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Capacity and Seat-based Ticketing Technology Can Help Transit Agencies Return to Operations Faster.

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), All Aboard America! Holdings and Betterez – leading the way out of COVID-19 with “Flexible Reservations” and seat maps.

The amount of COVID-19 related content in the Travel & Transportation segment is substantial; one area that has gotten a lot of attention is Public Transit’s approach to attracting riders back while adhering to newly formed (and still forming) regulations. These include considerations from the Centers for Disease Control, federal, state and local health officials’ guidelines, as well as agencies needing to manage other real and perceived factors from riders.

To better improve Transit economics and the required rider confidence to do so, transit agencies should be asking riders to indicate their time and date of travel by making a “Flexible Reservation” and allowing them to select a seat ahead of time. This will enable agencies and their operating partners to manage capacity within social distance guidelines and give riders more confidence that Transit is implementing practical safety measures.

Further, Transit Agency “Express” routes, ones traveling longer distances with fewer stops, are ideal use cases for Flexible Reservation pilot projects. Agencies can gain operational and financial reconciliation experience as well as test and improve on the rider experience through surveys and social media feedback.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, who have partnered with bus operator All Aboard America! Holdings’ Ace Express division and Betterez, are doing exactly this! On June 26, 2020 CDOT announced the relaunch of Bustang, stating, “selected seats will be physically blocked to ensure proper social distancing.” A key aspect of the new processes is the CDOT communication approach, encouraging riders to make online reservations ahead of travel for the benefit of themselves, other riders and all Transit stakeholders, while at the same time ensuring riders know walk ups will be accommodated with available capacity, to include “…the Bustang service also has spare buses on their routes which can be deployed to meet peaks in customer demands.”

But wait, “another ticketing system in Transit!?” yes, perhaps…Capacity Based Ticketing, or reservations, even when “flexible” are fundamentally different than hop on/hop off transit cards or open-ended tickets. But the good news is that modern, flexible, well documented Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) can be used to integrate your rider’s experience across your various Agency channels and services. Once your pilot demonstrates success, subsequent phases can incorporate such integration.  

How to get started – A high-level approach to roll out Capacity Based Ticketing in Transit includes:

  1. Structure a pilot project, ideally on Express-type routes
  2. On the pilot routes set capacity and capacity notifications
  3. Consider a seat map for seat selection (can be optional)
  4. Communicate to your riders on the benefits and any new booking, boarding, or other processes
  5. Monitor feedback, improve the rider experience and expand your roll out

In summary, while Flexible Reservations are only one of the inputs to bringing riders back to Transit faster, we believe that this new approach of indicating your travel date and time in Public Transit will have both near term “traveling in COVID-19” benefits as well as present Transit Agencies many new sustainable improvement opportunities, that other modes of travel realize today with Capacity Based Ticketing.

Traveling in Colorado? Consider Bustang in your plans!

Interested in testing a pilot approach to Capacity Based Ticketing for your Agency? Please get in touch with Betterez.