By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — SEPTA’s second attempt at selling regional rail tickets for the Pope’s visit is now underway, but this time, its a lottery that ends at midnight tonight. So there’s no need to rush to their website, and for that you can thank a local internet startup.
After their first try at Pope train ticket sales crashed the website, SEPTA reached out to TicketLeap, a Center City company that helps event organizers sell tickets on line.
TicketLeap CEO Tim Raybould says SEPTA wanted an approach that was easier on everyone.
“We heard from SEPTA that people were taking off work to be at their computer to get their tickets at the right time, because it was first come, first serve, and they were worried they’d have to do that again.”
Raybould says SEPTA’s failed initial attempt combined two problems: an event for which demand outstrips supply of tickets, and the sheer volume of demand for this particular event:
“This had both problems in one instance, which exacerbated it.”
TicketLeap proposed a different approach: a lottery, with winners randomly chosen from the thousands who register at SEPTA’s website today.
“It was pretty clear to us that this was the way to solve this problem,” says Raybould. “This lottery approach takes care of that fairness problem. It’s not a matter of how fast your computer is, how fast your fingers are, what job you’re in. You can submit an entry, and you have just as good as shot as any other time, any other person that submitted an entry.”
So if you want a chance to buy Papal train tickets, you can go to SEPTA.org and click “Enter Lottery.”
TicketLeap is handling the entire process for SEPTA, including weeding out duplicate and phony registrations.
“We’d like to take a pass at trying to weed out duplicate entries, weed out fraudulent entries, those types of things. Once we have a list of what we believe to be true, honest entries into the lottery, we’re going to randomly sort that list, and we’re going to go down the list until there are no tickets left, or no people who want tickets.”
And the winners of Papal train tickets will then be notified by TicketLeap on Thursday. Will the site survive today? Raybould has no doubts.
“I’m 100 percent confident that it won’t crash.”
The SEPTA Papal ticket sales is an unusual project for TicketLeap, founded in 2003 by Christopher Stanchak, a Wharton grad who is now board chairman. Raybould says when SEPTA called, helping out was an easy call.
“It wasn’t a hard decision. This was an awesome thing to happen. It’s fun to work on a local, high-profile, city problem, and to be part of the solution to that problem. Its fun.”
Unlike other ticketing services, TicketLeap focuses on events staged by small companies, community groups or individuals. Raybould says the firm has helped sell $350 million dollars in tickets.