commuter train at train station

Mobile Ticketing — A Paradigm Shift in Public Transit

The world of public transportation has significantly changed over the last few years.

Contactless payments and ticketing have been enabled and widely adopted thanks to technologies such as NFC, Bluetooth and RFID/RTLS.

In a fast-paced world trying to return to normal following the early stages of the Covid pandemic, this contactless paradigm shift from paper tickets, QR codes and tokens, to mobile ticketing for public transit solutions has never been more important — especially where health, safety, and volume of travelers are concerned.

Smart Tickets and Wayfinding

Recently, the Paris region of public transportation, the RER train network, launched a new type of smart ticketing platform piggybacking on an established open network of contactless readers managed by the Calypso Networks Association (CNA).

This solution was in direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for a safe return-to-work commuter environment in the city’s public transportation system.

Building a smart ticket (or smart card) on the Calypso Standard enables detailed specifications on how to securely transmit ticket data between a traveler’s card, a phone or watch and a ticketing reader.

The specifications cover:

  • Card personalization
  • Purchase, reload and validation information
  • Support of global interoperability and integration into existing systems

HID Global partnered with the CNA in 2016, to integrate its HID SOMA Atlas™ operating system with theirs. In 2017, HID adapted the root of a traditional microprocessor found in a smart card for use with Android phones to create a secure digital ticketing solution.

This new mobile ticketing system of smart cards and mobile phone integration is streamlining contactless payments and mobile ticketing, while solving return-to-work problems that the RER train network did not even know it had.

Knowing where a rider is as they move through the transportation system is another important aspect of mobile ticketing called wayfinding.

This feature is supported by Real Time Location Services (RTLS). This public transit technology has far-reaching benefits for many commuters, but especially for those with visual impairment.

Houston Metro is in the process of rolling out a new wayfinding program to help riders who are legally blind navigate the system through a series of RFID beacons, receivers, cloud services and a mobile app.

Here’s how it works*:

  1. A rider with a visual impairment (or any rider) gets within range of a transit stop.
  2. The stop has a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon installed that is constantly emitting a signal unique to that stop.
  3. The rider's smart phone uses METRO’s app to detect the BLE beacon and present stop-specific info using the phone’s accessibility features, such as sounds and vibrations.
  4. The rider gets on board when the transit vehicle arrives.

The following excerpt from Mass Transit’s online magazine highlights Houston Metro’s commitment to this initiative:

Houston METRO’s Universal Accessibility Initiative includes a commitment to ensure all bus stops are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by 2024. New and improved weatherproof signage and innovative technology like Houston METRO’s Bluetooth beacon app will help customers find their way when using the system. Installation of new shelters and improving sidewalks leading to bus stops will make stops more comfortable for all users. The initiative also includes a process of engaging with stakeholders, including groups such as the city of Houston’s Office for People with Disabilities.

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bus at bus stop
Bus stops such as these can become Smart Bus Stops thanks to RFID technology.

Mobile Ticketing and RTLS work in a synergy to enable inclusivity for passengers with visual disabilities allowing the organization to both comply with the ADA and increase ridership.

It is about getting that information and getting it in your hand. The fact that it is a low-cost, proven technology is attractive,” said Randy Frazier, Chief Technology Officer, Houston Metro.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

For mobile ticketing, also known as Mobility as a Service, or MaaS, to be truly effective for riders while adding value to the organization’s long-term investments in the technology, the solution needs to be contactless, flexible, scalable, cloud-based and secure.

And it is an exploding market**:

  • The global smart-ticketing market is projected to rise to USD 21.33 billion by 2028 at a 14.5% CAGR
  • Train revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2022-2026) of 10.75%, resulting in a projected market volume of USD 155.70 billion by 2026
  • In the trains segment, the number of users is expected to amount to 1.0444 billion users by 2026
  • The worldwide bus revenue is expected to increase to USD 22.9 billion in 2024
  • In the buses segment, the number of worldwide users is expected to amount to 536.9 million users globally by 2026
  • The number of global public transportation users is expected to amount to 4.5043 billion by 2026
  • Global public transportation revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2022-2026) of 5.11%, resulting in a projected market volume of USD 318.80 billion by 2026

The Covid-19 pandemic drove a dramatic decrease in the use of mass transit systems due to risks of infection. However, pandemic aside, changes to how people pay for their rides, and how they commute publicly in general, has been happening for quite some time.

This public transit paradigm shift of enterprise-scaled cloud-based Mobility as a Service offers a great opportunity for strong market growth while meeting riders’ mobile-ticketing needs across the globe.

For a deeper dive into how HID Global’s RTLS offers a wealth of solutions for large-scale organizations from public transit to healthcare, visit our Location Services page.

Nick Iandolo is an experienced Senior Marketing Strategist specializing in Content Marketing and Corporate Communications Writing, primarily for market-disrupting technology organizations. His work has been featured in publications such as Morning Consult, NewDesign Magazine UK, SmartCard Identity News, and Construction Outlook. Nick is also a Spartan Race athlete, and lives just outside of Boston Mass with his wife, daughter, and Golden Retriever.

*Source: American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

**Source: HID Global