Roundtable: Exploring the power of contactless and open-loop payment systems in delivering a seamless ticketing experience

Posted: 13 December 2023 | | No comments yet

This ‘roundtable’ brings together key industry personnel and those passionate about sharing their opinions on ticketing and payments to explore the transformative effects of new technologies – such as contactless and open-loop payment systems – within the ticketing space. With an aim to enhance the commuter experience, improve operational efficiency and ensure equitable access to transportation, our experts will delve into the challenges, advantages, security measures and future prospects associated with these innovative ticketing and payments systems.

Exploring the power of contactless and open-loop payment systems


Troy Bernard Discover Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTA
Troy Bernard Brandon Policicchio
Head of Transit Program Management at Discover Global Network Chief Customer and Business Development Officer at Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (Greater Dayton RTA)
Dominik Elsmann AVV Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM Barcelona
Dominik Elsmann Llorenç Marcos Valls
Head of Department for Cross-border Public Transport at Aachener Verkehrsverbund (AVV) Head of Technology & Mobility – T-mobilitat at Autoritat del Transport Metropolità (ATM Barcelona)

How have new payments technologies – such as contactless and open-loop payment systems – transformed the ticketing space within the public transport industry?

Troy Bernard DiscoverTroy Bernard: Contactless and open-loop systems have changed the ticketing space by making it ticketless. There’s no need to buy a paper ticket or load a plastic card. No longer must a passenger calculate how many rides they plan to take in a given week or month to receive the lowest fare, and there’s no longer a need to pre-pay for those tickets/passes using money that may be needed for other living expenses throughout the week or month.

One simply taps their open-loop payment device to gain access to the transit system. They ride to their destination and, at the end, the fare collection system charges the customer the correct fare. In some systems, if the passenger is a frequent rider, the system will ‘cap’ transactions at what would historically be the weekly pre‑paid pass rate without tying up those funds in advance.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTABrandon Policicchio: These systems have transformed the ticketing space by offering customers more options to pay, and, with those additional options, more ways to save on their transit fare.


Dominik Elsmann AVVDominik Elsmann: In recent years, technologies such as contactless and open-loop payment systems have strongly affected the ticketing domain in public transport. Implementations like, for instance, EMV contactless in the UK or the Netherlands receive a lot of attention and contribute to a reduction of accessibility issues regarding public transport services while also enhancing fast passenger throughput. Yet, these services also require a high level of co-operation with public transport operators, particularly when it comes to maintenance of terminals and integrating individual reductions or fare schemes. Furthermore, it is crucial to achieve transparency and trust, both for those using the services and for the public transport operators who offer the service. It seems very reasonable to us that back-up solutions have been kept up and running to avoid dependency on very powerful global stakeholders and to let travellers decide, as they may be sceptical regarding data privacy. The popularity of open-loop payment methods has shown that travellers appreciate convenience and that they are likely to be very attracted by approaches that allow the most intuitive and comfortable way of using public transport in the future.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaLlorenç Marcos Valls: As for the implementation performed in the Barcelona area with T-mobilitat, we began with a ticketing system based on completely obsolete magnetic technology. With the introduction of contactless technology into the integrated transport system, it was decided to apply international reference Model ISO/IEC 24.014 in relation to its technological management. In particular, among other benefits, this model guarantees the interoperable management of the Integrated Fare System by identifying the roles (functions and responsibilities) of the different actors in their interaction with the system. The tasks and responsibilities associated with these roles, as the trusted authority, have to be carried out by the Autoritat del Transport Metropolità of the Barcelona area (ATM) to guarantee the design, development and application of the mechanisms and tools required to implement a true integrated interoperable fare system that leads to a reliable, transparent, secure and independent contactless electronic ticketing system that is in keeping with the recommendations of the European Directives, specifically the European Interoperability Framework (EIF), on the adoption of Interoperable IFS Services, with the know-how and intellectual property of the authorities (ATM, incumbent administrations and operators).

Thus, with this interoperability framework, we’re ensuring that the public transport ticketing ecosystem in the Barcelona area – made up of 297 municipalities, in which nearly six million people reside – evolves towards an open multi-provider, multi-user and multi‑service environment in which the dependences on equipment suppliers, systems, SUS and so on disappear.

In terms of implementation, what are some of the challenges faced when integrating new ticketing and payments systems into existing public transport infrastructure?

Contactless payments

Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: When it comes to accepting open-loop contactless payment, I believe that the largest challenge for the world’s largest transit systems is that they must grant customers access to the transit system in milliseconds. There is simply not enough time to perform a full payment transaction with the card issuer.

Much of the ‘heavy lifting’ in open-loop systems is implementing the technology that allows the payment terminal to authenticate valid (not counterfeit) cards in milliseconds, allowing the customer to pass the gate quickly. In the transit agencies’ back office systems, it is deploying software to recover fares if card authorisation does not happen on the first attempt and preventing further use of the declined card until payment is recovered.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: In Dayton, we didn’t have any challenges in terms of integrating with the existing infrastructure as it was a complete replacement for us.



Dominik Elsmann AVVElsmann: When planning and developing new ticketing systems, we meet many different challenges along the way, concerning physical infrastructure as well as governance mechanisms. The existence of ticketing infrastructure, such as terminals for card-based CiCo-processes, is very diverse throughout our region, especially due to the cross-border context. In the Netherlands, the whole network is equipped with terminals; while, in Germany, the availability is quite limited and can, therefore, not be relied on. Also, the implementation of seamless ticketing requires the interoperability of different technologies and standards which is a huge challenge, not only technologically, but also on a political level. We also face new types of questions regarding ticket inspection and security when the number of passengers travelling with digital tickets on their smartphones increases – how to copy-protect and validate QR codes, how to find universal codes that can be recognised by many different types of validators, etc.

Another factor is the availability of mobile phone signals or GPS recognition, both of which are important for tracking passengers and charging the appropriate fee when applying distance-based tariffs. We also regularly face the challenge of revenue distribution, which becomes much more complex when seamless ticketing allows passengers to cross a large number of regions. Therefore, clearing and governance mechanisms are very important.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: Maintaining magnetic technology for over 20 years has increased the complexity of implementing the new T-mobilitat ticketing system, due to the obsolescence of some of the pre-existing systems. Along these lines, the implementation of a fully open multi-supplier system constitutes a highly important challenge, owing to the cultural change that this involves for our different technological suppliers. In this regard, it’s vital to devote more resources than those planned to achieve the goal of full interoperability.

Moreover, from the standpoint of the fare systems, the design and deployment and the migration to new ones enabled by the new contactless ticketing technology and bank cards have brought with them a challenge, due to their complexity and the social and economic impact that they entail.

From a user perspective, what are the advantages of using new methods of ticketing and payments for public transport, compared to more traditional ticketing systems?


Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: To quote one of my colleagues who had recently used open-loop transit during a recent vacation, it can be a ‘magical’ payment experience.

She and her family were standing at a ticket vending machine, trying to calculate where they wanted to travel, for how many days; ultimately, how much money should she load on to the pre-paid transit card. During these calculations, a transit agency employee informed her that their system accepted open-loop payments, and that the entire family could simply tap, pay and ride. The system would calculate the fare and any discounts that may apply.

While open payments is a benefit to all riders, I believe that it benefits the infrequent transit rider, especially tourists, the most.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: The savings, available options and ease of use are huge advantages to utilising more advanced ticketing payment methods.



Dominik Elsmann AVVElsmann: Simplicity is key to success. New and, thereby, mostly digital ticketing options facilitate the process of getting access and actually using public transport a lot. Interoperable digital ticketing solutions have the potential to let borders disappear, solve the challenge of finding the right ticket product (or fare) and deliver the whole service via the most prominent interface to the passengers – their smartphones. Especially occasional travellers may prefer open-loop systems such as a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) method, as they are not interested in subscriptions, are not aware of local fares and regulations or might not carry cash/ coins. In summary, it can be said that the user wants to use public transport services the easiest possible way, and new methods of ticketing and payments can help to satisfy this demand and, thereby, keep existing users in the system or attract new users.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: Barcelona’s new T-mobilitat ticketing system is the lever that can put public transport users at the centre of the equation, while, until now, they were treated as just another element in the system. In this respect, some of the most significant benefits that users perceive are a new fare system that’s fairer and without inequalities, the option of using new payment systems to access public transport – such as mobile phones and bank cards – guaranteed recovery of transport tickets and balances in the event of any losses, as well as a much more personalised customer service.

Contactless ticketing

How are potential security risks and vulnerabilities mitigated to ensure a secure and reliable payment experience for commuters?

Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: I see three different layers of security and risk mitigation in open-loop, contactless payments:

  • Authentication – the terminal verifies that the contactless card/ phone is not counterfeit by checking a key encoded into the payment device
  • Use of the ‘Deny Lists’ – although the transit agency may allow the customer to have access to transit before receiving the authorisation from the card’s issuer, this is capped to one ride only. If the card is declined by the issuer, each payment terminal throughout the system in updated with the declined account number. The ‘deny list’ on the terminal will prevent this card from opening the gate again until the debt is paid by the customer
  • ‘Open Payments Security’ – just like any other transaction that one makes with a card branded with any of the global network logos, these open‑loop transit transactions leverage all of the technology and security measures that these networks and their issuers deploy.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: There are potential security risks and vulnerabilities with any type of payment system. However, customer education is important. Something as simple as reminding customers not to share their passwords and letting them know, as a company, how we will communicate with them when needed helps to mitigate issues.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: One of the main management activities identified in the reference organisational Model based on ISO/IEC 24014 roles associated with the trusted authority is the Management of the Cryptographic Security System, which guarantees its control and evolution and the integral maintenance of all its levels.

In relation to security, the integrated contactless ticketing system shared by multiple actors used in the T-mobilitat project involves certain risks, because the basis of a Global Interoperable System is the standardisation and use of procedures that are defined – in other words, known and published.

In order to neutralise these risks, the Cryptographic Security System that we’ve developed will become the cornerstone that has to generate the trust of all of the actors in it. It’s the hidden complement of the different operations (use cases) of any System Application, as well as the single Interoperable Transport Application, implementing security mechanisms, services and functions.

The Cryptographic Security System is an instrument which, based on the knowledge of the threats and vulnerabilities of the system, can help to visualise and identify the degree of trust provided with respect to the different exchanges of data and transactions and guarantee authenticity, confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation, etc.

Within this context, the Cryptographic Security System has a Cross-Cutting Functionality that affects each and every one of the areas of the contactless electronic ticketing system.

Thus, ATM, as the Manager of the Cryptographic Security System, is responsible for defining, developing, publishing, maintaining and evolving the Single Integrated Cryptographic Security System.

In your opinion, do you think that the adoption of new ticketing and payments systems improves transport equity? Are there ways in which the opposite is true?

Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: As I mentioned earlier, open payment cards have the advantage of paying-as-you-go. A customer doesn’t have to make the difficult decision to buy a pre-paid pass that ties up funds that could be used for other daily needs.

On the other hand, while open-loop payments cards/ devices are becoming more and more accessible through traditional and non-traditional financial institutions (Venmo, Apple Cash, Chime, etc.), not everyone has access to a network-branded card. In these cases, I still see an important role for transit agency-issued (closed-loop) cards. For this customer segment, Discover is working with transit agencies and their technology providers to license our contactless technology named D-PAS. This way, the agency can deploy one common contactless technology to support both the open-loop and closed-loop cards running on its system.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: Fare capping absolutely improves equity by ensuring that those who are least able to pay are receiving the best fare possible. Not requiring customers to submit all of the payment upfront to realise savings levels the playing field. Providing ease of access and participation with these new systems is key to ensuring that the opposite doesn’t occur. This is something as simple as ensuring that you are offering both a way to pay via smartphones and a smartcard. Not everyone has access to a smartphone.

Dominik Elsmann AVVElsmann: Obstacles in terms of language, fares and ticketing can be removed by introducing new ticketing and payment procedures which focus on making it as easy as possible for the passenger to get along. We believe that this clearly helps to improve transport equity. Open-loop payment systems also have the potential to facilitate access to public transport for citizens with mental or physical impairments, as they can pay for a trip by using a card that they most likely already have in their wallet without relying on vending machines and without the need to complete a registration process etc.

Nevertheless, certain factors need to be taken into consideration to ensure that transport equity is not affected in a negative way. First of all, it is crucial to provide viable alternatives to those without access to a smartphone or bank card, so that they are not excluded from public transport. Further, communities should consider publishing information about open‑loop schemes in several languages to raise awareness among international visitors, migrants and new residents. Another factor to be considered is fair pricing. In fact, digital payment schemes such as open-loop or check-in/ check-out simply improve transport equity, as the traveller only pays for the length and duration of their particular journey. Individual subscriptions or reductions for certain groups should still apply when new ticketing or payment methods are set up (age related, income related etc).

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: Yes, we believe that the adoption of new ticketing systems with a greater general, technological and digital base guarantees, on the one hand, greater ease of access to public transport and, on the other, better and fairer distribution of the resources devoted to transport in order to favour the most disadvantaged sectors of society.

Conversely, the digitalisation of the ticketing systems entails the risk of increasing the digital gap, one which shouldn’t be underestimated, as it affects the most vulnerable collectives among which dependence on the use of public transport is greater than for others.


What has been the impact of new ticketing and payments systems on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of public transport operations? Have there been any notable improvements in terms of reducing fare evasion or streamlining fare collection processes?

Open loop payments

Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: Transit agencies are the best to answer this question. Transport for London (TfL) has published some statistics on the savings resulting from open payments.


Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: Since implementing our new system, we have seen a decrease in our operational costs to support the fare payment system. Unfortunately, since we implemented during the pandemic, it is difficult to determine if the gains that we’ve made in boarding efficiencies are related to the payment system or the reduction in ridership. However, you can certainly see an improvement with the fare collection processes from the customer perspective, as well as the business side of things.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: Absolutely. Only with the implementation of T-mobilitat and the adoption of the Cryptographic Security System in accordance with ISO/IEC 24014 has the biggest fraud problem of the magnetic system been eliminated. This consisted of the cloning of transport tickets and caused an annual economic impact on the integrated fare system totalling approximately €3 million.


In terms of future developments, what trends or advancements do you foresee in ticketing and payments for public transport? Are there any emerging technologies or innovative solutions that could further enhance the user experience and operational efficiency?

Troy Bernard DiscoverBernard: Our open-loop transit customers prefer to use their mobile devices (phones/ watches) to pay. It’s already starting, but I believe that there will continue to be more integration between trip planning, transit scheduling, ticketing and last-mile (ride-share, bike, scooter) apps to make the transit experience even more seamless and customer‑friendly.

Brandon Policicchio Greater Dayton RTAPolicicchio: In the short-term, the most advanced item that we can tackle as an industry is increasing the direct use of transit benefit programmes via open payments on our services. Many benefit programmes provide those funds directly to customers on government or customer debit/ credit cards. If we can integrate open payments, then we can reduce a step for our customers in having to access our systems through a separate smartcard, or even their smartphone. In addition, we can reduce the need for other agencies such as non-profits to purchase tickets, smartcards, etc. from transit agencies, which can help to reduce costs and streamline operations.

Dominik Elsmann AVVElsmann: We are currently observing that Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) is discussed in many contexts and on many levels. However, especially in border regions, where it could help to build up interoperability and reduce border barriers, implementation is missing or progress is very slow given the political and technological complexities involved. However, we expect that single-account approaches, where users can register for one account but allowing them to use many mobility services, will get more attention in the future.

Users are becoming more aware of data privacy issues, and it is also more convenient and transparent to use a small amount of accounts rather than registering for many different services and switching from one to another. This relates to the need for inter‑modality, which we consider crucial for the user experience and the share of people choosing public transport to be improved. Offering a wide range of shared mobility services and implementing efficient payment or ticketing methods will contribute to the attractiveness of public transport.

Llorenç Marcos Valls ATM BarcelonaMarcos Valls: By means of the T-mobilitat system developed for travel in the Barcelona area, we can enhance the user experience through use of mobile phones to access public transport, thus reducing our dependence on cardboard and plastic cards and significantly lessening our environmental impact. As a result, T-mobilitat users can now access public transport using our Android validation application, which will also become available in the Apple environment very shortly.

Furthermore, we believe that innovation in the design of the fare systems will have a positive impact on user perception in relation to a fairer and more equitable transport system. With this aim in mind, we’re striving to make a new fare system based on mileage and regular use a reality throughout Catalonia over the next five years.