Metro-North Railroad will begin a pilot program next month allowing commuters to buy tickets with their smartphones.
During the trial, railroad employees will be able to download the app to the iPhone, and Android or Blackberry phones, and be able to buy any ticket for any origin and destination, according to the railroad.
"We're as excited to begin testing the next generation ticket-selling technology as we were when we introduced ticket-vending machines a quarter of a century ago," Metro-North President Howard Permut said. "The latest test is intended to ensure that the newest technology will be equally easy to use, as well as secure and reliable."
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the decision to limit the trial to employees was intended to work out concerns about the security of transactions before launching it.
After a ticket is purchased through the application, the time- and date-stamped electronic ticket shows up on the purchaser's smartphone screen as a secure image the conductor can valdate visually or by scanning a barcode.
The technology is being developed by London-based Masabi US Ltd., which is also working with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to introduce smartphone rail ticketing on Boston commuter trains this fall.
Long Island Railroad is currently running a separate trial with 100 customers on the Port Washington branch of the railroad of a smartphone application to sell tickets that was created by the Finnish telecommunications firm Nokia.
Masabi's smartphone technology also supports a possible future move to allow railroad ticket checking to be conducted through a scanning of a device through a reader, but Anders said that it is unlikely Metro-North would introduce a gate or turnstile system to check tickets.
"It doesn't mean turnstiles are coming to the commuter railroads," Anders said.
Masabi's technology is used by 13 transit agencies in the United Kingdom, including Virgin Trains, Cross Country Trains, Chiltern Railways and thetrainline.com.
John Hartwell, a member of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council from Westport, said providing paperless ticketing for customers would make travel easier for passengers whose trips originate from stations where ticket machines are present on only one side of the station.
"In Europe people are able to buy soft drinks from a machine using their iPhone," Hartwell said. "I think this is a necessary step to bring us into the 21st century."