Fare system media integration
When an agency is looking to expand or replace their fare collection system, media integration is one of several critical components to consider. Proper planning is crucial for the agency just as it is for the riders it supports. As part of a comprehensive rollout plan, agencies spend a considerable amount of time and resource informing their ridership of an upcoming fare collection change or expansion along with the supporting media implementation.
Time is of the essence when introducing new fare media. Planning a step-by-step blueprint of how to implement a system can be one of the most important tasks for an agency and can quickly lead to roadblocks if not properly managed. Essentially, the process can be divided into three major points to ensure a smooth integration.
- Fare system media marketing
- Fare media time management
- Fare system media education
Fare system media marketing
Marketing is one of the most public sections of the integration process and it serves as an important function in a new systems acceptance. The riders and agency staff will not be eager to accept a new system if they do not know the benefits the system has to offer. Marketing a new fare media system can be very complex and planning a successful campaign can be the most difficult component. The look, feel and goals of the campaign must be established prior to the actual launch; there must be room for change, if necessary.
The marketing campaign must have a multi-channel solution to explain and support its fare media integration process. Marketing materials must be created, curated and outlined precisely to educate the riders and agency staff. Questions and concerns will be abundant and thus the agency must be prepared with FAQ sheets, brochures, advertisements, training for employees and everything in between to successfully complete new fare media system integration.
Fare media time management
As stated, time is of the essence in fare system media integration and it can be the defining factor in its success. One of the key factors is to understand how much time is really necessary for such a significant change in the agency’s usual processes. A significant amount of time will go into the planning stages of the integration as it can take weeks to months to be finalized.
One of the first steps an agency will take in order to begin the integration process is decide how it wants the fare media to perform. Agency needs will vary from location to location and it will define how the integration process will have to be handled. The programming of the fare media itself is a serious undertaking and can take weeks to finish between design, branding, programming, quality assurance and testing. The functionality of the fare media is the backbone and foundation of the entire system, thus the execution of it must be as smooth as possible.
Artwork design, approvals, and any changes to the fare media can take up to eight weeks on average. It may seem like an overbearing amount of time, the back and forth communication about the artwork between departments and vendors is bound to take a substantial amount of time. Depending on how the agency functions, the artwork may be reworked and edited countless times before it is sent up as a true, finalized version up the chain of command to be approved and released.
Fare system media education
The education portion of the integration process is just as important as the actual creation of it. A new fare media system is nothing without a training program attached to it. The agency must execute a proper education process for their staff as well as their riders in order to show correct and most efficient usage. If educated and taught about the system thoroughly, the knowledge can then be spread and passed on to increase efficiency and improve adoption of the new media.
Just like the time management or marketing portion of the integration, education can take a phased approach for implementation to simplify it for the riders and agency staff. A full system rollout all at once can be overwhelming for the users and can cause confusion and trouble for the agency. One approach of rolling out the integration is to add the equipment to the transit system first and have the riders and staff learn and become comfortable with that portion of the system before the fare media is introduced.
Introducing the equipment first and keeping the fare media the same will allow for a smoother and easier transition for the agency and rider alike. The agency can take steps to teach the public about the equipment and how it benefits them first while allowing them to keep their existing media in place. When the equipment is fully implemented, the agency can establish a time period where the old media begins to be switched out for the new fare media. Riders will have an easier time adjusting and understanding the change and learn how to gain access to the new media to simplify their travel processes. Establishing a cut-off date will hold riders to a deadline and speed up the media transition.
“Timing is everything when it comes to a fare collection system rollout,” says Dan Gilfand, director of sales and program management of SPX Genfare. “The more time spent upfront defining the phases of implementation, the easier it will be to make the integration a success.”
Planning ahead and using time wisely is the key to providing riders with a dependable and understandable fare media system while simultaneously making the agency’s processes more efficient and dynamic.
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