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Public Transit Is Driving Toward Frictionless Travel


By Eric Kaled, President of Genfare

The public transit industry is evolving with its riders’ demands. Today’s riders want convenience, simplicity and information. New technologies are available, and we are seeing our industry embrace them. Riders are looking for a seamless experience and, by working together, we can exceed their expectations.

I’d like to discuss three ways we can do this and get closer to what Genfare associates like to call frictionless travel—introducing real-time navigation, allowing riders to pay with whatever is in their pocket and providing on-demand data analytics for our agency partners.

The first key to frictionless travel is lowering the barrier and intimidation regarding public transportation. Riders need to know when and where public transit is available. If they don’t know when a bus is coming, they’re less likely to use it. If they’re unsure how to get from Point A to Point B, we need to map it out for them—ideally at the touch of their fingers.

Real-time navigation, presented in a mobile application, provides these answers. Riders can input their start and end point locations and the app will not only tell them where to get on a bus, but which stop to take, which route to transfer to and how many blocks to walk, bike or scoot to the finish line. It’ll also tell them the quickest, cheapest and most efficient routes to get there.

Recently I arrived at the Toronto airport armed with this knowledge. There you’ll find that taking a train and then transferring to a bus or subway is far easier, more than 50 percent faster and less expensive than taking an on-demand vehicle. We just need to know how and where to go when getting off the plane.

The next obstacle to overcome is accepting whatever is in a rider’s pocket as fare payment. Do I need a special card to ride? Will the vehicle accept cash?

We need to simplify payment acceptance. Riders want to pay at a single point-of-sale device and pay using whatever they have—whether that’s coin or cash, smartcard, debit card, prepaid card, voucher or mobile ticket. We need to encourage, not discourage, riders to pay with what they use for normal transactions. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s 2018 Findings from the Diary of Consumer Payment Choice, currently 30 percent of consumers pay in cash and coin and 48 percent prefer credit and debit cards. And while mobile applications provide “sizzle,” apps represent less than 5 percent of transactions.

The point is, we need to balance things. We have to make acceptance of payment simple and inclusive, from coins to credit cards to mobile apps. Public transit needs a single, robust payment system that accepts many methods. Agencies need to embrace the dilemma of accepting whatever is in a rider’s pocket for every public transit vehicle.

One of the larger drivers toward frictionless travel that helps public transit agencies is the on-demand analytics these technologies provide. Our latest Genfare Link solution, for example, focuses on enabling on-demand fare change and data synthesis tracking. This fare collection system tracks all forms of payment and is now integrated with multiple information systems to help agencies link our cloud-based fare collection system with passenger counts, scheduling and planning without the agency having to manually extract and load it. It’s about not only product development, but also partnering with other technology leaders to help agencies and their riders.

Using these new technologies enables public transit agencies to improve operational efficiency. It makes them a more attractive opportunity for a future generation of work talent. It enables agencies to develop harmonious partnerships with multiple tech companies who are not only creating new cloud-based, on-demand analytics but also working to lower the technical walls between systems to drive better solutions. We are closer than ever to creating something simple and robust. We are rolling out new upgrades that are more cost-effective, faster to implement and less painful to transition—all to drive public transit toward frictionless travel.

When it comes to investing in public transportation, everyone wins. It builds essential infrastructure to attract, sustain and build ridership. It changes rider habits and makes public transit a top choice. For the agency, it declutters statistical analysis through the use of cutting-edge technology and brings fruitful partnerships with tech integrators.

At Genfare, we are diligently working with our agency partners to simplify and positively impact the public transit rider experience. We strive to continually improve to drive growth in public transportation use, improve transit agency operational efficiency and better each rider’s commute. By delivering experiences that riders value, we keep public transit not only vibrant and welcoming, but sustainable for the future.

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