Ticket to Ride: What is it and how is it changing

Report on Transport Ticketing in London January 2019 David Lunt flew to a wintery London last week to address the Vendorcom Unattended Payments Special Interest Group, where he spoke on Ticket to Ride: What is it and how is it changing?

Transit Ticketing has moved on from the meagre paper ticket, through magstripe versions to plastic closed-loop cards, such as Myki, Opal, Oyster. At the start of this century we have seen the rise of Account Based Ticketing (ABT), where a funding source is held by the transit operator and billed after travel is made. This is most common with road tolling and can be linked into static automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems, allowing the operator to read the number plate (rego in Australia), track the vehicle’s travel on the toll road and then bill the card owner at the end of the day/week/month period.

In the last decade or so, we have seen the rolling out of open-loop ticketing, where a contactless bank card is used to tap in and out of a mass transit system such as in London and more recently Sydney. The physical contactless card has migrated on to mobile phones with Apple Pay, Android Pay, etc. and even on to watches and other wearables. If you travel on public transport in London or Sydney, you will be familiar with the adoption of this technology and see riders using phones, wearables and cards to start and complete their journeys.

Meanwhile we have seen Uber expand globally, changing the way we book and use rides in cars. The ubiquity of the smart phone and ease of use of the Uber App have paved the way for similar app-based transit solutions. So, it is no surprise that the next evolution of ticketing will be to remove any physical ticket or card and utilise the mobile phone as a method of purchasing, recording and verifying travel.

We see innovative cities like Helsinki adopt Mobility as a Service [MaaS] app based ticketing solutions. Their Whim transit app allows travel on local public transport, city bikes, car share (soon), and even short taxi rides and car rental on premium subscriptions.

During his time in London, David also attended the Transit Ticketing Global 19 conference. With two days of conference and a large floor of exhibitors, it is a major event on the Transit Ticketing calendar. For those at the forefront of transit ticketing, it is a must attend event, so it is no surprise that this year there were over 900 attendees from more than 60 countries.

The Transit Ticketing space has matured from a few years ago when there were several different solutions being promoted as the one and only way forward. This year there were much more balanced discussions and a general realisation that Transit Ticketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Last year MaaS was been championed as the elixir of ticketing, and there are compelling arguments for an Uber like MaaS app, as used in Helsinki. However, it has become apparent over the last year that MaaS works best in certain cities, with certain demographics and excess capacity on public transport. It still is a great idea and in the right city will work well, but not in every city.

Contactless open-loop ticketing continues to grow, in fact we have seen a 50% growth year on year, and in London TfL are now handling more than 1.5 million contactless trips a day. This does not mean open-loop cannot co-exist with existing closed-loop solutions, or even with emerging QR or mobile solutions, the rider is calling the shots. It is great to see companies like Ticketer picking up an award in the Ticketing Technology of the Year category, for their innovative QR based mTicketing solution.

I spoke to John Clarfelt CEO of Ticketer after the awards dinner and agree with his view:

It is key that technology is used to expand, rather than restrict, customer options. Contactless is a superb option, both for its ease and speed of use, as well as its geographic agnosticism. But it is not a solution for all, and we need to provide alternative mechanisms to work in tandem. One such option is mTicketing, both phone and paper based. On phone it provides almost equal security as contactless, as well as enabling operators to continue to engage with their customers, and to garner information on their travel patterns. Typically, our operators will run one third each contactless, mTicketing, cash. We are confident that cash can be further reduced, or eliminated, without passenger loss and that the emphasis on removing payment friction, initially via tap on/tap off, will accelerate.

Author: David Lunt, Associate, Melbourne, Payments Consulting Network.