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Unified ticketing: the 8-step implementation roadmap (blog #4)

January 18, 2024
By Arnaud Depaigne, Smart mobility Product Manager, and Taoufik Sakhi, Technical Advisory VP Deputy at Fime.
Unified ticketing: the 8-step implementation roadmap (blog #4)

Implementation is always one of the most challenging parts of any product roll out. From getting commuters to work every day, to giving people the means to travel to see friends and family, public transport is an integral aspect of people’s everyday lives. And in ticketing, the pressures to deliver this large scope in a short amount of time are considerable.

In an era where public transit is already battling to lure people away from their private vehicles, deploying unified ticketing is a key strategic digital transformation. 

If a service is flawed at launch, however, it risks frustrating existing and potential new users. Retaining passenger trust is essential; otherwise they may not accept the proposed transformation, that intends to provide a superior overall experience, and may consider the previous solution better.

The fourth installment in our five-part series on unified ticketing defines the eight fundamental steps for implementing an interoperable ticketing framework.

 1. Engage and align stakeholders.

The first step towards putting a plan for unified ticketing into action is getting all the relevant stakeholders on the same page. It is imperative that the vision and mission for the new system is clearly communicated to those that will be at the heart of it, and that these different groups each feel they are a valued part of the wider project. This includes encouraging feedback and active involvement from all governmental organizations, transit authorities and service operators and providers to ensure that the proposed setup meets their needs.

2. Assess the existing offer.

Across transit networks there are likely multiple ticketing systems developed by individual operators over a number of decades. Some systems will be undermodernized  when compared to those within the same network, while others may be undergoing active renovation. Each of these has varying budgets and will have been historically driven by different organizational objectives. This means that within and across networks there can be a sizable discrepancy between the incumbent systems of each operator.

Determining the gap between the operational capabilities, ticketing offer and fare rules, and technologies of each member’s existing ticketing architectures is an essential step towards unified ticketing. It defines the starting point for a successful implementation project. A roadmap for the necessary improvements can only be defined once a clear understanding of the current landscape is available.

3. Build the roadmap.

The implementation roadmap provides an opportunity for a network to plot its long-term strategic vision. This must outline a plan to onboard current and future members, while also facilitating evolving needs for the system. From technological innovations to welcoming new participants, the roadmap must account for a range of scenarios. A strong prioritization methodology is crucial to align business needs, helping focus on the user experience while giving networks the flexibility to meet these changing needs and supporting organic growth.

4. Define the scheme setup and maintenance protocols.

Interoperability is built upon standardization and compliance. By implementing existing standards or by developing a new one that is accessible and open, authorities and operators can ensure their integration needs are met and that their ticketing framework can be maintained for many years to come. Robust acceptance can be achieved through a common testing and certification process that underpins the framework. Once established, routine specification updates and compliance assessments are necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability.

5. Foster modularity and scalability.

Creating a system that is designed to be updated helps future proof a network and helps it stays at the cutting edge of ticketing. A modular build that uses Open APIs and common software or hardware blocks allows different parts of the system to work together smoothly, without the need to rely on a single proprietary vendor. Modularity facilitates the frequent upgrades, allowing networks to carefully navigate through their roadmap while remaining agile to market needs and mitigating operational risks. This not only makes the system more scalable and adaptable for both new and existing members, it also helps cut costs by allowing members to pool resources and benefit from economies of scale on reusable components and multi-sourcing of vendors. 

6. Manage and monitor your project.

Like any large-scale project with a sizable number of stakeholders, managing and controlling the project is always going to be a challenge. That’s why it is important to consistently reassess the successes and shortcomings of a ticketing framework. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for implementation tasks are obvious but new strategic KPIs can be made mandatory by measuring passenger satisfaction and overall uptake. This allows any major trends to be identified and addressed quickly through synchronized reprioritization by all stakeholders. In doing so, this makes sure that resources are properly assigned where needed and no part of the network is at risk of failure.

7. Enshrine quality assurance.

Quality assurance processes can help make sure that a system stays reliable, performant and ensures users’ satisfaction. Additionally, unified ticketing allows authorities to collect and compare data from all participants to give a clear picture of how efficiently the transport network is running and how passengers are moving through it. These metrics can then be used to quickly and easily identify technical or operational improvements. 

8. A phased deployment.

The final consideration for a unified ticketing project is rolling it out to users. However, this too must be carefully managed. An early adopter pilot program gives the opportunity to collect feedback from both passengers and operators. This allows a network to identify and rectify any major issues or obstacles before expanding the scope of the system to efficiently incorporate the full network. The key to this is making sure that the unified ticketing framework is designed for this step-by-step approach from the start.

A process for constant evolution.

Transit operators and authorities must remain agile to meet the ever-changing needs of a dynamic and unpredictable ecosystem. From disruptive technologies to new regulatory and legal frameworks, such as the Digital Governance Act (DGA) in Europe, networks must remain agile.

And as more people adopt a flexible, hybrid approach to working and commuting, ticket offers designed primarily to support traditional out and back commuter patterns no longer meet passenger desires. Networks cannot expect to regain the passengers previously lost to hybrid working; they must instead reform their offer to attract customers beyond simply commuters. Unified ticketing offers a way for networks to diversify their ridership base by making public transit a more desirable solution than private vehicle use not just for commuting, but for everyday life. 

By following a rigorous implementation plan, networks can organically evolve their offer without causing major disruption to the systems currently in place, meaning that they can attract new customers without risking losing their existing ones.

Working with Fime.

Fime’s team of interoperability experts can help guide a network through each stage of establishing its unified ticketing offer. It can combine its global expertise with local insights to help develop and implement a scheme that truly meets the needs of operators, authorities, and most importantly the people that they serve.

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