Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

The Regional Transportation District, or RTD, of Denver, continues to see only modest increases in mobile ticketing from third-party apps, and overall use of mobile ticketing has not greatly expanded during the pandemic, Mobility Payments has learned.

Key Data:

Chart: RTD-Denver–total fare revenue breakdown
Chart: RTD Denver-ticket sales by apps

Organizations Mentioned:

RTD Denver

The Regional Transportation District, or RTD, of Denver, continues to see only modest increases in mobile ticketing from third-party apps, and overall use of mobile ticketing has not greatly expanded during the pandemic, Mobility Payments has learned.

According to fare revenue figures for the month of October 2021, obtained by Mobility Payments from the U.S. agency, total mobile ticketing revenue accounted for around 18% of total fare revenue of $8.1 million for October, the latest month for which the agency provided figures.

While that is a relatively healthy rate of adoption for mobile ticketing in the U.S., it still does not represent a large share of fare revenue for the mid-tier agency. According to an RTD official, speaking earlier this year, the mobile-ticketing “adoption rate” was nearly 13% in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

The official didn’t specify at the time whether that adoption rate represented the revenue share for mobile ticketing or the number of users, but it provides a basis for comparison with the more recent mobile-ticketing sales figures. A spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on whether RTD Denver is still satisfied with the adoption rate of mobile ticketing.

By far the largest share of RTD’s fare revenue comes from passes, usually stored on contactless cards, especially for employees and students. Cash acceptance on board buses still makes up 13% of revenue. (See pie chart below.)

Local App Still Dominates Mobile Ticketing
Looking at mobile-ticketing revenue by itself, as Mobility Payments reported earlier, the vast majority of this revenue for RTD comes from the agency’s local Mobile Tickets app. RTD launched the local app in the fall of 2017.

RTD was the first transit agency globally to work with Uber to sell its bus and light-rail tickets through the Uber app, starting in the spring of 2019. Later that year, it expanded the service to trip-planning app Transit and then in the fall of 2020 to a second ride-hailing service app, Lyft. There are still only a handful of other agencies working with Uber and only one other agency, RTC of Southern Nevada, working with Lyft.

The RTD local app accounted for 96.3% of all mobile ticketing revenue of $1.1 million for the agency in March 2020, with the other 3.7% coming from sales of RTD tickets by users of the Uber and Transit apps.

By October 2021, ticket sales in third-party apps had increased to 6.2% of all mobile-ticketing revenue for the month, including Lyft, in addition to Uber and Transit. That still meant 93.9% of all mobile ticketing revenue for the month–of a little under $1.5 million–was still with the local app–two and a half years after Uber had started enabling users of its app to buy tickets on RTD buses and trains and two years after the Transit app had done so. (See bar graph on this page.)

RTD uses a software-as-a-service ticketing and payments platform from UK-based Masabi. The mobile ticketing feature in the Uber, Transit and Lyft apps use an SDK to connect to the Masabi platform, though Uber and Lyft handle payments themselves.

RTD customers can buy three-hour, daily and monthly passes for bus and light rail in any of the four apps using their stored credit or debit cards. They then show the bus driver or fare inspector the activated ticket for visual inspection upon boarding or when asked. RTD plans to install validators next year that will enable users to scan a QR code in the mobile apps and potentially support closed-loop and open-loop contactless card payments. The agency has a closed-loop stored-value card now, MyRide, but it doesn’t account for much revenue.

Passes Largest Revenue Producer
By far RTD’s largest category of fare revenue at present comes from passes, led by the employer-sponsored EcoPass, as well as the CollegePass. The latter is an annual college-sponsored pass paid for out of student tuition and fees and used by more than 100,000 students, according to RTD. These and other passes, such as monthly passes, along with 10-ride ticket books, accounted for 52% of total fare revenue in October.

Cash acceptance on board vehicles makes up less than mobile ticketing at 18%. RTD’s Mobile Tickets app accounted for 17% of total fare revenue and sales from third-party apps 1% (See pie chart on this page.)

As Mobility Payments reported last month, RTC of Southern Nevada, a public bus agency serving Las Vegas and the surrounding area, and the second agency globally to support ticket sales in the Uber app after RTD, has had a similar experience with the third-party apps. Ticketing sales in Uber, Transit and Lyft made up roughly 2% of total fare revenue for the fiscal year ending in June, as compared with 19% for the local RTC mobile app, figures from RTC show.

Third-party revenue was higher for RTC Las Vegas than for RTD Denver, but the RTC local mobile app still accounted for a large majority of total mobile-ticketing revenue, at 84.8%. Masabi also provides SaaS ticketing for RTC and the third-party apps.

Pie chart-shares of total fare revenue-RTD Denver

Overall, ticket sales in the third-party apps appear to be growing for both agencies, albeit slowly.

Industry observers have noted that agencies like RTD Denver and RTC Las Vegas launched their local apps long before supporting ticketing in third-party apps like Uber and Transit, and this could be a main reason customers stick with the local app.

By contrast, some other agencies, such as several in the U.S. state of Ohio, are seeing around 60% of their mobile ticketing from third-party apps like Transit. That is after they made those apps the default for mobile ticketing. And fare revenue from mobile ticketing is not necessarily greater as a share of total fare revenue than agencies such as RTD Denver and RTC Las Vegas.

“Our native app launched first, and so it was almost a year and a half before we started integrating with third parties,” said Tonya Anderson, RTD’s manager of electronic fare operations, speaking earlier this year at a conference. She added that there was a “slight shift” of customers to the three third-party apps during the Covid-19 pandemic. “But really, when you provide these options and choices to customers, what you do as a transit agency is you build trust,” Anderson continued. “And as you build trust, then more customers will start riding public transportation.” 

As Mobility Payments reported, however, officials from both RTD Denver and RTC Las Vegas have said they are not receiving the amount of data sharing they would like to see from Uber and Lyft. RTD, for example, said it wants origin and destination data for customers who buy tickets in the Uber and Lyft apps.

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