No more paper tix on North Ferry

North Ferry General Manager Bridg Hunt demonstrating the new hand-held devices for ticketing that will be in service beginning April 9. (Credit: Beverlea Walz)

North Ferry General Manager Bridg Hunt demonstrating the new hand-held devices for ticketing that will be in service beginning April 9. (Credit: Beverlea Walz)

Starting Saturday, April 9, North Ferry’s time-honored method of collecting fares will be replaced by 21st century technology.

The thick, yellow rectangle of paper, quickly punched and handed out as a ticket and a receipt, will be gone, replaced by a hand-held device recording the fare, printing a receipt and even talking to the customer.

Bridg Hunt, general manager of North Ferry, said fares will remain the same and the cost of the new devices “is a wash” when factoring in the savings North Ferry will realize on the cost of printing.

All crew members have received training and are ready to begin operating the new system. Mr. Hunt said 21 of the devices, manufactured by Honeywell, have been ordered “so far,” with software developed by North Ferry.

“It shouldn’t be much different from what’s happening now,” Mr. Hunt said, referring to the exchange between deckhand and customer. “We’ll ask if you’re coming back this way today — we always say that because sometimes there’s confusion what a round trip means.”

As for now, the purchase of tickets will remain the same, either on the boat, or at the North Ferry office, where residents can buy a book of tickets, and tokens for passengers. When the customer presents the ticket and token, the deckhand will punch in that information that  a car is onboard and then determine the number of passengers and put that into the device for either a round trip or a one-way fare. The device will print a receipt and an audio component will announce that a car, driver and passenger(s) are being serviced.

In the future, credit cards may be used on board and a plastic ferry card, with fares already purchased encrypted into the card, will also be available. But for now, paper tickets will still be used to hand to the deckhands.

The technology will make exchanges more efficient for customers, Mr. Hunt said. There are 15 different fare categories “not counting our commuter tickets, which have three flavors,” he said, and each receipt will itemize all elements of the fare.

For commuter tickets, there will be a bar code scanned by the device; the receipt will include how many trips are left on the ticket.

One of the advantages of the new system will be “transparency,” Mr. Hunt said, clearing up confusion by infrequent visitors who may question the price differential if for example, they come alone and then with a passenger.

“It also gives us great metrics for traffic,” Mr. Hunt said.