Over the last few years, cities have been taking a closer look at ways to reduce the number of cars on their streets. Finding ways to improve public transportation and draw interest to it has been a priority. Now, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, finding ways to minimize personal contact in public transit is of vital importance.
Technology solutions can greatly enhance public transportation by making the ticketing and validation process easier to use and, more importantly, contact-free. Mobile payment solutions used with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are a winning combination that is growing every day in accessibility and performance.
When we think of Bluetooth technology, transportation isn't the first thing that comes to mind. We might think about our smartphones, speakers, headphones, and other personal electronic devices. Most wouldn't associate Bluetooth technology with the bus they take to campus each day or the road they take to work.
Bluetooth is already used in the world of transportation. Bluetooth sensors are currently built into highways to track traffic and provide data on congestion, high-occupancy toll lanes, maintenance, pricing, toll collection, safety, and more. Transportation sensor networks provide invaluable information to cities.
Bluetooth beacons also offer an opportunity to devise smart solutions for improved public transit.
A transit agency's mobile payment app might trigger a message telling you that "your bus is here" when the bus traveling the route you need is within proximity to your smartphone. You are then able to quickly and easily pay for your ticket without the interaction of a sales agent.
The city of Minsk, for example, recently announced that commuters will be able to buy tickets online for all public transport on September 1st. It's interesting to note that the use of face scans for fares is also being developed there. It's been said the technology has been tested and works well. An implementation just might be in the future there once the coronavirus pandemic is over and protective face coverings are no longer required.
When transit vehicles, platforms, or stations use Bluetooth infrastructures, they have the ability to track riders. With Bluetooth-enabled mobile payment apps on commuter devices, riders can be tracked as they move in and out of the network. That type of framework can capture and provide comprehensive statistics very similar to gated systems but without a huge financial investment.
Systems using beacons with Bluetooth infrastructures in conjunction with real-time mobile payment systems make things infinitely easier for the commuter. Instead of having to understand complex tariffs and fares, the automated system takes care of this for them. The fare is determined in real-time while the rider is on the bus or train. The system can also ensure they get the best fare automatically. The commuter check-in experience is convenient and hassle-free.
Many public transit systems use systems like CAD/AVL or Automatic Passenger Counting (APC) to gather real-time passenger tallies and vehicle locations. These systems already in place can greatly benefit from installing beacons on the vehicles and pairing the location information and vehicle capacity data with comprehensive data about on-board commuters. Combined, you'd get the value proposition of CAD/AVL, APC, and fare collection systems used into a single, insightful data stream.
Planners and other stakeholders can use such data to make vital decisions about routing, frequency, and vehicle needs. Public safety personnel can determine vehicle occupancy and location using real-time metrics.
The use of beacons can greatly increase the accessibility of public transportation to commuters. Commuters with disabilities or mobility challenges can travel with increased efficiency and safety. Bluetooth beacons combined with apps on mobile devices can be used to find blind or visually-impaired commuters within a transit location. They can then be directed using verbal instructions on how to navigate. They can be told how many steps they need to reach a staircase or how many steps to the left they have to go to reach the appropriate bus or train. Since some apps are designed to let commuters know when a bus or train is nearing their station, a visually-impaired commuter can track the route they need within the mobile payment app. Once the right train arrives at their station, the app will let them know.
As the use of beacon technology grows, there will be more involvement with retail participation. Beacons are commonly used in retail to help navigate through large spaces or send notifications to let passersby know about coupons or sales at nearby businesses. It's an opportunity that would allow local businesses and transit agencies to form partnerships. They could provide special offers to commuters within a specific geo-location. A commuter using the transit agency's mobile payment app that physically comes into proximity with the retailer's Bluetooth broadcast might get a coupon notification or special offer alert on their device.
Transit agencies using contactless payment systems with beacons can help reinvigorate interest in public transportation and help improve service. They can also serve as an important mode of communication with commuters.
There are more transportation options available today with car-sharing or ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. They're convenient because you can request these services via a mobile device. Using a contactless payment system, you can provide commuters with the convenience that drew them to the other services. The system allows you to reinvent your transit as a service that's easy to use, something you can access immediately, and more welcoming.
Beyond convenience and the commuter's journey, there's a lot a mobile payment system can do for you. Most people spend a few hours a day on their smartphones and mobile devices. Transit agencies can use their mobile payment systems to collect vital data that can be used to improve services and communicate with commuters in a fast, personalized way.
The information collected from a mobile payment system is invaluable to transit agencies when determining common payment preferences, preferred fares, passenger boarding locations, and more. Such data can be incredibly useful when it comes to planning routes, upgrading used infrastructures, and customizing the user experience. It can also help identify existing or potential problems so solutions can be found.
All you need to do is determine what type of data your agency would like to gather based on your priorities. You can use analytics to make improvements, find solutions, and keep costs down. The data that can be harvested from the right mobile payment platform is a significant tool in making operational changes and increasing efficiency.
The use of these systems greatly speed up boarding and reduce the amount of time commuters spend waiting. Contactless payment systems keep commuters moving swiftly through your transit system. That efficiency will affect the passenger experience in positive ways. It also improves driver safety. Drivers greatly benefit from quicker boarding times and less of a need for handling cash.
With the comprehensive data on your operation and how it's used, you can foster trust with your stakeholders, the public, and most importantly, your community.
Harnessing the power of beacons, mobile payment systems can be a very effective way for transit agencies to communicate with commuters.
Given the amount of time most consumers spend on smartphones and other mobile devices, as much as 90% of that time using installed apps, real-time notifications can be easily sent to commuters, letting them know about special promotions or updates to service. You could send push notifications about tickets that will expire soon. In-app messages could be sent to commuters within the app to let them know about new features. There are many possible applications for building an effective outreach strategy.
Offering a touch-free payment experience is important as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic. In minimizing personal contact, it helps minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
Contactless payment systems using BLE beacons are affordable to implement, and reduce infrastructure and ticket handling costs.
The systems not only provide an excellent commuter experience, but they also increase profitability. When commuters can quickly and easily use your contactless payment system for an efficient trip to wherever they need to go, they'll return and your revenue will increase. Younger commuters are more likely to try public transportation when they don't have to worry about carrying cash with them.