Four priorities for public transport operators and authorities in 2023

Philippe Vappereau, General Manager at Calypso Networks Association (CNA), provides his view on the four key priorities critical to sustainable growth in public transport ticketing in 2023 

Priority One: Coping with rising inflation and the cost of living 

Accelerated inflation is placing increased pressure on cash-strapped passengers and networks. This will continue through 2023, presenting challenges as networks maintain essential services while facilitating affordable access and helping local economies to function. 

Some authorities are taking radical steps to support passengers, such as in Spain, where authorities have extended free train travel into 2023. A similar scheme took place in Germany over the summer of 2022 as passengers were able to purchase a single ticket for all modes of city and regional transport for one month for just 9 Euros. While this scheme was not designed to be a long term solution, it has been followed by the introduction of the new ‘Deutschlandticket’, giving Germans access to short and medium distance journeys on trains and busses for just €1.60 per day. While some authorities may be able to find long-term success with such discount solutions, for a number of others this would not be sustainable.  

Key to this will be enabling fare flexibility for less predictable passenger behaviours, and using open standards to affordably enable passengers to access a mix of every tariff type. Enabling new mobility (MaaS) services to facilitate door-to-door travel will also help passengers realise better value in public transport, compared to private vehicle use and costly fuel consumption. 

Priority Two: Managing chip shortages 

The chip shortage that hit as a result of decreased production during the pandemic continues to affect multiple industries worldwide. Transport ticketing is no exception. While none are immune to the impact of global shortages and subsequent higher prices, networks should ensure their supply of both smart cards and the chips upon which they are based come via multiple sources, rather than depending solely on one proprietary vendor. 

Mobile ticketing can help alleviate the pressure on networks, enabling passengers to store and use tickets from smart devices they already own. However, it is important to offer a full range of accessible ticket options to ensure that no-one is excluded from using public transport because of a lack of choice available. 

Priority Three: Avoiding the oversimplification of ticketing 

In public transport, one size does not fit all. Passengers may use different modes of transport to reach their destination, the regularity with which different passengers use public transport can vary massively, and they may have their own personal preferences on how they pay and store the tickets they use. These are all factors that must be accounted for when designing a ticketing network. 

For example, the needs of an urban city cannot translate directly to rural settings, where passenger behaviours are typically less regular and predictable. Equally, learnings from implementations in the Western world do not always translate directly to networks in Asia, where payment preferences vary significantly.  

Debates also continue around open-loop (typically, using EMV® bank card payments) versus closed loop ticketing (such as with a Calypso card). New Zealand is exploring nationwide open loop systems, but questions have been raised about whether such systems exclude passengers if no alternative ticketing options are available. 

Open loop doesn’t achieve the political needs of a diverse community and it shouldn’t try to replace closed-loop. Instead, it should be looking at how it adds value and improves the current systems: What can it bring to transport operators and authorities beyond today’s successful closed-loop systems? 

The future will be a mix of open- and closed-loop systems that provide choice, security and convenience for passengers, but which still enable operators and authorities to stay in control of their network and access data critical to further evolutions of their service.  

Priority Four: Environmentally friendly public transport 

Traditionally, users of public transport are issued with a physical ticket as proof of payment. It is a simple way for networks to validate a passenger’s right to ride. However, due to the vast scale at which they are distributed, producing each of these individual tickets – be they paper or plastic – produces a high volume of waste. This is further exacerbated by the fact that a large percentage of tickets are single use. 

Dematerialisation must therefore be a priority for networks worldwide, meeting the responsibilities we collectively face in reducing our impact on the environment. Offering a way for passengers to purchase tickets without the need to use disposable materials is not only a critical part of networks’ environmental, social and corporate governance frameworks, but it is also an influential differentiator with passengers. Accenture revealed that 60% of us are consciously adjusting habits in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Ticketing must respond accordingly. 

Designing reusable tickets with longevity in mind offers a way for physical tickets to still be distributed – maintaining passenger inclusion – but at a greatly diminished scale. Mobile ticketing (or “m-ticketing” can cut ecological footprints even further by allowing passengers to purchase and store tickets on their own device, reducing demand for physical tickets for each journey.