The Metrolink commuter railroad took a step to improve customer relations on Wednesday when it began offering a mobile ticketing app for riders on its Inland Empire-Orange County Line.
For the first time in Metrolink's 23-year history, the pilot program will give its passengers the option of buying tickets on their smartphones, personal tablets, laptops or other mobile devices.
The app, which is available for free at both Google Play and Apple App stores, also will allow riders to transfer to connecting bus service at no additional cost.
Metrolink officials say the pilot program will provide an opportunity to test the app and make improvements before it is scheduled to be implemented systemwide in April.
"This is a milestone for the agency and it's a pleasure for us to provide the option to our passengers," said Sherita Coffelt, a spokesperson for Metrolink.
The commuter railroad has 512 miles of track and serves six Southern California counties -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.
Its Inland Empire-Orange County Line runs from Oceanside to San Bernardino and includes 14 stops, including Mission Viejo, Santa Ana, Corona and Riverside.
Metrolink officials say the app should give passengers a reliable and convenient alternative to the railroad's faulty ticket vending machines that have caused problems for passengers systemwide.
Rail officials say they hope to scale back the use of vending machines in the future and replace them with a variety of ticketing options.
In the fall, passengers with Metrolink's mobile tickets will be able to use barcode readers at the gates for light rail and subway lines operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
This will enable Metrolink passengers to continue their commutes on dozens of city bus, shuttle bus, and rail systems that serve the region. Amtrak also is preparing to accept tickets purchased with Metrolink's app.
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