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Reinventing the wheel: the future of public transit

  • Contactless payments provide a solution for the new emphasis on public health.
  • Tap to Ride options make the public commuting experience safe, simple, and inclusive.
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Reinventing the wheel: the future of public transit

The last year was a difficult one for public transit operators. Ridership dwindled as many workers traded in cubicles for home offices. Now with some cities headed toward reopening, transit systems are likely to begin seeing a surge in passengers returning. Visa’s Future of Urban Mobility Survey found that four out of five people (84%) are planning to ride public transit at pre-pandemic levels. 

That said, 63% of surveyed riders cite being concerned over COVID-19 for their decreased use of public transit. Between emphasizing public health and managing a shift in perceptions around commuting, public transit operators need to ensure they meet the new expectations of their passengers. 

For transit riders, contactless enables a safe, streamlined experience by swapping transit-specific payment cards in favor of what’s already in their wallets. Reducing complexity and cost can help draw in more riders in the long run. And intrinsically, the more people ride, the more community benefits. 

Powering the Tap to Ride experience

At Visa, we’ve witnessed the rising demand for contactless payment options firsthand, working on over 700 ongoing projects with public transit operators globally, and already helping to power over 450 live projects around the world. Our Future of Urban Mobility Survey shows that 88% of surveyed passengers expect transit operators to offer contactless payments as an option. 

Visa’s global payment management platform, Cybersource, gives transit operators an easily scalable and secure open-loop transit ticketing and fare solution across the globe. Most recently, Visa and Cybersource worked with Porto’s public transit, Metro do Porto, to bring contactless solutions to riders.

With the rise in demand for touchless options, open loop systems are becoming an essential part of creating a sustainable, efficient, and inclusive travel experience for riders. To help drive adoption, Visa is partnering with the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) to launch the Urban Mobility Open Payments Forum, to help facilitate the harmonization of solutions and processes and make it easier and less costly for public transport organizations to implement open loop payments. 

In addition to its global transit partners, Visa partners with operators across the U.S. to implement Tap to Ride. This technology isn’t limited to major cities and areas. In fact, the Visa team recently worked with Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) and Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) in California to integrate contactless payment options into their fleets.

Why go contactless? 

While some aspects of normal life are starting to return, the demand for contactless payment options, which took off during the pandemic, is likely here to stay. Incorporating any system that reduces the need for physical contact goes a long way to help boost that confidence. According to the Visa’s Future of Urban Mobility Survey, nearly 40% of riders surveyed wanted to reduce contact with common surfaces. 

With Visa’s innovations in contactless payment technology, public transit operators gain added capabilities that make it easier to  provide more equitable fare options and payment structures like fixed fares, fare capping, time-based fares, and concessions. For people who depend on public transit, providing as many options as possible helps to ease financial burdens and ensure everyone can get where they need to be. 

For operators, traditional means of fare collection and ticketing bring added complexity to the system, which often come with additional costs on the back end. An open loop contactless system gives transit operators the flexibility they need to put more focus on critical operations. In addition to the cost savings, taking a digital approach to fares and ticketing gives operators deeper insight into travel patterns, which have shifted dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic.

The contactless commute is here to stay

As more and more transit systems get in on the contactless payment trend, the benefits are clear. Whether it’s helping to reduce costs, streamlining passenger experience, or bolstering public health and safety, tap to ride solutions offer operators a simple tool to get riders back on track.

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