I hate Account-Based Ticketing.

Well, not the technology. I just hate the name.

With Account-Based Ticketing, or ABT, riders simply tap a contactless card or bar code or some other form factor at a terminal. That form factor provides a unique identifier to the account that is stored in the back office. The terminal then either makes a decision to allow the rider or checks the back office to see if the account has enough value in its travel wallet or the proper product for that journey, and returns a positive or negative response to the terminal to communicate to the rider.

My issue is that to say this system is still about ticketing understates its potential. Since the fare calculation occurs in the back office, the pricing logic can consider the rider’s previous taps for that journey, day, week and even month to charge them the best fare. That’s something you don’t get with a ticket, especially since all of this is done without the rider having to know all of the various fare rules for the agency. (To be clear, I am not encouraging agencies to make their fare policy more complicated. You’ll never read that in a blog from me.)

With a card-based system, every terminal has to get a software update to charge a new fare. ABT lessens this burden by only requiring the back office to receive the update. That’s a huge benefit for the agency by reducing the time to plan and execute software updates as well as testing of the system.

ABT also allows the agency to accept bank cards as part of an Open Payment project. The rider no longer has to stand in line at a ticket vending machine, calculate the fare they need and load it onto a closed loop media. They just tap their bank card directly at the faregate terminal. No ticket is required to ride.

So why do we call this ticketing technology?

The advantages of ABT are many. I’ll be discussing them at the Transport Ticketing Global conference in London as I lead a round table discussion with panelists from Cubic, Accenture, Ticketer, Translink (N Ireland) and Transport for West Midlands titled “What Makes a Successful ABT Implementation?” If you’re at the conference, I hope you’ll join us. Our intro meeting was very spirited and everyone spoke very candidly about their experiences. It’s going to be a great session!

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