Automated Fare Collection is a highly efficient tool that can support the financial sustainability and development of public transport services. New fare structures, ticketing, and accessible information to users provide the possibility for a step-change in service quality.
Automated Fare Collection, however, remains a tool. The system requires a stable operating environment, in which multiple operators will entrust fare collection to a separate entity. The entity will then distribute fare revenues fairly and efficiently through a settlement system. In a regional or local market, systems are often not easily available that require new skill sets for development and operation.
The emergence of new technology, along with a greater understanding of the issues and solutions regarding Automated Fare Collection development, are allowing cities to make use of the Automated Fare Collection system.
The following is a basic outline of how to develop a winning Automated Fare Collection strategy.
Vision and Objectives of an Automated Fare Collection Strategy
Considering the issues that Automated Fare Collection systems can resolve before they are implemented or improved is important. Every city faces these issues differently. Generally, some objective must be met in any scheme, such as fraud reduction, eliminating on-board payments, or improving customer service. It might be that a particular city has other objectives.
The vision and objectives of an Automated Fare Collection strategy should be based on city-specific factors, as outlined below.
- Organisational – areas where organisations want to improve
- Staff – understand where areas of improvement are needed
- Global – experience from other schemes that can be replicated
- Market business and trends – application of technology trends to the fare-collection environment.
- Resources and skills – skills are required across the whole organisation to implement a major change project.
- Seeing current facts in the context of the future
- Needing to understand long-term trends in technology and the impact they will have.
An Automated Fare Collection system can be implemented as a ‘big-bang’approach , that is, by rolling out the entire system at once. This comes as no surprise since all parties are working hard to complete the project as quickly as possible.
It has however proved to be difficult to introduce all the parts of an Automated Fare Collection system at once, contrary to most IT systems. A progressive rollout is not without risk if the process is highly politicized and where the political atmosphere is unstable. In such contexts, a more holistic and rapid introduction of a new Automated Fare Collection system could mitigate these issues. It could also be more expensive to launch a gradual rollout in such cases, especially if the skills required for the rollout are not readily available locally or if large contracts could offer greater economies of scale.
The requirements of using a rapid vs. a gradual approach and defining the extent of the Automated Fare Collection application within each project will require different approaches to be employed accordingly. If a phased approach or big bang is to be adopted to implement an Automated Fare Collection system, all factors must be taken into consideration, such as technical and operational capabilities, goals, and political climate.