I’ve just been in Bristol at the annual Transport Card Forum (TCF) two-day event. I was on the agenda as chair of Working Group 27 giving the final report on progress. The report will be going to DfT shortly and thereafter available to TCF members via the website. I’ve been attending TCF for many years and it is impossible not to notice how very slowly things change in transport ticketing.
One piece of our recent advice to a sub-national transport body, when hired to outline their smart ticketing strategy can be summarised as: do not seek government funding to implement a region-wide (expensive) smart ticketing solution, but rather look at what already exists and how these ticketing schemes might be brought together to meet the needs of the various travelling customer types in the region. In this context, I was pleased to hear mention of software development kit (SDK) offerings from Masabi and FAIRTIQ giving me hope that the transport ticketing industry is moving in the right direction. For example, Masabi using their SDK to insert their ticketing technology into the Uber app for trials in Denver, Colorado.
A recurring theme at the event was operators reporting how PAYG solutions are proving popular with customers and how they are eroding the other forms of ticketing such as season tickets. This is an increasing area of concern for clients we are working with, most notably in terms of cash flow and forecasting but also technically. Some of our current work is helping clients deal with the array of ticketing solutions they are operating and how to rationalise these in the light of the way that the automated fare collection (AFC) industry is moving and responding to customer needs. Consumer demands will continue to drive change in their purchase patterns as flexible and remote working opportunities increase.
It is not uncommon for a transport operator to support all of the following:
- Paper tickets as the only medium interoperable at all acceptance points for all customer types.
- Legacy smart card solutions based on 1990s technologies where the operators were focussed on owning the customer by issuing them with a smart card.
- Barcodes as a cheaper alternative to smart cards that can also go paperless if delivered to mobile phones.
- Mobile ticketing solutions based on bar code or flash pass, sometimes with low security levels and high fraud levels. Some using the ‘software only’ HCE innovations which Apple will not currently allow.
- Open-loop (EMV bank card) PAYG solutions which have grown out of our work with TfL in 2008-14. These are intended to increase ridership and reduce costs by using the bank card in the customer’s pocket, but because they are one card per passenger, they do not cater for group tickets or for those not having (e.g. children) or not wishing to use bank cards. This could be addressed on buses by introducing a ‘retail model’, but this would require driver interaction to determine the price of the ticket before purchase and slow down bus boarding.
Operators are transport providers and their core business is providing transport services, not running ticketing solutions. The last thing they want is to be maintaining systems that have to be able to handle multiple different front ends, though many of them find themselves doing so. The classic example is TfL’s intention to switch off Oyster when open-loop was up and running, but they not yet managed to achieve this.
Our recent work with clients about how to use Digital Wallet Ticketing in a customer’s smart phone to unify their disparate ticketing solutions is proving popular. This has been both in sports stadiums and transport ticketing. Digital Wallet Ticketing was not much discussed at TCF19, which I guess is a sign of how slowly things move within the transit ticketing community. We believe DWT is the future.
We have a wealth of experience over several years of designing and building DWT solutions. Let us know if you’d like a chat about how this might work for you, be it payment, identity or ticketing.