Tearing up the traditional ticket

Tearing up the traditional ticket

CLAIRE RENCKEN investigates how some operators, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK), are facilitating access to public transport by offering an integrated ticketing and payment system.

To enhance the use of public transport, cities should aim at making the ticketing system attractive and easy to understand for everyone. The pricing system should be coherent and simple; with a reasonable number of tickets, which take users’ needs into account. The basis for fares should be transparent and easy to understand.

Tickets and payment facilities should be widely available, for example:

• At sales points distributed throughout the city;

• At ticket vending machines at various places (for instance at park-and-ride stations, at main bus stops or in vehicles);

• On the internet (for example, subscription for holders of smart cards); and

• Via mobile phones.

Integrated ticketing and tariff policies between different public transport operators (such as local public transport and the national railway) should be offered to make tickets valid for all public transport modes and for a whole region.

Easy and attractive payment methods should be offered. For example, innovative smart card systems can be implemented and used for contactless payment of integrated fares. They may also serve as an important element of marketing public transport. Smart payments can also provide valuable data on behaviour and mobility patterns of users.

Even though South Africa may not yet be implementing every aspect of this kind of technology, progress is being made in terms of innovative ticketing. Last year, the City of Cape Town’s transport authority, Transport for Cape Town (TCT), won the Best Bank-card Ticketing Scheme award for the MyCiTi myconnect card at the 2014 Transport Ticketing Africa conference and awards.

In the UK, companies are definitely getting it right. In fact, they even have an “innovation” category at the UK Bus Awards. The 2015 UK Bus Awards contest is underway. Entries are invited to compete for 20 awards covering the full range of skills required to plan, promote and deliver high-quality bus services to customers.

Tony Depledge, UK Bus Awards chairman, says: “We are really excited to be entering the 20th year for the awards. Since 1996, we have seen real advances in all sorts of ways – technology, marketing, staff recruitment and training as well as overall standards of operation. There is still a huge amount to do, but real progress has been made and we like to think that the incentives provided by our awards have made a real difference.”

This year, the events will follow a similar pattern to previous years, with nominations closing in early June. Judging will take place during late July and early August. The short-list announcement will be made in early October, followed by the presentation ceremony in November.

The “innovation” category recognises and rewards new thinking in the industry – among operators, authorities and suppliers. It focuses especially on products that can improve efficiency or make bus travel more attractive.

A successful nomination for this award needs to demonstrate development of an original idea that achieves one or more of the following: improves the image of the bus; stimulates interest in, or desire for, the bus product; and improves the efficiency of the industry.

This award will be made for an innovation which, in the opinion of the judges, most contributes to the improvement of the bus product. Evidence of quantification of the benefits achieved is essential.

In 2014, two of the finalists in this category were recognised for their innovations in terms of mobile ticketing (in this instance ticketing apps for smartphones) – Lothian and Barclays Bank.

Lothian Buses produced a feature-rich app, which collects, simplifies and personalises key service information and enables mobile ticketing for its bus services. Updated to include tram services under the umbrella of Transport for Edinburgh (TfE), the app provides real-time information, dynamic journey planning, next-stop alerts and tap-to-speak assistive technology.

The app was Scotland’s first public transport m-ticketing platform and offers a comprehensive range of ticket types. The functionality of the app appealed to the judges, who noted its success in a relatively short space of time; it was being used by an average of around 10 000 users a day after just over six months.

Barclays Bank launched a pioneering application, which allows customers to select, purchase, download and display bus tickets directly via their cellphone. The app combines innovative ticketing technology – developed by the company’s partner, Corethree – with Barclays Pingit, the mobile payment app from Barclays, available to smartphone users.

Services at the time of the award covered areas including: Cardiff, Bath, Birmingham, Manchester, Burnley, Blackburn and Lancashire, and were expected to extend to most UK towns and cities by 2015. Another positive development in mobile ticketing, the judges felt this product had significant potential for growth.

So what is happening in the rest of the world, and what might the future hold? Zehra Chudry, head of content for Transport Ticketing Africa, says: “Since 1995, in Asia and Europe, public transit organisations began investing substantially in new ticketing technology, culminating in the ubiquitous smart card technology.

“However, industry insiders are now realising that even this approach is already becoming antiquated and there is hesitation around further investment necessary to update the digital infrastructure to streamline and improve the door-to-door journey of passengers.”

Chudry concludes: “Many people believe mobile ticketing to be the next great iteration, however, advances in smart ticketing are so diverse and layered, with multiple channels, that each system must be specifically designed to address the needs of each ‘pocket’ of society.”

Interesting times … unfortunately, Africa will most likely be a few steps behind Asia and Europe when it comes to embracing all aspects of these new ticketing innovations.

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