SANTA MONICA—To increase ridership, Santa Monica’s municipal bus system has launched an app where customers can purchase bus passes, city officials announced on Monday, April 3.

The app, called “Token Transit,” is being tested on the city’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) system to see if it will attract riders. Passengers can activate transit passes through the app and then show it to the driver on a smartphone.

“Token Transit is a rapidly deployable alternative to smartcards that helps boost ridership, decrease costs and improve service,” said Edward King, the city’s director of transit services.

The initiative is short-term, and could possibly begin this month; it’s slated to last anywhere from six months to one year. A full-scale launch would cost the city upwards of $500,000 and take months to “procure and integrate with the existing fare collection system,” said King. The pilot program’s contractual maximum is $50,000, which will be paid to Token Transit.

“The only cost associated with this contract is a commission rate of 10 percent of sales revenue,” King said.

When the pilot ends, customers will be informed that they can no longer purchase new passes. BBB will honor Token Transit passes for an additional 120 days so riders have an opportunity to use their ticket.

The Token Transit initiative is part of a larger project aimed at increasing transit ridership in Santa Monica, which has dropped about 12 percent since 2010, from 22.35 million passengers to 14.98 million.

“Given that smartphones are commonly used to pay for various commodities including shared mobility, mobile ticketing for BBB was a logical choice to explore as a fare payment option,” King said.