How modern ticketing solutions can fit into existing transport ecosystems

Vix Product Director, Sue Walnut, explores the importance of establishing early on what is really needed from fare collection and what agencies want for their front-line staff, as well as how existing technology already purchased, including hardware and data warehouses, fit in or support incremental change.

Deploying modern ticketing systems can be a daunting and expensive task. While advancements in technology add complexity to systems, how can you get that sunk investment to work for you?

What do passengers want from fare collection?

Are all passengers, and potential passengers, aware of the ticketing options available to them and what they cost? Do they care?

In their February 2023 survey of bus users, Transport Focus, an independent watchdog for UK transport users, found that the most important factor for bus passengers was time.

Top 5 factors for passenger satisfaction

Nearly a third (27%) of respondents stated that punctuality, reliability, and the bus’s journey time was the most important aspect for their overall satisfaction. With frequency adding another 7%.

And then there’s crowding. Between advance information about busy-ness and actual availability, that takes 14% of importance.

The ticket option is not even considered, with ‘Value For Money’ placed near the bottom of the list, alongside the helpfulness and attitude of the driver.

What about when ticketing is specifically considered? An early 2020 study of people in the West Midlands asked passengers what they wanted from ticketing:

for passengers, ticketing should be:

  • Simple and Easy – like day tickets – one price, one transaction
  • Quick – not waiting for other passengers messing around for change
  • Transparent – clear what process is needed and what the cost will be
  • Safe – absolute surety that a known amount and only that amount will be taken
  • Familiar – regular users are more likely to stay with what they’ve always used

So, as long as operators are offering payment models that are simple and easy, transparent and safe, they’ll provide the best ticketing service to passengers. The ticket itself is so much less important.

What do transit operators want from fare collection?

So what these surveys really tell us is that as long as we meet those basic hygiene factors, we can base our fare collection choices on what operators need from ticketing.

Ticketing should be a way to cover the costs of providing transportation services. A fare collection system should provide proof of purchase, audit and reconciliation data, and data for analysis for future pricing, while also being less expensive to run and maintain than the price of the ticket.

for operators, ticketing should be:

  • Quick – doesn’t increase dwell times or safety risks
  • Clear – simple to understand and trust
  • Clean – no chance of adding more mess on a vehicle
  • Easy – does not hinder or obstruct the driver

The solution points to doing something simple. Whether it’s Account Based or Card Based Ticketing, there’s no need for externally complex ticket products.

Using existing transit data to support incremental change

With the plethora of onboard technology, alongside ITxPT, vehicles are more connected and open than ever before. So, before integrating a new solution, how can all the data already invested onboard a vehicle support your goals?

Onboard Technology

Think about how much data is driven from location – AVL, Telematics, Next stop, Radio… pick one and share it across the vehicle, share it outside the vehicle. I recently spoke to a Transit Authority who wanted everything to communicate to the back office data warehouse – perfect! However, when the data got there they used visualization tools to display everything they had, creating a confusing mess of varying sources. Far from identifying flaws, minute differences in the data occupied staff time, which ultimately didn’t help to get the insights they wanted.

CCTV can tell you about passenger loading or who the driver is. Can you simplify things for your driver by combining events with base data and CCTV? If you have passenger counting and a flat fare, can you get location from somewhere else?

At Vix, we deliver a transit information system where the bus is told what journeys it’s operating, the driver drives them, and the back office staff monitor for route deviations. Consider this – do you need the driver data attached to a token validation? If we’re heading towards a future of autonomous vehicles where there is no driver, how should you prepare?

How much can you knit together in the back office and what amazing things can you do with this data warehouse?

To futureproof your fare collection system, look for a single source of truth and a commitment to open standards.

Simplifying fare collection: use what you’ve already got!

Let’s focus on what matters – you don’t need a box with buttons! Passengers may not be interested in ticketing, so we need to focus on quick and simple validation that provides feedback to both the passengers and the driver.

Vehicles are already full of onboard technology. You may have more tools than you think already available to support your goals as an operator.

Invest in equipment that directly supports your goals of collecting fares and money, and be brutal about reducing your requirements for a ticketing system in the context of stuff you already have.

One location, one driver screen, one header. Interconnected validation devices that are best in class at what they do.

By making use of existing data warehouses and taking the cost away from vehicle equipment, you can reduce overheads by integrating and re-using data.