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Navigating the Future of European Public Transportation: Insights into Ticketing Solutions

Europe is on the move, both literally and figuratively. On one hand, cities across the continent are harnessing cutting-edge technologies to significantly advance public transportation. On the other, more and more of its citizens are choosing to forgo their cars and hop onto city trains and buses. Carbon neutrality may be a key driver of this shift, but so is the rising trend of innovative and passenger-friendly ticketing solutions. In this article, we’ll delve into the history of public transportation, briefly discussing approaches to ticketing that have recently gained traction, what it takes to implement them, and HTEC’s role and experience in this industry.

The evolution of public transportation

Without mass transit, cities would be at a standstill. Not only that, but pollution would skyrocket as everyone takes to their cars. Mass transit is constantly transforming, not only to meet passenger needs but also to counteract traffic, provide affordable ways to get to and for people, and reduce carbon emissions—a significant factor in the last few decades.

Public transportation - woman swiping phone to ride

One way in which it has been adapting lately is through the introduction of more advanced, plastic-free ticketing options. By getting rid of the need for plastic transit passes, checking in and out is made easier—passengers can simply swipe their phones or wallets , and they can avoid paying for an extra ticket when a device is out of order.

This has a twofold effect. For one, it makes travel more efficient. For another, it directly contributes to the reduction of plastic waste.

We’ve got a ticket to ride

Once upon a time, catching a ride on your favorite mode of transport required a physical token. In its time, it was a revolutionary move—it counteracted the side effects of inflation while enabling more accessible travel. As time went on, tokens evolved into physical cards, which themselves underwent many transformations over the years.

Fast-forward to today and public transport is facing another turning of the wheel with the rise of cutting-edge ticketing solutions such as account-based ticketing and Be-In Be-Out (BIBO). Both are gathering momentum globally. Although they’re similar in many ways, each carries its own benefit.

  • Account-based ticketing validates each instance of travel through a passenger’s phone or debit card, things they already have on-hand all the time.
  • Be-In Be-Out ticketing still relies on the passenger having a phone, but the transaction is entirely hands-free, enabling efficient travel.

Several European nations have begun adopting account-based ticketing systems, with the Netherlands also going as far as launching a pilot project of BIBO ticketing. BIBO has already gained a foothold in Asia, most notably in Hong Kong, but Europe is swiftly catching up.

No system in and of itself is necessarily better than another, nor are different iterations of a system. There’s no right way to do it, and cities across Europe and the rest of the world are adapting their public transportation systems to fit the needs of their citizens.

Roadblocks to implementation

Many public transportation providers have begun exploring the possibilities or even actively considering upgrading their ticketing systems to meet passenger needs. As with any significant shift, however, processes are in place to ensure such innovations are followed through correctly.

When it comes to public transit, each city, country, and region has regulations in place to safeguard against shoddy business practices. To implement novel solutions for ticketing, there are several certifications that must be passed, such as:

  • Device certification
  • Payment system certification
  • Hardware certification
  • EMV certification, which has several levels

There are also regulations that prevent nations outside of Europe from creating solutions for the European market. For this reason, Europe-based teams are sought. It’s a protective not a preventative measure meant to ensure proprietary systems and solutions stay within the confines of the European continent.

No one left without a ride

Still, whatever moves are made to improve public transportation one thing will always remain—accessibility for all. While ticketing systems will evolve to cater to an increasingly tech-savvy population, legacy systems are slated to remain. In addition, the introduction of  paper tickets with QR codes will further support those who may not have debit/credit cards or mobile phones, or even those who choose not to.

It’s worth mentioning that even in countries where rides are free of charge for certain citizens, having access to information about the number of passengers and peak hours enables public transportation operators to optimize their fleet size, routes, and schedules. In turn, this provides better service to all citizens.

The HTEC touch

Having worked with several public transportation projects, our teams have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to achieve certification and create viable solutions for clients.

Over the years, we have worked closely with clients to upgrade their proprietary systems and meet certifications. These projects have led to new advancements and pilot projects in several European nations.

Public transportation - man swiping bank card to ride

Recently, our teams were able to pass certification and implement EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) in an already existing system. This payment method, which is based on a technical standard for smart payment cards, allows users to swipe in and out of trains and buses using just their debit/credit cards. This opens up a whole world of possibilities, wherein passengers do not need to worry about having a special card with them at all times. All they need is what they use every day for every other purchase.

Furthermore, our work on QR code paper tickets has provided an additional source of valuable information. These types of tickets further enhance the quality of PTO services by offering insights into passenger behavior, and usage patterns, thus allowing them insights on how to improve their services.

The road beyond

Public transportation - BIBO - person walking into subway train

The future of public transportation in Europe carries a lot of potential. One thing we’d be interested in seeing is the adoption of Be-In Be-Out ticketing. However, there is a long road yet until that can be achieved. It will require plenty of investment in research and development. The goal, of course, is to ensure the utmost security of passengers and their personal data prior to implementation.

It will be interesting to see how this solution will be implemented in the years to come. One thing is for sure, we at HTEC will be there from the moment it comes to fruition on the continent, acting as consultants and advisors, guiding our clients as they navigate the myriad of certifications and regulations. Ultimately, we aim to create a better world—and what else makes the world go round but efficient, passenger friendly mass transit.

Ready to discuss account-based ticketing? Is your interest piqued by the possibilities of BIBO? Find out what we offer in the sphere of Logistics & Transportation and reach out to us.

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