury to Bridgeport, following the Route 8 corridor, with five stations between the cities. In Bridgeport, riders can transfer to trains bound for New Haven or Grand Central Terminal.

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