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10/19/2011
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NJ Transit Jumps Onboard Google Wallet

Contactless pay service lets passengers buy train and bus tickets using smartphones.

New Jersey's public transit system has become the nation's first transportation system to use a new service from Google that allows people to pay for tickets by leveraging point-of-sale (POS) smartphone sensors.

NJ Transit is the first public transportation agency to use Google Wallet, a contactless tap-and-pay system that stores a person's credit card information on a smartphone that can be read by special card readers where goods and services are purchased.

Google Wallet is currently available at two train stations in the New York metropolitan area--New York Penn Station in Manhattan and Newark Liberty International Airport Rail Station, which shuttles people from the Newark train station to Newark International Airport. Several bus lines in the metro area also are leveraging the new system, according to NJ Transit.

In a statement, N.J. governor Chris Christie said the partnership is evidence of state officials' interest in enhancing customer services by being "at the forefront of emerging technology."

So far, only people with Sprint's Nexus S 4G phone can use Google Wallet, which currently supports Citi MasterCard credit cards and a Google prepaid card. However, Google is working with financial and mobile device partners to expand the service to other devices and credit cards in the future, the company said. The application supporting the service is available for free.

[What's Google's master plan? See 9 Markets Google Wants To Rule.]

While NJ Transit is the first public transportation system to use Google Wallet, it's already in use at a number of large retailers with stores across the country, including Macy's, Bloomingdale's, OfficeMax, FootLocker, and RadioShack.

NJ Transit is the third largest public transit system in the country, making more than 895,000 weekday bus and rail trips in N.J., N.Y., and Philadelphia. Google hopes to reach a larger customer base for its smartphone payment service by partnering with transit systems, the company said.

Using Google Wallet to provide better customer service is part of the transportation agency's Scorecard initiative, which allows customers to rate the system for its level of service via quarterly scorecards, NJ Transit executive director James Weinstein said in a statement. The transit system received low marks in its most recent customer satisfaction surveys, according to a local newspaper report published last week, and is working to improve this situation.

Mobile payments are being touted as the next wave in how people make purchases, and there are a variety of ways to payment-enable devices.

Some--like Google Wallet--use Near Field Communication technology and embedded security that stores credit card information to use with POS machines. Other contactless payment services allow people to send a payment request via text message and have money removed from a phone bill or online payment system.

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