Getting a train or bus ticket in New Jersey is now as easy as a holding up your smartphone, thanks to a new partnership between the state and Google.

Last week, the transportation agency announced that commuters can now pay for train and bus tickets through Google Wallet [http://www.google.com/wallet/vision.html] — an app that provides a wireless payment capability that allows users to wave their smartphones in front of a special sensor located on the ticket vending machine to complete a ticket purchase, according to the NJ Transit.

NJ Transit is the third largest transit system in the country with 165 rail stations, 60 light rail stations and more than 19,000 bus stops in areas in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia, according to the agency.

Aesthetically, the app is like any other barcode or QR code system.

“You open up the app and then you’re actually going to scan that right on the machine and that’s going to lead to an expedited ticketing process and moving on,” said John Durso Jr., a spokesman for the NJ Transit. 

For the transaction to process, the system uses “near field communication,” which permits wireless data transmission between the phone and the sensor when they are put near each other, according to Google. After the phone is tapped to pay for a ticket, the user then receives payment confirmation on the smartphone.

The free app is only compatible with Nexus S 4G by Google, which is available on Sprint, according to Google.

Google Wallet currently supports Citi MasterCard credit cards and a Google prepaid card. The prepaid card is a virtual payment card that allows users to put money from their existing credit cards onto the Google card, according to Google.

According to the NJ Transit, additional card companies and Android devices will be supported in the future.

The NJ Transit is the first public agency to partner with Google to provide Google Wallet, Durso said. The capability is currently available at ticket vending machines in New York Penn Station, the Newark Liberty International Airport Rail Station and for several bus lines.

Through a two-year partnership with Google, the NJ Transit will continually review and monitor the Google Wallet technology’s progress, Durso said. The agency has also tentatively scheduled to install the technology at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City for bus passengers.

Payment technology via smartphone has been used in other countries like Japan for years. In 2005, Japanese cell phone service provider DoCoMo announced it would provide credit card payment capabilities to its cell phones.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.