Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

Transport for New South Wales in Sydney plans to launch a pilot of a MaaS app early next year, following its one-year test of a digital Opal card. The new pilot will include incentives for customers to use private mobility for first and last mile travel.

Key Data:

Transport for NSW said it recorded more than 300,000 trips paid for with digital Opal over the previous 12 months. While that’s an average of only 2.5 trips per month per user, Covid lockdowns are believed to have hurt transaction volumes. And the agency told Mobility Payments that digital Opal technology will be  “part of this new trial.”

Organizations Mentioned:

Transport for NSW

Plans by Transport for New South Wales, Australia’s largest transit agency, to launch a trial enabling users to plan, book and pay for multimodal rides is the next step toward the agency’s long-term goal of building a full mobility-as-a-service, or MaaS, platform.

The scheduled MaaS trial, which will offer users “multimodal subscription-style” bundled services from both public and private mobility providers, is set to launch early next year.

It comes as Transport for NSW wraps up its one-year pilot that put a digital version of its closed-loop Opal card into NFC mobile wallets connected with such Pays services as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. The agency said this week it recorded more than 300,000 trips paid for with digital Opal over the previous 12 months.

That’s an average of only 2.5 trips per month per user, though Covid lockdowns are believed to have hurt transaction volumes for at least part of the year. And the agency told Mobility Payments that digital Opal technology will be “part of this new trial.”

Public-Private Mobility Test Put on Hold
As an add-on to the one-year digital Opal trial, Transport for NSW was planning to enable the 10,000 users to also tap their digital Opal cards to pay for trips with ride-hailing company Uber, ingogo taxis and Lime bike rentals. If they took a ride on a Transport for NSW metro train, bus or other mode within 60 minutes–either before or after the private mobility trip–they would receive a credit to their Opal accounts of AU$3. A separate offer would have given customers up to 25% discounts on a private ferry service, also if they caught public transit within an hour. 

But the agency quietly shelved this part of the trial, which was supposed to have launched in mid-2021. An agency spokeswoman told Mobility Payments the cancellation was caused by the resurgence of  the Covid-19 pandemic–with strict new lockdowns fueled by the Delta variant hitting the state of New South Wales starting around August of this year.

Updated: “Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 lockdown in Sydney, Transport for NSW was unable to progress with the second phase of the Opal Digital Card trial in 2021, which was intended to facilitate connected journeys between public and private transport modes,” she said. “TfNSW is currently engaging with potential partners to determine their involvement in the new mobility-as-a-service app trial we’re planning to launch in early 2022.” End update.

This part of the trial was to have been a key test of how transit agencies could incentivize users to take private mobility services for the first or last mile of their journeys, while relying on public transit for the core of their trips.

Selling Subscription Bundles
Update: But an agency spokeswoman told Mobility Payments this week that Transport for NSW could still offer incentives for customers to use private mobility as part of the MaaS trial. End update.

“Customers will choose what subscription bundle best suits their needs– which could include a handful of transport trips per week–plus access to discount private transport offerings,” said the spokeswoman.

While the agency didn’t list the transport modes that will be included in the MaaS trial, the spokeswoman did say that the MaaS app being tested will allow customers to use “plan, book and pay for journeys across a range of transport options–all on the one platform.” Like the digital Opal card trial, the MaaS trial is designed to have 10,000 users.

Australia-based iTNews reported this week that Transport for NSW had let a contract last week to Israel-based trip-planning app provider Moovit to upgrade the Opal digital app, which will be used in the MaaS trial. Moovit’s core technology offers multimodal trip planning and real-time arrival information, which will be an important feature for the trial. According to the contract awards notice on the Transport for NSW site, the nearly AU$500,000 (US$355,000) contract with Moovit will run from Oct. 13, 2021 through Oct. 11, 2022.

Pursuing MaaS Strategy
Transport for NSW has been pursuing the goal of building a full MaaS platform for years and part of that is developing an account-based payments feature, which the agency calls Opal Connect. This payments feature would include an account-based digital Opal account, but would also include credit and debit cards–both online and contactless.

The transit agency noted this week that contactless open-loop payments now accounts for 34% of trips on the Sydney Metro, buses, trams and ferries. More than half of those open-loop contactless payments come from NFC mobile wallets, as Mobility Payments reported earlier. Contactless EMV fare payments use a pay-as-you-go model.

While the agency is testing what is expected to be prepaid subscription model in the forthcoming MaaS trial, the agency also might offer pay-as-you-go options, as well, in any MaaS platform it eventually launches.

Kurt Brissett, Transport for NSW’s executive director, Connected Journeys, spelled out the payments piece of the agency’s MaaS strategy during a conference earlier this year. He said the agency planned to expand use of both contactless EMV along with the Opal card as it developed MaaS.

“Across New South Wales, we have major programs in progress to extend and integrate Opal Connect and contactless payments to a wide range of public and privately operated transport services, payment schemes and customer groups to provide more flexibility and connected journeys,” he said. “Opal Connect will be the foundation of MaaS as a convenient single-payment account for travel on all modes.”

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