Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

Saskatoon Transit, which serves the largest city in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, plans to launch mobile ticketing and contactless smart cards using a cloud-based ticketing platform-a software-as-a-service system–from UK-based Masabi. It follows the launch of a much larger service by Calgary Transit, which serves Canada’s third largest city in July 2020. Like Calgary Transit, Saskatoon Transit will install validators on its fleet of buses through Masabi.

Key Data:

Saskatoon Transit plans to install validators that can scan QR codes for mobile tickets as well as accepting closed-loop and open-loop contactless. Another transit agency said the validators cost $1,200 apiece, plus $425 per unit for installation.

Organizations Mentioned:

• Saskatoon Transt
• Masabi

Another transit agency in Canada has announced it will enable mobile ticketing, along with reloadable contactless cards, citing in part the Covid-19 pandemic and the desire to reduce the use of cash, vending machines and customer interaction with agency staff. 

(This premium article was originally published in August 2020. © Mobility Payments and Forthwrite Media.)

Saskatoon Transit, which serves the largest city in Canada’s Saskatchewan province, plans to launch mobile ticketing and contactless smart cards using a cloud-based ticketing platform-a software-as-a-service system–from UK-based Masabi. It follows the launch of a much larger service by Calgary Transit, which serves Canada’s third largest city in July 2020. Like Calgary Transit, Saskatoon Transit will install validators on its fleet of buses through Masabi.  

The validators will be able to scan 2-D bar codes that users will display on their smartphone screens to redeem a ticket or pass. Besides its own mobile app, the new ticketing system will also be incorporated in the trip-planning Transit app, which Saskatoon Transit riders will be able to use to plan their bus trips and also buy tickets in the app, using an SDK from Masabi. Other global trip-planning apps, such as Moovit and Google Maps are also moving to support payments and ticketing in their apps for local public transit rides, with U.S. and Canadian transit agencies the first to enable the service.

The Saskatoon Transit validators will also have a contactless interface and will be able to accept value loaded on closed-loop cards and will eventually be able to accept contactless EMV debit and credit cards and bank card credentials on NFC devices. 

“In today’s world, riders are keen to ensure that unnecessary interactions with cash, machines and infrastructure is kept to a minimum,” said Jim McDonald, director of Saskatoon Transit, in a statement. 

Saskatoon Transit did not say when in 2021 it would launch the ticketing service, but said it would first conduct a fare review. The agency now uses cash and disposable passes, along with a smart card that can hold passes. Saskatoon Transit reported a ridership of 9.6 million last year. The agency’s implementation will be similar to Calgary Transit, though on a much smaller scale. And Calgary is not yet accepting either closed- or open-loop contactless cards. 

Calgary is also using the “fare-payments-as-a service” platform from Masabi, which the vendor calls its Justrideoffering.  

Calgary Transit customers can purchase adult and youth single tickets and daily and monthly passes, along with tickets to the airport, in the My Fare app, using credit and debit cards they can store in the app. The mobile-ticketing service is available on Android and iOS devices and works on both of the agency’s transit modes, the CTrain light rail network, which accounts for around 55% of trips; and on board buses, which make up the rest. 

Users display their tickets or passes for visual inspection for the CTrain. But for buses, the agency has installed through Masabi more than 1,000 validators that include QR code scanners and also can accept contactless EMV bank cards and NFC wallets. A Calgary Transit spokeswoman told Mobility Payments’ sister publication NFC Times that the agency plans to enable users to tap their contactless EMV cards and NFC wallets to pay fares, along with implementing full-account-based ticketing, but said there is no timeline yet for when this will happen.  

It’s unlikely that Masabi can support contactless EMV payments on its platform yet in North America. The vendor told NFC Times it will be ready first to support such contactless EMV payments in Europe, not North America, this summer. 

The Calgary Transit spokeswoman said it will cost around CA$5.5 million (US$4 million) to gear up for the My Fare program, which would mainly cover the 1,000-plus validators, including certified EMV card readers.   

Calgary Transit is not the only agency planning to expand to open-loop payments from a closed-loop mobile-ticketing service. A consortium of 13 small and mid-tier transit agencies in the U.S. states of Ohio and Northern Kentucky, which also uses Masabi’s Justride for mobile ticketing, is planning to enable contactless EMV payments, as well. The consortium is now installing more than 1,000 validators on buses through Masabi. The units cost $1,200 apiece, plus $425 per unit for installation, not counting warranty and training, the group told NFC Times.  

Agencies that plug into software-as-a-service platforms for fare collection–which are also offered by such providers as Delerrok, owned by U.S.-based Cubic Transportation Systems; and U.S.-based Token Transit–do not have to pay any upfront capital costs if they only introduce mobile ticketing with visual inspection by bus drivers or other transit staff. When they also want to accept closed-loop or open-loop cards and NFC phones or enable users to scan QR codes from their mobile handsets, they have to install validators. 

Masabi says it serves more than 80 agencies with its ticketing platform and Token Transit has contracts with more than 100. Most of the agencies are in the U.S. and most, especially for Token Transit, are small to mid-size agencies. 

Besides any upfront capital costs, transit agencies using the software-as-a-service platforms pay a percentage or flat fee based on transactions, or a percentage of gross ticketing revenue. Masabi usually charges a percentage of the transaction amount, which ranges from 1% for very large agencies to perhaps 4% or more for smaller agencies, not counting credit and debit card transaction fees that agencies pay when customers buy their tickets in the app.

The software-as-a-service platforms service have generally proved popular with riders, with some accounting for 30% to 40% of tickets sold.

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