9 Nov 2023

Account-based ticketing in public transport: the smart way to travel

This inflexibility has contributed to the rise of account-based ticketing (ABT) in recent years, one optic of many around "Ticketing and Payment" at IT-TRANS 2024

The good old paper ticket in local public transport has not yet become obsolete in many places - but technological progress, whether smartphone or chip card, has been pushing it into the background for some time. However, such media-based tickets require the registration of a user account. The ticket (and also the price) is therefore predetermined before the journey begins or when the chip card is purchased - the decision as to whether or not a day ticket would be cheaper on the day in question must therefore be made at the start of the first journey. This inflexibility has contributed to the rise of account-based ticketing (ABT) in recent years. It will come as no surprise that e-ticketing in general and ABT, in particular, will be one of the major topics at the upcoming IT-TRANS: The easier public transport is to use, the faster the transport revolution will gather speed.

ABT offers users significantly more freedom than its predecessors, as it does not require an app or special chip card - the token used to settle the payment can also be a contactless bank or credit card, mobile wallets with access to Apple Pay and Google Pay as well as linked wearables and smartwatches. These tokens do not require any prior registration; they are used in a "tap-in, tap-out" process. The data is no longer stored on the chip card or smartphone, but in an account on a secure server or cloud storage. The account tracks all journeys made with this token throughout the day and books the cheapest ticket price at the end of a specified period, based on the usage pattern and the number of journeys made. ABT thus offers uncomplicated access to public transport without a jungle of fares - for frequent travellers, occasional users or tourists.

In the future, this should also be possible beyond static underground turnstiles and bus tap-in card readers. In the UK, the companies Unicard and Amdocs are already working on solutions that also integrate micromobility. Together, they are developing a cross-modal and cross-operator "tap-in, tap-out" ticketing system for trains, trams, buses and other services such as stationless hire bikes or e-scooters. Unicard's ABT system supports contactless travel, which is made possible by tokens in the form of smart tickets, smart cards, mobile apps or digital wallets. Amdocs' cloud-based payment platform, which runs on Amazon Web Services, enables the quick and easy addition and integration of new modes of transport and additional operators. The acquisition of smart ticketing company Ecebs from Visa and the associated expansion of the portfolio to include contactless EMV payments also gives Unicard the opportunity to offer its services internationally beyond the UK market.

Easy access to bus and rail transport without having to purchase a proprietary user medium and without prior knowledge of fares: This is probably still the dream of many potential public transport customers. ABT has created the technical prerequisites to take a major step towards realising this customer wish. It is therefore not surprising that technology and payment providers as well as transport associations and transport companies are increasingly focusing on this approach and that more and more ABT projects are being rolled out internationally.

Find out mre about they key topics at IT-TRANS...