Tackling the challenge of ticketing in MaaS

Posted: 29 May 2020 |

Piia Karjalainen, Secretary General at the MaaS Alliance, details the challenges that operators and authorities face in making payments simpler for a MaaS-based future, as well as the role that openness has to play in moving mobility forwards.

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Discussion around MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) is still relatively new, but there are more and more implementations already in the market, and different MaaS models and solutions becoming available. There has been a wide common understanding that the first thing the industry needs to make MaaS implementations successful is easy access to data. To that end, new regulation has been adopted and supported by the European Commission pushing and enabling access to data. Access to data alone, though, is not yet enough to enable the actual provision of integrated services. In addition, seamless ticketing and payment solutions are needed to eventually enable one-stop-shop solutions for customers, without multiple redirections to other apps or websites.

One area of technology that’s key to making progress in MaaS is ticketing and fare collection. In 2020, the MaaS Alliance is working with potential different scenarios and future paths regarding ticketing solutions, and building a common roadmap forward. With so many different technology solutions currently competing with one another, the aim is to avoid further market fragmentation.

Simplifying the system

Since London’s renowned decision to transition to open loop transport payments in 2011, this type of system has been implemented into some of the world’s busiest transport networks. The point of implementing an open loop system is to make things, from a user perspective, a lot simpler. It aims to make new kinds of transport services – not just public transport, but hopefully new mobility services as well – far more accessible for people trying to get from A to B everyday.

It is of real importance that public transport operators and authorities begin to remove some of the complexity that’s currently involved in paying for transport services. Key to this is information, and that of course is where data comes in once again. Passengers need to be able to clearly and easily see what their options are, which payment methods are available, and so on.

There is a feeling of certainty – security, even – for human beings that comes with having the right information, and this is no different in public transport; the knowledge of how and where to pay for a ticket is hugely significant for passengers when they are choosing their preferred journey option. This is never truer than when people are in an unfamiliar city. It’s a factor in making public transport much more accessible for those who are not regular users. Too many unknowns and question marks are always going to discourage people from using – or even trying – public transport.

Modern ticketing systems are fuelled by new technology. Transport providers are inevitably always trying to keep up to date with new trends in payment technology. However, it seems unrealistic to expect that the industry will be able to change the lifecycle of 10-15 years that comes with whatever ticketing system or technology an operator or authority chooses. With this considered, it is easy to understand why operators often don’t want to make the first move when it comes to technology adoption. In terms of ticketing, influenced by interoperability issues and network effects, there are limited chances to carry out small-scale pilots. It’s not easy picking the winning horse and there will always be a significant investment, after which transport providers have to work with their chosen solution, regardless of any technological developments taking place in the meantime.

Open up

To achieve enjoyable travel for passengers, the industry needs to demonstrate a larger degree of openness than it does currently. Only then will aggregated services truly benefit users because the MaaS operators or aggregators will then be able to provide user-centric services with different models and offerings to different target groups. The added value comes from creating more visible multimodal transport options and providing better information of all options, modes and combinations available.

The aim of Mobility-as-a-Service is to have such convenient access for all mobility options wherever you go, that the sector can overcome the might of car ownership. It’s about providing people, especially those who aren’t keen on owning or driving their own car, with other options, available everyday, and in all conditions, and developing integrated MaaS offerings that people love to use.

Traditionally when the transit industry has looked to gain insight into passenger satisfaction, user surveys have been tailored to target those who already use public transport. The revolutionary power of MaaS lies outside the regular users of public transportation and therefore we need to better understand their expectations. This creates a completely new market segment, targeting integrated services where public transport perhaps makes up one part of the journey, together with shared fleets, cycling or other modes. 

The importance of shared data

The open data approach creates added value to all key stakeholders in the MaaS ecosystem. From a user’s perspective, data is about informing them of the mobility options that are available and making the comparison simple. During its past five years of existence, the MaaS Alliance has been promoting the complete ecosystem based on data sharing and open access because we want to see lots of different services available or offered to the market, rather than a ‘winner takes all’ situation. This would enable the end user to have many different options in terms of service providers.

One of the biggest benefits of MaaS at a systemic level is how cities can deploy the data gathered through smart mobility and MaaS solutions. Naturally, user privacy and security of data needs to be at the highest level, but applications have the ability to gather information on user needs – where they want to go and when they want to go – and on their preferences. This information is extremely valuable also in urban planning. From an urban planning point of view, the added value comes from the fact that decisions have typically been made based on survey data that is very time consuming to gather and analyse, and is often already partly outdated when it comes to decision-making procedures. That survey data could now be complemented by app-based data.

For cities, there are also benefits in the far shorter term, in traffic management. Previously, traffic management has mainly used data sources from vehicles and infrastructure, but now there is the potential to add the element of the individual users.

As importantly, from the perspective of the public transport operator – or indeed any mobility operator – data is incredibly valuable in enabling them to optimise planning for their networks, operations and fleets.

With or without MaaS, what remains unchanged is that high-quality mobility experience and operational efficiency require a high-quality public transport network and services. Transport for London is a fantastic example of this, with both its strategic and tech-savvy approach, and its understanding of the anticipation of users’ needs for simple and efficient mobility. However, in many places the situation is not as good as in London, and it is in these places that MaaS could have the most significant impact on both people and urban spaces.

karjalainenPiia Karjalainen is Senior Manager at the MaaS Alliance in Brussels, Belgium. The MaaS Alliance is an international public-private partnership bringing together more than 95 member organisations worldwide. She has previously worked at the European Parliament and the Finnish Ministry of Transport & Communications.

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