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Simplifying Stockholm’s transport ticketing

As ticketing becomes ever more complex, offering an ever-greater range of products and services, many would argue that this complexity has filtered through to the simple act of choosing and paying for their travel. Krister Dackland from Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) tells us about the creation of SL’s new ticketing system, one that aims to put ease of use at its core.

Simplifying Stockholm's transport ticketing

When it comes to digitalisation, we have three key focus areas: traffic information, data analysis and ticketing. Naturally, these three are all linked. You need to have all of them to develop the features that your customers require.

When it comes to ticketing, our aim is to build a system that is easy to understand, easy to use and which provides our customers with multiple ways to buy tickets. We will have contactless and we will have a close loop Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) card based on the same standards as the Aston Norma, the bank cards. Then, of course, we will have optical tickets such as QR codes, and since we are EMV standard, our customers can buy using their wallets, or their watch, and so on. We will have different ways to carry tickets as well as different ways to buy tickets.

We are striving to make it as easy as possible to buy tickets and equally easy to validate that ticket. In our new system, we have only one validator – one single reader.

Using EMV standard will bring the advantage of lower implementation costs. Equally, we will only need to buy one validator, not two or three. And naturally, maintenance costs will also be lower. Most important, however, is ease of use, and creating a system that is much more user friendly for our passengers.

We are currently in the middle of implementing our new system, and are doing so in an incremental way. Naturally, our system will evolve over the next two years, gaining features over time. Built on the latest technology, cloud technologies will allow us to adapt it according to the needs of our customers. It’s about building on newer technologies and providing services for our customers in a medium that is familiar to them.

Phasing out the old and introducing the new

We aim to start a graceful close down of the old system in 2022. Nonetheless, we will constantly study customer uptake of our new services run on the new system. We are investing a lot in our apps, enabling them to act as a travel body. Passengers will be able to buy their tickets, manage their tickets, plan their trips and so on, all from their smartphone.

When it comes to ticketing, our aim is to build a system that is easy to understand, easy to use and which provides our customers with multiple ways to buy tickets

At the same time as implementing the new system, we are also building the back-end systems. In terms of data analysis, we can see how, when and where passengers use their cards, which is of great benefit to us. We can utilise that information to optimise our product portfolio and apply it in future planning of transport infrastructure.

Notably, we are building a solution that is flexible. In theory, we could even sell other tickets as well, or provide combination tickets. We could have products that are only live at the weekend. We could look at combining aspects – a football game in Stockholm with travel to and from the stadium, or perhaps with a museum within our portfolio. There are so many possibilities.

Right now, however, our focus is on trying out our system; seeing that it really works before we add more complicated products. That said, we are building the ability, and have also allowed other commercial players to resell our tickets. One is a bus company, and one a collaboration between the regions in the middle of Sweden. This is an enabler for Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

Integrating MaaS into ticketing

When it comes to MaaS, it’s not about the technology, it’s about the business model. How do we earn money in a business that is, for instance, famous for taxis? MaaS poses the problem of how to split the revenue between the different parties and whether it’s truly worthwhile for public transport companies or private companies.

We are striving to make it as easy as possible to buy tickets and equally easy to validate that ticket

We’ve had discussions with an e-scooter company, for instance, about creating a combined ticket for the e-scooter and SL public transport. But unfortunately, it didn’t work. SL already have a fixed fare where passengers can travel by bus, train, commuter train and metro – and as many times as they wish within the month. When we looked at adding the e-scooter, however, the price needed to be doubled, but passengers were limited to three or four e-bike rides per day. Simply, it was so much more expensive than our standard ticket, and just not worthwhile for either us or our passengers.

Solving our mobility problems

That said, we need to solve our mobility problems somehow, because city populations are still continuing to grow. You cannot have a car. It’s not about pollution – it’s about congestion. We need to find smarter, more efficient ways to move people.

Perhaps there’s even an argument for finding ways to lessen people’s need to travel, particularly around peak times. Commuters for instance, could use digital technologies to work from home, or even work from an office closer to their home.

When it comes to MaaS, it’s not about the technology, it’s about the business model

However, there will always be times when you need to meet people, when you need to travel – and this is where we need to find the answers.

It is encouraging to see some progress starting to be made. Change is starting to happen. In Stockholm, there are people who have purposely given up the private car, use public transport instead and simply hire a car when they can’t travel by any other mode.  

Cities everywhere are facing very similar changes with their own kind of intricacies and subtleties. Every major city faces these challenges, and we each have to go about solving them in our own way.

Biography

Dr. Krister Dackland is CIO at Stockholm Public Transport (SL). Kristers professional background is in IT and telecommunications. Before entering the position at SL, Krister was CIO at TDC Nordic. He holds patents in the mobile messaging area. He earned his Ph.D. in Computing Science from Umeå University.

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