(STMW) — South Shore Line riders can now buy and use train tickets with their smartphones via a new, free app.

The South Shore Line — which runs from South Bend to Chicago — beat the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra to the punch in becoming the first major rail line in the Chicago area to feature mobile ticketing.

The breakthrough was possible under a partnership with Bytemark, a New York City-based mobile ticketing firm, which also has developed a mobile app for the buses and trains of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority of Austin, Texas.

Apple iOS and Android users can download the South Shore app for free at the App Store on iTunes or the Android Google Play store. A link can be found on the South Shore website.

After installing the app, they need to sign up for an account with their name, address and credit card number. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express are accepted for ticket purchases.

If they wish, riders can store multiple kinds of tickets — such as a one-way ticket and a one-month pass — on their phone at the same time, said Bytemark CEO Micah Bergdale. To show a conductor a ticket, riders merely call up the app, select the correct ticket and tap on the screen to activate it, Bergdale said.

The app also features train schedules, arrival times and a system map.

South Shore conductors have been trained on the new app, and should be able to answer questions about it Monday during its official debut, Bergdale said.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore, paid Bytemark $50,000 to develop the app, and is giving them 2.75 percent, including all credit card fees, of every ticket bought with the mobile app, Bergdale said.

In a survey last year, more than 70 percent of South Shore riders had smartphones, according to NICTD. District officials expect mobile ticketing to grow in popularity and said they’ll be continually upgrading the app.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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