More ways to pay than ever before
Just over ten years ago, Transport for London introduced an industry-first contactless payment system on its bus network, which supported both proprietary and 'open payments' using EMV contactless chip cards and mobile device payment. Pre-pandemic, these payments accounted for over five million daily transactions – around 70% of all PAYG journeys. Since then, multiple cities, including Sydney, Brisbane, New York, Vancouver, Chicago, Miami, LA, and San Francisco, have adopted cEMV as a more convenient, secure and scalable payment platform.
Mobile wallets have also become increasingly popular as an accessible and secure way to make transactions. Card virtualisation, or the replacement of a plastic card with a digital one, has proven to be a game-changer, such as in San Francisco and LA, making using public transportation easier and more accessible. Mobile wallets allow users to store their credit card information and make payments with their smartphones, making them especially popular in countries with low credit card penetration and high mobile phone adoption rates.
More flexible fare pricing, capping and collection are helping transform the modern transport network, allowing passengers to tap into and out of a network whilst having their usage tracked and billed accordingly. This set daily limit makes travel more affordable, maximises revenues for operators and provides valuable insights into passenger behaviour and transport usage patterns, which can inform future planning.
Sadiq Khan's 2016 'Bus Hopper' scheme was designed to help low-income bus users that were being penalised for using the bus for more than one end journey. Today, more than 450,000 'Hops' are being made daily. At the start of 2023, the UK government also imposed a £2 bus fare limit to help users with the cost of living crisis. The three-month trial has now been extended to July, highlighting a need for a more permanent sustainable model.
Transforming the modern transport network
The first European multimodal ticketing system was developed in London with the Oyster card 20 years ago, evolving to account for more than 80% of all London public transport journeys by 2012. With time, the Oyster card evolved to be usable across different modes of public transport in London, including the DLR and the Thames Clippers River Bus service. The development of digitally integrated platforms and apps makes it easier for passengers to plan, book, and pay for multi-modal transport, using real-time information on transport options, ticketing, and payments.
Rather than relying on advance purchase of tickets, we are now witnessing the rise of Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) on a national scale. Chicago was the front-runner in the implementation of a large-scale ABT 10 years ago, with the Ventra system - combining three authorities into one operating system which works across modes, enabling fair ticketing. Fast forward to today, over 6.7 million Ventra cards have been issued.
Seeing the potential in an ABT model and the limitations of its current MetroCard system, The New York MTA followed suit in 2019, integrating OMNY into its system. This enabled concession pricing on contactless payments, with OMNY being the first in the industry to do so. This spread globally with
Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) following suit, deciding to implement a national ABT system that, once completed, will cover 13 regions.
The future of transport
Over the past decade, multiple technology trials have been conducted to test innovation. For example, developers have explored how virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to provide architects with a representation of how stations appear to people with visual impairments, helping to optimise designs. Loyalty-based rider incentive platforms, which have the potential to increase ridership, are beginning to take off and have the potential to provide limitless benefits for users and operators alike.
Innovation doesn't always happen overnight. Early conceptions of gateless gatelines that assess if people can be a token to travel revealed that camera accuracy wasn't where it needed to be. However, it's a powerful technology that will shape the coming decade.
The automation of services has also put the future in the hands of chatbots - helping to improve social media engagements and deal with customer service queries. And, as the generative AI tool ChatGPT continues to sweep the globe, who knows what's next.