Cubic Transportation Systems announced May 29 the launch of NextAgent, a radical new concept in transport ticketing using high-speed video links to let passengers interact with ticketing staff in real time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The solution will be demonstrated at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) World Congress & Mobility and City Transport Exhibition, May 27-30, in Geneva, Switzerland, and at the APTA Rail Conference Product Showcase June 2-3 in Philadelphia.
NextAgent — an innovative hybrid of ticket office, call center and ticket vending machine — enables transit operators to respond to a number of significant trends in ticketing. These include a preference from some passengers for the option, be it occasionally or regularly, of purchasing tickets from people as well as machines. The fact that some journeys and individual requirements are very complex leads some travelers to feel more comfortable dealing with a knowledgeable ticketing agent than with a ticket vending machine. According to some estimates, these factors mean ticket offices will continue to fulfill as much as 30 percent of ticket sales for the foreseeable future. At the same time, staffing ticket offices across an operator’s network outside peak travel hours is expensive and ties up staff, restricting their deployment in other roles.
NextAgent enables operators to balance these competing demands cost effectively by locating ticketing expertise in centralized ticketing “hubs” to which all passengers have access whenever they are traveling. Alternatively and for maximum flexibility in resourcing, agents across the network can be available to manage demand between busy stations and those with fewer passengers on a minute-by-minute basis.
Instead of the normal ticket office window, NextAgent features a high-definition glass screen on which it displays a live video of the ticket agent at the hub. Passengers speak with the agent throughout the ticketing process — exactly as they would at a traditional ticket window.
NextAgent delivers all the functionality of a staffed ticket office, plus a number of other benefits, including vending a comprehensive range of media (smart cards, magnetic tickets, paper barcodes, e-ticketing, and mobile ticketing). Integrated camera and document scanning facilities enable photos and other personal documents to be verified. NextAgent’s smart card management system encompasses sale and issue of cards, processing refunds and returns, and transferring products between cards. It also supports the full range of payment options, from notes and coins to credit/debit cards and NFC-enabled smartphones.
“NextAgent is not only a major advance in ticketing, it’s a concept that’s rooted in Cubic’s understanding of what works in ticketing — for both passengers and operators,” said Matt Cole, senior vice president, strategy and business development at Cubic. “We are bringing to market technology that will appeal to all passengers: mobile ticketing for those that would prefer to self-serve and NextAgent for those passengers that want the option of consulting knowledgeable ticketing staff to get the right ticket at the right price.”
Centralized ticketing with NextAgent enables operators to provide the optimum combination of service and cost. On the one hand, it reduces the cost of staff having to be deployed in ticket offices. On the other, it enhances customer service by, for example, ‘pooling’ specialist expertise — foreign languages, for instance — and ensuring a uniform level of high-quality service across the network. In turn this will lead to more passengers and higher revenues.”