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Transit Agency Commuter Lines Can Leverage Ticketing Tech from Their Inter-city Cousins

In writing this point of view blog, Betterez is a venture-backed SaaS made up of travel industry and consulting veterans that are bringing their experiences and technology to bear on the ground travel segment.  We hope you’ll find the follow-on content thought-provoking and interesting.

Many North American Transit Agencies today operate bus commuter services with trip durations of one or more hours thus making them more like intercity bus transportation versus intra-city/urban transit.  We see this trend of Transit operating more inter-city-like commuter routes continuing.  

Additionally, peak-time trips on these commuter services can run near full capacity, which in the pandemic to the post-pandemic era can make riders feel uncomfortable and less likely to utilize commuter transit if they have to travel one or more hours in too close of quarters.

Pictured here: LADOT Commuter Express Bus from Thousand Oaks to Downtown

For transit agencies with such commuter services, a lot can be gained by leveraging inter-city (private, long-distance service) processes such as “flexible reservations” as well as additional inter-city type automation in the areas of customer experience, ridership confidence, operations and safety, and capture and analysis of ridership data.  Flexible reservations are when a passenger purchases a ticket for a specific time/day but can still board at any time by being “moved” to their trip’s manifest. 

Further, such benefits can be realized without reducing anyone’s access to public transportation; planning and analysis can ensure there is always walk-up capacity thus not limiting anyone’s ability to travel by Public Transit.

Find out more about flexible reservations on a previous blog: “Capacity and Seat-based Ticketing Technology Can Help Transit Agencies Return to Operations Faster”

Let’s consider the Customer Experience. By utilizing flexible reservations-based ticketing software, transit agencies are able to enhance the regular commuter’s experience while still accounting for those riders that want to pay cash at the time of travel.  

For example:

  1. Monthly passes, round trip, one-way, multi-trip bundles and other products can be purchased online, displayed on a phone (or printed) and stored in a customer account for reference.  While many transit agencies utilize “Apps,” mobile responsive online booking can also be utilized thus not requiring an App download, for example go to a public library, log on, buy a ticket, print and you’re good to go.
  2. The products that commuters choose can be utilized in a “flexible reservations” model, meaning ‘tell us your indicated time/date’ – this approach allows for transit agencies to get an indication of bookings vs. capacity and deploy more buses for peak times.  It also gives riders confidence their travel is being planned for in an appropriate socially distanced way for whatever status the pandemic is in.  With Betterez, you can even take this to the assigned seating reservation level.
  3. And finally, none of this digitization will restrict transportation for anyone. Here’s how tech supports non-techie or underbanked riders and the more digitized segment as well:
  • Cash can still be taken bus side and riders allowed on board; data, as noted below, can be utilized to always plan capacity to account for walk-ups.
  • Riders without credit cards, internet access and such could take advantage of any number of means to purchase a ticket, many enabled by integrations.  For example, in Mexico, one Betterez customer integrated with OXXO, any rider can go to this popular convenience store and purchase a ticket using any number of payment methods.
  • Commuters can also visit public places to get their tickets, e.g., public libraries with free internet access, thus not having an internet connection at home won’t be a constraint to buy a ticket, print it, and catch the bus later on.

Inter-city, flexible reservations-based ticketing also delivers several operational, safety, and data analysis benefits. After automating as much of the ticket sales and payment processes as possible, commuter Transit can continue digitization into the redemption of tickets and passes.

In the case of pre-booking, riders will show up to their trip and scan on via phone, printed, or other media such as NFC-enabled corporate ID cards. This process creates operational processes and ridership data which is useful in a number of ways:

  • Operations can see pre-bookings ahead of time for trips, inclusive of ADA pre-bookings, and can send more or fewer buses for the same trip, increase capacity, and ensure ADA preparedness; drivers when logging into their trip can see expected passengers boarding/debarking per stop and prepare for their days. 
  • In certain configurations, once the rider pre-books or scans on board, for example when using a monthly pass and not pre-booking, a manifest entry is made and that person can be identified as being on that specific trip should any safety requirement come up, for example, a road incident or need for contact tracing. 
  • Data collection includes everything from customer information to booking curves and demand planning data to at-the-bus sales and boarding data. All data can be collected within appropriate privacy and security standards and can be used for customer communications, marketing, and analysis for route and asset utilization.

The typical inter-city traveler, much like the transit agency commuter, is looking for ease of use, predictability, and safety.  Thus, we see an opportunity for flexible reservation-based ticketing technology on these transit agency commuter routes. Such technology can help improve the customer experience, increase operational and safety efficiency, assist in restoring rider confidence, all the while not excluding anyone.

In summary, we see a trend of Transit Agencies providing more and more services that closely resemble inter-city. Whether it is with Betterez or others, we encourage Transit Agency management to explore flexible reservations and inter-city ticketing processes and technology!

Founded in 2011, Betterez is a venture-backed, modern Software-as-a-Service for Bus & Coach sales and inventory management. Betterez’ industry-leading multi-tenant architecture delivers more features, faster, at a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), ensuring Motorcoach Operators never fall behind again with their Technology.  The company currently has over 50 customers in Canada, the USA, Mexico, Central America, UK, and Ireland, including several in the Public Transit Agency segment.
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