The future of the passenger experience and why effortlessness is the key

Public transportation positively impacts a city in many ways. From reducing air pollution and road congestion, to providing an equitable travel opportunity, and stimulating local business in your city – public transportation is an invaluable asset for thriving communities.

However, many cities have only begun to explore what’s possible. To improve ridership and tackle looming sustainability goals, cities need to look to the future of the passenger experience. And that will mean making transit as effortless as just ‘deciding to go’.

If cities and operators can provide this future sooner, they’ll be better placed to solve the immediate challenges of ridership, revenue and environmental targets. They’ll also be in a position to make public transit a self-sustaining system. One that commuters, visitors, students and day-trippers will choose to use again and again, for years to come.

Soon, passengers won’t have to worry when they travel

Achieving your city’s wider strategic goals, like reducing emissions and increasing ridership is only possible with a seamless passenger experience. What often gets in the way is friction in the riding experience.

Public transport becomes an exercise in mental gymnastics when riders aren’t completely certain they’re going to make it to their destination effortlessly. The level of inconvenience spans from a minor waste of time, to an experience so bad they never take public transportation again.

By mental gymnastics, we mean questions like:

  • Have I got the right change?
  • Have I got the right ticket?
  • Have I got my bus pass on me?
  • Do I need to download an app?
  • Do I have proof that I am eligible for a concession?
  • Is there somewhere I can pick up an e-bike at my destination?

The more questions and uncertainty, the more people’s anxiety increases. Each point of friction that can be removed should be for effortless movement. To drive modal shift from private cars to public transport, the experience has to be as convenient as, “I get in my car, I drive to where I’m going, and I park.”

While driving a car has its own set of uncertainties, the list of questions is much shorter. The more public transit can do to remove uncertainty, the better.

The future of the passenger experience is simply this: in your city, passengers won’t have any questions – either because accurate answers will be in the palm of their hands, or because they won’t even need to ask.

Soon, passengers won’t need tickets, a prepaid card or even phone battery

In many cities, riders are already able to travel with just their phones. Fumbling with cash and tickets is becoming a thing of the past. Where the technology is available, most riders prefer to use a bank card, smart watch, or phone to tap and go. The passenger knows the fare payment will be adjusted to the best price, without any extra thought or additional effort on their part – with fare caps and concessions automatically calculated in a back office.

This is account-based ticketing, and it offers many benefits to operators too. You can charge riders different amounts based on multiple factors like zones and peak times. You can apply concessions based on their profile’s eligibility status. You can provide passengers with an experience that’s simple, convenient, and cost-effective.

Cities such as Edinburgh, Clermont Ferrand, and Helsinki have already seen the positive impact of the tap-and-go switch. The easier it is to book and pay for fares, the more citizens and tourists will patronise your public transportation. That fare revenue can then be invested back into more sustainable, passenger-centric, revenue-increasing initiatives.

Soon, a passenger’s phone won’t even need to be turned on to interact with ticket validators. They won’t need to worry about the battery running out. As long as their phone or smart device is switched to a ‘transit mode’, the passenger will be able to scan it on an EMV reader as they enter and exit a station or board a bus, and the correct charge will be made.

Soon, passengers will plan more than their journey at a station or in an app

As public transportation recalibrates following the devastating impact on ridership resulting from the pandemic, a new kind of self service has the opportunity to take the centre stage, and will play a major role in transport networks operating in a leaner, more efficient way.

For example, although there remains a place for 1-2-1 customer service, many transport hubs are introducing a new breed of multi-service ticketing machines on concourses and platforms.

These kiosks do more than simply print tickets, their user-friendly touch screen interfaces are like giant smartphones, providing applications to access journey planning, travel information, and local services like taxi bookings and bike hire.

Crucially, they provide 24-hour support, connecting passengers on-demand to experienced, virtual customer service assistants.. Riders can ask questions and get support when needed, removing many of the questions that arise when travelling. Flowbird provides a range of multi-service kiosks with applications like these, which are durable, protect against card fraud, and accept open payments.

Traditional travel has changed since 2020, which means the methods for how we travel have to change, too. Innovation and ease will get more passengers riding through our cities once again.

The future of the passenger is already here

The future of public transportation is exciting. To flash forward to what can be achieved in the near future in a city near you, take a trip to Monaco. The city supports 30,000 active users a month on their Mobility-as-a-Service app, powered by Flowbird, and generates around €40,000 revenue. Through one centralised app (Monapass), citizens and tourists are able to:

  • Search for parking
  • Pay for parking
  • Select a bus
  • Pay for a bus ticket
  • Follow the bus on its route
  • Access bikes and scooters
  • Purchase tickets for museums, bus tours, football games, cinema, and more

By streamlining the journey and destination into one app, Monaco has found a way to capitalise on the destination rather than just the journey. Afterall, rarely does someone take a bus ride to take a bus ride. Rather, they’re travelling with the intention to get where they want to go.

Monaco’s account based ticketing system applies concessions within the app. Operators can also adjust payments as needed. This means when the city is especially congested, it’s simple to drop the cost of public transportation to discourage single occupancy vehicle travel.

All of these innovations contribute towards increasing ridership, supporting the city’s sustainability goals and improving the city’s attractiveness as a destination for visitors.

To learn how to create the same experience in your city, take a look at how we partnered with the city Monaco.


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