What’s next for transport ticketing in 2024?

2024 marks four years since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the transit world hard. Its legacy can be felt in a more flexible, hybrid approach to working and commuting patterns: commuter volumes simply haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. And while some networks have responded well, for example the London Underground which has reached 90% of its previous ridership, others are still struggling. Boston’s MBTA, for example is only at 57% of its pre-covid ridership, despite reinstating 86% of its service.

This contrast between two major cities is essentially due to an overreliance on commuters and an inability to make up for the shortfall caused by the rise of hybrid working. London has recovered well thanks to a well distributed ridership base. By considering the needs of not just commuters, but also tourists, occasional users and even those making a single trip, London has been able to offset the reduction in commuters with other demographics.

2024 will be defined not by how well networks can regain previously lost passengers, but rather how they attract new ones away from private vehicles.

New and inclusive ticketing options

Creating a balanced network that appeals to all demographics and provides a service that is more efficient, dependable, comfortable and trusted than private vehicle usage is easier said than done, but it is not impossible.

Traditional weekly or monthly tickets may have previously met the needs of the daily commuter, but passenger movement patterns are changing. Networks also need to meet the requirements of multiple different demographics. In short, any successful ticketing system now must offer more: it must be more agile, more pragmatic and more flexible. Passengers always look for value and reliability from public transit, so tariff structures must meet this demand.

While a large number of commuters will still want fixed term travel cards, additional options including enhanced Pay-as-you-Go solutions and accessible concessionary fares will allow networks to diversify their offer in 2024, providing tickets that are more appropriate to the usage requirements of more people.

Combining these offers with innovative solutions designed for Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) can create unified multi-modal offers that give the same door-to-door convenience of private vehicles, at an affordable cost and without the issues of traffic jams and parking.

Digitally inclusive; not exclusively digital

Mobile ticketing (mTicketing) is one way for networks to take a more digital approach. This helps mitigate the challenge of issuing physical tickets at station kiosks by allowing passengers to purchase, store and use tickets from smart devices they already own. It also helps advance sustainability goals by reducing the volume of paper or plastic that is used for the tickets themselves.

These digital solutions can be seamlessly incorporated into unified mobility offerings, allowing users to switch between modes of transport throughout a network using just their smartphone.

But, a word of caution: it is crucial that this move towards mobile tickets does not entirely eliminate physical alternatives. Users that are less technologically willing, literate or able must not be restricted from accessing mobility services; operators and authorities must make sure that a range of different fare media are always readily available.

Building resilience into chip supply chains

The shutdown of key supply chain infrastructure during the pandemic caused a global shortage of chips, and while supply has returned to sufficient levels, we must learn from it.

Proximity cards like a Calypso smartcard or an EMV® Chip card are based on the ISO/IEC 14443 standard. Within this standard, cards can be either Type A, initially designed to be lower cost and memory only cards, or Type B cards which first came to market with higher end microprocessors and security. While the differences between the two types of card have now vanished, with both able to support microprocessors and memory, the banking industry primarily favours Type A. This means the overwhelming number of cards and supporting components produced are Type A. Therefore, to leverage economies of scale in the manufacturing process, ticketing operators can look to transition to Type A with Calypso.

In most cases, adapting to accept both card types can be achieved through a software update to existing terminal infrastructure: in other words, the built-in reader. This is where terminal certification is so important, confirming acceptance of both card types so PTOs and PTAs can operate with confidence. By making this migration, networks can build resistance into their supply chains, helping them avoid vendor lock in and remain agile to market pressures.

Calypso at the heart of innovation

Since its creation, Calypso Networks Association has always worked to open up ticketing systems. First, this focused on card-reader transactions which led to the Calypso specifications based on open standards.

CNA then turned its attention to terminal software, aiming to avoid the need for expensive proprietary solutions. This ultimately led to the Eclipse Keyple open-source SDK, which completely uncouples terminal hardware and software.

Calypso technology will once again be at the forefront of innovation in 2024. The latest updates to Calypso will provide the transport ticketing community with the open, accessible tools it needs to provide seamless mobility. The CNA Security Technical Committee is reviewing and refining the upcoming open SAM (Secure Access Module) specification to ensure that it is clear for all and answers all requirements with a view to publishing it in Q1 2024.

Mobile ticketing is also being enhanced through the publication of version 2.0 of the Calypso Applet. This offers full support of Calypso Prime Regular, Extended & Prime PKI features, fully compliant with the Calypso REV3.3 ed. 2 specification.

Meanwhile, we are currently seeing that many ABT solutions proposed by various manufacturers do not comply with common standards, and that exchanges between terminals and ABT servers are often specific to each one, which threatens once again to proprietary schemes. CNA members, aware of this risk, have asked us, in line with its previous actions to open ticketing, to take up this issue. This is why we have set up a new Technical Committee for ABT, prioritizing interoperability, data security and integrity : the aim is to position Calypso technology as a prominent access token and to standardize data exchanges in ABT systems.

All Calypso updates are thanks to community collaboration via CNA’s Technical Committees and Working Groups which bring together experts from throughout the transport ticketing landscape to discuss the key challenges and opportunities they see for the ecosystem moving forward.

Physical mobility induces economic mobility

Networks must constantly reevaluate their ticketing offer to ensure they meet the needs and expectations of the communities they serve. Inclusive and interoperable ticketing means that physical access to job opportunities, leisure activities, or visiting friends and family are available to all, without discrimination. In 2024, networks around the world have the opportunity to facilitate previously unprecedented levels of access for all, and it begins with an open ticketing framework.

Creating an inclusive and interoperable offer will help elevate an entire network. It forms the foundation of a modern mass transit system that offers a reliable, dependable and affordable alternative to private vehicle use. And in the words of former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa: “An advanced city is not one where the poor own a car, but one where the rich use public transport.”