Improve Fare Revenues and the Passenger Experience by Upgrading to a Modern, Future-Proofed Ticketing Infrastructure

Sept. 19, 2023
Via One Interface, the latest ticket validators and readers accept any ticket, presented, in any orientation, while also accepting contactless payments.

Growing consumer demand for “smart ticketing” solutions is being driven by rapid urbanization, as well as technological advances such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC). Today’s solutions are used in mass transit applications, ranging from ticket vending machines (TVMs), gates and turnstiles to stand-alone platform validators and on-board products. Transportation authorities and operators who have not adopted these technologies operate with an outdated ticketing infrastructure that puts them at risk of irritating passengers and losing revenue. They must modernize their mass transit systems or risk losing passengers - perhaps permanently.

Contactless ticketing has also slowly been incorporated into public transportation ticketing processes over the past 20 years, which accelerated during the pandemic. As ridership continues its rebound, post-pandemic, now is the time for transit authorities and operators to upgrade their aging ticket-reading hardware and move toward a more digital or mobile paradigm that will enhance the passenger experience and maximize revenue. The latest readers give passengers a single point of presentation for any ticket, regardless of orientation and the ability to make contactless payments, all via a single interface. They also offer a range of benefits to operators, not only today, but continuing into the future.

What consumers and operators want

Passengers want to go beyond the “ticket to ride” experience of physical tickets or tokens. A growing number of riders want to access their digital tickets from an app and add them to their digital wallets. Many also want to use the same method of payment on a mass-transit trip that they use when shopping or entering a hospitality venue.

Public-facing transportation ticketing systems must address these ticketing and payment preferences to a diverse audience. Each category of passengers has different needs, learning curves and technology access. Every group must be accommodated, from technophiles to the unbanked and those who prefer to remain anonymous in the system.

Transit authorities have their own needs, including reducing ticket fraud and using transit journey information to make data-driven, real-time operational decisions. They also need to optimize passenger throughput during passenger ticketing and boarding while providing a seamless and intuitive customer journey and they want a path to contactless payments so they can reduce the expenses associated with handling cash.

Operators can’t afford any disruptions during the transition to a new system, nor can they complete the cut-over process so quickly that people have insufficient time to gradually adapt to and adopt the new capabilities at their own speed.

Benefits of upgrading to modern ticket-reading technology

There are multiple benefits to be realized from using, upgrading and expanding the capabilities of a ticketing hardware system:

  1. Increased ridership and maximized revenue: Expanding the ticketing system to include state-of-the-art, multi-format ticket readers and validators enables more convenient and enhanced transit journeys. Accepting tickets from all media, including mobile phones, smart wearables and paper tickets, is especially important for citywide systems where the population’s ticket medium of choice can be highly diverse.
  2. Delighted customers: Passengers want an efficient, technology-driven fare payment and ticketing experience using a single point of presentation for barcode, NFC and contactless EMV payments, making it easier and faster to board or pass through ticket barriers, regardless of their preferred ticket medium.
  3. Greater operational efficiency: Investing in the right ticket-reading hardware and contactless payment infrastructure allows for efficient upgrades and additional enhanced features. With digital fare payment hardware and mobile apps, it is also significantly quicker and more efficient to roll out new fares and ticket types.
  4. Revenue protection: New ticket-reading technologies effectively cut down on ticket fraud. For example, the latest systems and devices can automatically detect tickets that have already been used by another passenger or those that have expired. Additionally, cashless transactions eliminate fraud committed by system employees and passengers.
  5. Actionable data: Migrating to a contactless digital ticket reading system allows data to be gathered about when and how passengers travel. It also enables transit operators to efficiently track payments, create fare caps and discounts, carry out refunds and collect and use transaction data. The latter capability enables operators to make smarter decisions and improve route planning to maximize ridership and system revenues.
  6. Improved passenger and driver health and safety: Eliminating personal contact in processing tickets reduces risks to the health and safety of passengers and transit operators. While this has always been a priority, the COVID-19 pandemic reminded everyone it should be a top priority.
  7. Compatibility with the latest secure ticketing standards: Upgrading ticketing hardware is critical for most transit operators to ensure compatibility with common standards such as ITxPT, as well as appropriate open, secure ticketing standards such as Calypso®. Calypso-certified ticketing hardware supports the necessary security and interoperability requirements of contactless ticketing systems to ensure long-term usability.

Best practices for deployment

Transit authorities should choose ticket readers that support converged technology, including open-loop contactless payment cards, scanned QR/Barcodes (1D and 2D symbologies) and virtual barcodes on a smart device screen, as well as closed-loop RFID. Additionally, readers should support NFC/RFID tickets or tokens that can be read, in any orientation, on a mobile phone, tablet or wearable. These types of readers reduce customer transaction time.

Readers and validators also must offer a high level of usability at every step of the passenger journey. This includes providing a single point of presentation that gives users a window to present the chosen ticket medium using an intuitive and quick interface for data reading and writing. Deploying devices that read barcodes rapidly when presented at multiple angles and orientations also enables efficient passenger processing.

The addition of contactless payments provides the convenience and speed of a single touchpoint for ticket validation and payments on-board vehicles, on platforms, at railway or subway gates and turnstiles or in kiosks. On a bus, the driver can clearly see the ticket type and its validity, and passengers can also present their mobile app to a vehicle-mounted validator. Ticket validation and boarding become simple, fast and efficient processes – even when the driver is busy operating the vehicle.

Another key consideration is support for open architecture and other future-proofing measures. Non-proprietary, open-architecture readers and validators maximize flexibility and long-term usability by working with any ticketing software and payment service provider. Mass transit operators can install ticketing devices with all the built-in capabilities they will need in the future, knowing they can enable these features when needed without having to replace or upgrade hardware.

Security is also important. To ensure devices incorporate the latest cryptographic elements and secure communication for closed and open-loop payments, select ticket readers and validators that are ready for EMV Level 1 and EMV Level 2 industry standards.

The final consideration is ease of installation. Look for features like the use of a single cable connection to the host and the consolidation of ticket reading and payment into one module or reader to conserve space and minimize maintenance.

Meeting expectations while improving operations

With the right system in place, mass transit operators can meet passenger expectations and improve operations. They will also be prepared for such future developments as the growing adoption of payment methods on wearable devices and adding transportation to the NFC-enabled badges and IDs that, for example, university students and employees already use for physical access to parking facilities and buildings. A well-designed and future-proofed digital and mobile ticketing system with modern readers and validators, as well as contactless payment support, will enable transport authorities to meet these and other needs in the years and decades to come. 

About the Author

Arthur Tay

Arthur Tay is a seasoned product marketing manager for the Access-IS business unit, part of HID’s Extended Access Technologies business area. Arthur has several years of technical expertise in successfully managing the entire product lifecycle from ideation through development, launch and completion phases. Arthur is a former global product manager for Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, Vertu and others. Arthur graduated with a Master of Business Administration from the National University of Singapore and completed executive leadership training from Wharton School

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June 15, 2023