Article Highlights

Key Takeaway:

Rome transit operator ATAC announced Thursday that it has begun expanding its open-loop payments service to its buses and trams, more than three years after launching the service on the Rome Metro. The financially troubled operator launched open loop on the city’s three-line metro in 2019.

Key Data:

ATAC launched open loop on the small, three-line Rome Metro in September 2019, and the operator said the percentage of “taps” with contactless cards and NFC devices hit a penetration rate of 23% out of total of first validations in October.

Organizations Mentioned:

ATAC

Rome transit operator ATAC announced Thursday that it has begun expanding its open-loop payments service to its buses and trams, more than three years after launching the service on the Rome Metro.

The operator said it will equip its entire fleet of 2,100 surface vehicles to accept contactless credit, debit and prepaid cards and card credentials on smartphones and smartwatches by the end of the year.

ATAC launched open loop on the small, three-line Rome Metro in September 2019, and the operator said the percentage of “taps” with contactless cards and NFC devices hit a penetration rate of 23% out of total of first validations in October.

It’s not clear whether ATAC’s financial woes had anything to do with the operator taking more than three years to expand open loop to its buses and trams. The company has been on the verge of bankruptcy for years and has had to be bailed out by the city in the past.

ATAC said Thursday it is installing and activating at least 100 vehicles per day to accept open loop through the end of the year. ATAC accepts credit, debit and prepaid cards and wallet credentials branded Visa, Mastercard and American Express.

The operator originally launched the open-loop service with Mastercard. In its announcement Thursday, ATAC credited its “collaboration with Mastercard,” with helping to “create” the service. The agency didn’t say that it received funding from Mastercard to launch open loop. But as Mobility Payments has reported, ATAC is believed to have received promotional and perhaps other funding from the payments scheme. One source put the amount Mastercard gave to ATAC at roughly €4 million.

As Mobility Payments earlier reported, ATAC was one of the first transit operators in Europe to implement open-loop monthly passes.

The service enables customers to tap their EMV payments cards to use monthly passes if they had used the same contactless card to buy the pass–for example, on the internet. ATAC keeps an updated whitelist of card numbers of current monthly pass holders loaded on its contactless EMV terminals. The service isn’t available with credit, debit or prepaid card credentials stored in NFC smartphones or wearables. Italy-based transaction processor SIA, part of Nexi Group, assisted with the EMV monthly pass implementation.  

While customers have been using the monthly passes with their bank cards, usage is believed to have dropped during and perhaps after the pandemic since riders don’t commute to work as many days each month.

“So probably many users are prepared to have the pay-as-you-go service,” said Francesco Amendola, who headed ICT for ATAC, speaking during a conference last year. He recently left the company.

Amendola at the time noted that the biggest category of users of open-loop fare payments has been businesspersons and tourists.

Until this month, customers apparently had to start their open-loop trips on the metro or on three commuter rail lines serving the Italian capital, but couldn’t tap directly to pay on buses, trams and trolleybuses in Rome. They reportedly could transfer to these transit modes after tapping first at the metro gates, the commuter rail lines or perhaps on some suburban buses lines.

With the expansion to the city’s buses and trams, Rome’s open-loop service becomes truly multimodal.

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