Snapper’s key Takeaways from Transit Ticketing & Fare Collection APAC 2017

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At the beginning of September, around 70 delegates from 14 countries converged in Singapore to attend Transit Ticketing and Fare Collection APAC. The mission was to analyse key trends and developments, discuss the status and outlook of ticketing systems, as well as highlighting opportunities and major projects in the Asia Pacific region.

The Director of Global Strategy Group for KPMG, Gopi Rengasamy returned for a second year to open the conference with an industry overview. He revisited the key trend for 2016 which was account-based ticketing (ABT), and identified the key trend for 2017 as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

Are you MaaS ready?

For Transport Authorities to participate in MaaS, they would first need to have advanced ticketing systems in place (most likely including account-based ticketing) to provide:

  • digital ticketing which is key for interoperability
  • an integrated payment system such as digital wallets
  • integrated first and last mile journey planning.

With these features in place, Public Transport Authorities will have a chance at achieving the paradigm shift that is required to move commuters away from planning their journeys around public transport, more towards providing a data driven platform that links existing technology and on-demand services to transform the commuter travel experience.

The Whim app from Finland was provided as a case study of how MaaS is emerging in practice.

In New Zealand the Choice app is also in its first month of usage, and will be one to watch for an APAC case study of MaaS.


Do you need EMV with your ABT?

Silvester Prakasam, Senior Advisor for the Fare System at the Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore posed the question “Is ABT the optimal solution for Asia?” Mr Prakasam shared details of the current EMV trial that LTA has in progress, with 160,000 whitelisted cards currently in circulation, of which about a third have been used for journeys so far. The main issues they are experiencing include:

  • Incomplete trip information
  • Unable to use some bank cards due to different validation rules
  • The bank card refresh cycle is more frequent that a traditional transit card, requiring more frequent security upgrades and certification costs
  • Slower transaction times can affect customer flow and key operational and safety issues
  • No ability to write to the card for concessions or discounted fares.

With these issues in mind, Mr Prakasam warned that “the benefits of closed-payment have to be weighed carefully before implementing ABT, especially with a large un-banked population.” In particular, the benefits of a stored-value card include high performance and security which can’t currently be matched by open-loop systems.

This view was shared by the Ministry of Transport in Thailand, who outlined their ticketing technology plan to introduce a closed loop smartcard in 2018, and the longer term plan to move to EMV.

Migrating from card-based to account-based

Managing Partner of Clevor Consulting Group, Trever Findley presented an overview of transit ticketing and payments in the United States, and divided the 6,700 transit agencies into three main categories of technology deployment:

  1. Legacy systems which include cash, tokens, paper and magnetic stripe tickets. The majority of small to mid-size agencies are still operating legacy systems
  2. First generation smart card systems. These include Boston, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and LA.
  3. Next generation contactless open payment systems (Chicago, Portland).

Mr Findley presented his view that legacy systems have the most straightforward path to a next generation system, which Portland has just demonstrated with their deployment of the hop fastpass system.  First generation systems have a tougher choice between either upgrading to next generation (e.g. Transport for London) and suffering a long migration between systems at double the cost structure, or a “burn and replace” methodology which has been demonstrated by Chicago.

In both scenarios Mr Findley provided examples of how non-NFC mobile ticketing has been used successfully to provide a stepping stone to more advanced electronic payments and to fill system gaps – such as a common payment system for transport modes that are not integrated.

Challenges for the 12 months ahead

At the conclusion of the conference, Mr Rengasamy joined a panel of representatives including Mr Graham Alston from Greater Wellington Regional Council, Mr Alvin Tang from Octopus Holdings Ltd, and Mr Shubhrendu Khoche from MasterCard, to discuss the main challenges that the industry is likely to face over the next twelve months. Insights from the panel included:

  • Entrance of new ticketing vendors, internet companies, banks and other financial services will likely increase the rate of innovation and change facing the transit industry
  • Proliferation of new suppliers and services may also lead to increased fragmentation of services
  • With increased adoption of open standards and API’s, Transport Authorities will increasingly have the ability, to pick and choose best of breed suppliers, rather than be constrained by a single supplier with an end-to-end system
  • As ABT deployments move from test and trial phase into more widespread deployment, a more accurate view of the true cost of implementing a new ABT system will emerge. It is felt that the cost is widely underestimated at the moment.

Overall, conference organisers Global Mass Transit provided an excellent forum for industry to present views and discuss insights. We look forward to the ongoing conversation over the coming months to see what key trend of 2018 will emerge.