Columbus to launch publicly managed single payment platform across transportation modes

Aug. 19, 2019
Siemens Mobility and Bytemark to provide new technology that will integrate into expanding Smart Columbus Operating System.

Siemens Mobility and Bytemark will be working together to provide a common payment solution for Columbus, Ohio’s Smart Columbus trip planning app, a publicly operated platform single-account, single-payment system that allows public and private mobility service to be paid using a single account-based payment system.

The payment system will now fulfill the back-end payment portion of the trip-planning capabilities currently provided on the open-source "Smart Columbus" OS platform. With this centralized payment capability, Smart Columbus is working towards “smart city” applications by including multiple public and private modes of transportation as choices when choosing multi-leg trips, making it easier to go door to door with public transportation.

“The beauty of such a system is that you can plan and pay for your trips more holistically now,” said Michael Stevens, chief innovation officer for the city of Columbus. “Instead of checking to see which mode is faster, you can actually map out the fastest multi-mode route – utilizing any and all modes of public and private transportation, including bicycles, scooters, buses and ride-hailing. And then pay for it all just once at the end.”

The payment for the entire journey (such as public transit and cab fares) is occurring just once, with the respective fares automatically routed to the right services.  The payment platform will integrate all mobility provider payments – spanning both public and private mobility options, as well as multiple modes including bike-share, scooter-share and ride share.

“What is really exciting is how this account-based [Mobility as a Service] application will empower citizens of Columbus with more opportunities for seamless door to door travel options based on one common payment platform,” said Marcus Welz, president of Siemens Mobility’s Intelligent Traffic Systems in North America and CEO of Bytemark.  “We have also been working with exciting new technology partners, such as PayNearMe, which provides walk-in retail options for cash payments, finally making it possible for people to upload cash into their account.  This opens up access for a whole new group of travelers—previously limited by banking options—to experience today’s newer travel options and capabilities.”

One scenario where commuters could benefit is traffic congestion along their typical commute home. Now with this all-in-one app, they can identify whether bus, train or Lyft would be faster; and then see how those or other options (bicycle or scooter) can take them home for that final mile.  Once they choose the optimal route, they can pay for the entire trip at one time.

“Mobility integration is the key to providing greater access to a higher quality of life,” said Joanna M. Pinkerton, president and CEO at Central Ohio Transit Authority. “Bringing multiple modes of transportation together and providing a way to pay for an entire trip on one platform is paramount to bringing innovation and efficiency in the way we provide more access to jobs, education and health care in our communities.”

Smart Columbus is a joint initiative of the city and Columbus Partnership, which is utilizing government grants and private investments for mobility projects to improve the region’s transportation system. The goal is to act as a “living lab” and document a working plan and playbook for other metro areas to follow.