Flat fares are probably not the best fit for an ever-changing transit landscape that sees an immense growth of urbanization moving more and more people from distant suburbs to city centers every day. Differentiated fare policies, such as those based on time of the day or distance travelled, can prove to be decisive in shaping the future of public transit. Their flexibility can help transit agencies bridge the gap between peak and off-peak hours, as well as disparities between patrons who travel farther and those who don’t.
Recent data shows that differentiated fare policies can help the transit industry eliminate deficits and improve its fiscal stability. This is exactly what we need today, in a world forever changed by a pandemic. But the challenges in front of the implementation of such fares still stand and many agencies are reluctant to embrace them because of the high implementation costs. Mobile ticketing, backed up by a robust account-based fare collection system, can help solve this problem – here’s how.
Mobile ticketing helps people navigate better the fare system
Every improvement in the ticketing system of a city should be led by the desire to help people use public transit more often. This means that every change should be considered based on improvements in the user experience. Differentiated fare systems can be confusing and that confusion can end up preventing people from riding a bus instead of their car. How can a mobile app help?
A complete mobile ticketing app serves as an integrated product – a trip planner and ticket wallet all in one. If you’re new to a specific route, you know neither what bus you need to catch, nor how much it’s going to cost you. You’ll be confused and you’ll need time to figure both things out. Not if you have a mobile ticketing app at your fingertips:
- The trip planner lets you quickly map the route you need and see which buses serve it. If there’s an integrated MaaS system in the city, the app can also tell you what other types of public transportation you will need, when and where to make a connection.
- The ticketing software calculates what ticket you will need and helps you buy it in a few quick steps.
- The only proof of the right to travel is securely stored in your smartphone should you need to validate or an inspector needs to check it.
In this way, patrons don’t need to memorize a complex fare system – they only need to know where they’re going and how they want to get there. That’s what matters to them most anyways.
Mobile ticketing can cut new fare policy implementation costs for the transit agency
Let’s take a look at the other perspective, that of the transit agency. One of the biggest problems transit professionals have while pitching the implementation of differentiated fare policies is that the costs of such a change will be enormous – costs connected to equipment, fare media, education, future upgrades and fare policy changes. Mobile ticketing can help reduce these costs at almost any level.
- No need for expensive new equipment: If the transit agency doesn’t want (or doesn’t have the resources) to invest in validators, mobile ticketing can operate as easily and as efficiently only with visual inspection.
- Reduction of costs for printed fare media: As more and more people begin to use mobile ticketing, traditional paper tickets and magstripe cards will become obsolete.
- Reduce the risks of cash management: Mobile ticketing lets drivers do what they do best – drive. It helps reduce the need of cash transactions onboard, minimizing risks of both errors and disease transmission. Read more: Why Going Contactless Matters More Than We Can Imagine >>
- Unlimited, quick and seamless upgrades: Mobile ticketing is a technology that is evolving quickly, so it’s based on the inherent assumption that upgrades are inevitable and will happen often. This means that transit agencies wouldn’t need to spend more on improving the system that it had cost them (a scenario we see much too often). Upgrades happen seamlessly via the back end and don’t involve lengthy rollout procedures.
- Fare policies remain flexible: Transit agencies will not need to print new fare media every time they decide to improve their fare portfolio or test a new product. Much like operating an online shop, they will simply need to adjust or add a new product and changes will be visible across the system. What’s more, the agency can communicate with its customers via the app, notify them of changes or ask for feedback and suggestions for new products.
- Cut staff education costs: Almost everyone nowadays owns a smartphone and a well-designed mobile ticketing app is… well, just another app. Using it is intuitive for both riders and transit agency staff. The back end is built to sustain a hierarchical network which caters to the specific needs of each level of the system, so education can be done quickly (and even remotely). Instead of staff learn new systems regularly, they can focus on continued transit education.
What’s more, account-based fare collection systems provide transit agencies with agile tools to implement targeted promotions via the mobile ticketing app. These promotions can be based on distance travelled, frequency of travel or another incentive.
Account-based fare collection systems provide valuable insights
Data is valuable – even more so in an industry that has long acted on a hunch. Aggregated data on the transit system’s usage can be collected and processed to create real-time reports. Based on these reports, agencies can make data-driven decisions on how to improve dispatch, routes, and fares, making the whole system more centered on customer satisfaction.
Improving fare recovery ratio: the ultimate goal
All of the benefits of account-based fare collection systems and their mobile ticketing apps are driven by the desire we discussed first – to increase the number of people who use public transit instead of their personal vehicles. If created and implemented correctly, mobile ticketing can help transit agencies achieve their elusive fiscal goals and finally be able to report a fare recovery ratio that works for them. Of course, there are many factors involved in the process, but a comprehensive approach that tackles most of the rider pain points can certainly increase the chances of success.
In this article, we didn’t even mention the collateral impact of a well-implemented account-based fare collection system: reducing stress and pollution via reducing traffic congestions, scalability, integration with other MaaS operators and more. Technology helps us move in the right direction, and this technology already exists via mobile ticketing. Contact us today so we can discuss further!