The Uber app will be one of several ticketing and payments options for bus riders in such Ohio cities as Cincinnati and Akron and smaller cities and towns in the state and surrounding area that are part of the NEORide consortium. The group also sells its tickets through the Transit app and its own app.
There were a total of 68,300 EZfare tickets sold by NEORide in December (2019), when all or nearly all of the group’s 13 agencies were on board with the mobile-ticketing service. Just under 43,400 of those tickets were sold through the Transit app. Total mobile ticket sales increased by 20% to 82,000 the next month, January (2020), with 52,000 of those tickets sold through Transit.
• RTD Denver
(This premium article was originally published in May 2020. © Mobility Payments and Forthwrite Media.)
A consortium of 13 small and mid-tier transit agencies in Ohio and Northern Kentucky plans to enable customers to buy public transit tickets directly in the Uber app as early as this summer, following two other U.S. transit agencies, in Denver and Las Vegas, which have already integrated with Uber.
The mobile-ticketing service in the Uber app will be one of several ticketing and payments options for bus riders in such Ohio cities as Cincinnati and Akron and smaller cities and towns in the state and surrounding area. Other options include the consortium’s own mobile-ticketing app, EZfare, and mobile ticketing through the trip-planning Transit app. With the Covid-19 pandemic having caused public transit ridership to plummet throughout the U.S. and raising worries that some customers will not return to ride buses, subways and commuter trains as the lockdowns end, transit agencies are looking to promote use of more touch-free options like mobile ticketing.
Of course, paper tickets and cash are still used most often by customers of the agencies, although many transit officials have waived fares during the pandemic to reduce contact between bus drivers or other transit employees and customers and to allow all parties to avoid handling cash.
The Ohio-based consortium, called NEORide, launched its EZfare app last May with a couple of its agencies before more fully rolling out the service by the end of October. It uses a white-label app and software-as-a service platform from UK-based Masabi. Some agencies in the group, including in Cincinnati, are selling their mobile tickets exclusively through the Transit trip-planning app.
Katherine Conrad, director of client services for NEORide, disclosed the planned integration with Uber during a recent webinar sponsored by Masabi. She also said the consortium hopes to enable its customers to purchase tickets through another trip-planning app, Moovit, which was recently acquired by Intel. That agreement is not yet finalized. Conrad told Mobility Payments‘ sister publication NFC Times that the plan is to sell the consortium’s EZfare tickets through Moovit’s own branded app, just as it does through the Transit app and soon through Uber.
The Uber app’s support for public transit ticketing, along with trip planning, in Denver, Las Vegas and soon, Ohio and Northern Kentucky, uses an SDK for the ticketing piece from Masabi. The Transit app’s support for transit ticketing in these and a few other cities, also uses Masabi technology. And Transit, in a limited number of cities, enables users to pay for use of other transit modes they find during their trip-planning searches in the app. That includes ride-hailing services and bike and scooter rentals. Transit indicated that besides Masabi, it also uses mobile-ticketing technology from U.S.-based Token Transit.
Uber’s own separate “Transit” unit already provides public transit trip planning in its ride-hailing app in 15 North American cities or areas, offering what it says is real-time information and end-to-end directions to users. Uber may add payments and ticketing or passes in more of these cities, in addition to those already live in Denver and Las Vegas and planned by the consortium serving Ohio and Northern Kentucky.
Offering users multimodal trip-planning, ticketing and payments in a single app–like Uber, Transit and possibly Moovit are offering–are relatively simple examples of mobility-as-a-service, or MaaS. These MaaS apps use the pay-as-you-go model, in which customers pay only for the transit services they use. Other MaaS apps, such as Whim in Finland, uses the subscription model to enable customers to use a range of public and private transit modes for one monthly price. MaaS, however, has been slow to take off globally and the pandemic is expected to slow progress even further.
But many public transit agencies are interested in MaaS as a way to bring in more riders and improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Some agencies are starting small, such as RTD in Denver, which fully launched ticketing through the Uber app last July.
The vast majority of mobile-ticketing transactions for RTD are still through its own local app, “Mobile Tickets,” which also uses technology from Masabi. As of February, before the Covid-19 lockdowns, less than 3% of all RTD Denver mobile tickets were sold through the Uber app. The rest were through the local app, with a small number sold through the Transit app. That does not count ticketing that the majority of customers used for their pre-Covid-19 trips on RTD buses and trains–that is, closed-loop smart cards and cash.
The situation is different for the NEORide consortium, which sees sales of more than 60% of its mobile tickets through the Transit app, the rest through the separate EZfare app. That’s because the largest transit provider in the group, Cincinnati Metro, a bus operator overseen by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, sells all of its mobile EZfare tickets through the Transit app, which also gives users trip planning and real-time tracking.
All told, there were a total of 68,300 EZfare tickets sold by NEORide in December (2019), when all or nearly all of the group’s 13 agencies were on board with the mobile-ticketing service. Just under 43,400 of those tickets were sold through the Transit app. Total mobile ticket sales increased by 20% to 82,000 the next month, January, with 52,000 of those tickets sold through Transit. Ticket sales dipped by 6% to 7% to 77,000 in February, the last full month unaffected by the pandemic lockdowns.
NEORide pays Masabi a fee of 7.9% of the amount of each transaction, about half of which covers the cost of credit card fees charged by banks when customers buy their mobile tickets in the app, according to Conrad. Masabi, along with such fare-payments-as-a-service suppliers as Cubic-owned Delerrok and Token Transit, are believed to be seeing increased demand in the wake of the pandemic from transit agencies that want to move quickly to mobile- and contactless card-based ticketing to reduce their usage of cash, as Mobility Payments’ sister publication NFC Times recently reported.
Conrad said NEORide plans to enable riders to also pay fares with contactless smart cards, tying into Masabi’s Justride platform. The consoritum is now equipping buses with more than 1,000 validators using grant funds. The readers in the validators will accept closed-loop cards and will be ready to also take contactless EMV credit and debit cards and card credentials stored on NFC devices. The planned expansion to cards predated the pandemic.
Denver transit agency RTD also plans to add open-loop payments as an option, which would include accepting such NFC payments services as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Tonya Anderson, senior product manager, electronic fare operations, for RTD, speaking on the same Masabi-sponsored webinar last month, said that enabling public transit ticketing in apps customers already have installed on their phones, including the Uber and Transit apps, offers more convenience. That’s especially true for those users who have not downloaded RTD’s own Mobile Tickets app.
“There’s a concept called app fatigue,” Anderson said. “It’s that friction that you feel when someone says, ‘oh, easy, just download an app.’ And you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t download another app. I just can’t do it.’ We wanted to take away this first point of friction by putting our tickets in a ubiquitous app that customers already have on their phone.”
Another Ohio transit agency not part of NEORide, the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, last week launched mobile payments in the Transit app. According to a release by Masabi, the agency accelerated its launch of the service as the city emerges from the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Even before the lockdowns, forward-looking transit agencies were expanding the number of ticket-buying options for their customers, including through mobile apps. As agencies struggle to encourage wary riders to return, these options may become more important than ever.
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