The Transport Ticketing Global conference in London two weeks ago was a real treat. A big shout-out to the staff at Clarion Events who organized it. All of the speakers were first rate and provided the attendees an opportunity to learn lessons from experts, all over the world. One example was Sindi Msibi of ICT-Works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She spoke about the challenges they face with load-sharing the servers that run their system as they have rolling blackouts. Some areas will have no electricity for six hours per day. Their system performance is extremely important as their riders spend 40% of their income on transport versus 14% for the EU.
Many of the sessions at TTG focused on Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) systems, including a panel that I led on Successful ABT Implementations. The main lessons that I learned from this session were:
Implementing an ABT system is a journey. Many agencies procure a new ABT fare collection system and think – “Oh boy! I just need to turn this thing on and all of my problems are solved!” That’s not the case. Your riders have many different needs. The good news is that ABT systems can provide you the means to fulfill those needs, but it takes time. My panelists spoke honestly about where they are on that journey, and many were years in and still not done.
Not all ABT systems are equal. There were many vendors with booths that touted that they offered ABT systems. However, a fare collection system can be complicated and has many touchpoints both inside the agency and outside to your riders. It’s important to be sure you procure a system that is mature enough to meet your needs. This is why getting references from similar-sized agencies is important, and a good consultant can provide guidance about the difference between what PowerPoint slides say and the reality of what vendors have done.
To have a successful system, you have to analyze and update your business processes. My first job in transit was as a web developer at DART (Dallas, TX) working on our corporate intranet. Our boss insisted that we not just “web-ulize” their current paper processes but improve them. To get the most out of your new fare collection system, analyze your internal processes and ensure that you take advantage of the capabilities that your new ABT system offers your agency by considering the needs of your Revenue, Finance, Planning, Customer Service and Marketing departments.
And speaking of change, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the best sessions of the conference titled Ticketing & Fares – Time to Retire. James Bain of Worldline made a great case for retiring the ticket and moving towards a subscription model that many other industries like Netflix and Spotify have successfully implemented. It really made me think hard about some of the basic assumptions I hold.
The final point I wanted to bring up is that I heard many people talk about Open Payment projects. Despite highly successful implementations in London and New York, there are still many misconceptions about this technology. One statement that I heard a few times at TTG was how Open Payments is only for tourists. As a New Yorker who regularly rides MTA and uses my American Express card in my Google Wallet (Thanks Jonathan Hill!) to pay my fare, I think it’s the best way to pay. After all, it’s how I pay for everything else I do in my daily life. I think many people are selling short the convenience that Open Payment brings for ALL riders. I hope they’ll rethink some of their assumptions.
For over 15 years Consult Hyperion has been advising transit agencies/authorities the world over. We have a deep understanding of the challenges in a successful implementation of ABT and Open Payment systems. Want to know more? Reach out to Simon Laker or myself to learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org.