Use the ticketing strategy as a marketing tool: it should not only be based on policy, financial and operational objectives, but it always has to take into account customer perspectives and needs.
Theterm ‘ticketing system’ as used here includes all aspects of offering different ticket types to customers as well as organising the purchase, validation and check of tickets. For financial issues such as fixing the fare level (how much is a trip?) and defining the fare structure (how is the fare calculated?) see guidelines on Fare structure and Fare level. It has to be noted that decisions on ticketing aspects always coincide with policy / financial and operational objectives and the financial framework.
There are many different approaches to ticketing systems in Europe and there is not a ‘one solution fits all’. The ticketing system may have been developed as a result of trial and error and ad hoc decisions or as a result of a well thought-out comprehensive ticketing and fare strategy. In practice, it will usually be a combination of the two: a comprehensive strategy combined with ad hoc decisions.
When making decisions or changes on ticketing aspects, one always has to take into account the customer perspective:
Is the ticketing and fare system logical, transparent, and easy to understand?
Are tickets widely available (including in late evenings and Sundays when shops acting as ticket sales agents may be closed) and easy to obtain also for the non-regular public transport user?
Which (limited) extra special ticket / fare types should be introduced given the marketing strategy and the target groups that will be attracted?
How can tickets improve the relationship between the customer and the urban bus services (tickets as a marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and as part of the branding policy)?
Tickets should actually fit to all user needs, but a large variety of (potential) user profiles exist. By aggregating the most common ones, three main groups can be identified:
Non-regular users: using the service from time to time, e.g. visitors to the city -> single ticket, day ticket, weekly ticket
Occasional users: using the service quite often, but not everyday (e.g. shoppers) -> day ticket, multiple-trip ticket, value tickets, discount card
Frequent users: using the service daily (e.g. commuters): monthly ticket, annual ticket, (weekly ticket)
The subscription of monthly tickets is a low-cost distribution channel for public transport tickets. It lowers the sales and handling efforts of the operator, avoids waiting time for customers at ticket offices, and the customer co-ordinates are known by the operator which is an important factor for CRM purposes.
Permanent ticket types at a low price can stimulate awareness about public transport and encourage non-users to experience public transport for themselves. Examples are:
1-EURO-Ticket / Short-trip ticket (ticket for a few stops only as alternative to a flat-fare city-wide single ticket),
day ticket for 5 persons (following the capacity of a private car) excluding morning peak-hours, for leisure trips like shopping or sight-seeing.
Next to standard ticket types as mentioned above there are further approaches to provide tickets to certain groups with purchase procedures via alternative channels:
Job ticket: The market share in the segment ‘commuter trips’ can be increased by distributing rebated tickets via employers (e.g. the employer buys annual tickets for all employees at a fixed rate). As long as no extra costs have to be incurred (for example, for new bus lines or higher frequencies), this approach will lead to more trips at only a marginal cost.
Student ticket: A flat-rate fare to cover public transport usage is charged for all students. The solidarity principle contributes to an attractive price for each student, and sufficient revenues for the operator. The student ID card is used for ticket checks.
Event ticket with bus trip: The public transport ticket is already included in the event tickets (e.g. concert, trade fair, exhibition), so that visitors can use public transport to / from the event location without extra out-of-pocket costs. The total price of the event ticket remains constant for all visitors regardless of them making use of the bus or not (solidarity principle).
Park & Ride all-in-ticket: Car parking and travelling on the bus are combined in one ticket (issued at the car park).
Shopping ticket: Shop owners often refund parking fees for shoppers. This idea can be adapted to public transport users as well. Shop owners can hand out ticket vouchers as a customer-present to attract customers.
The ticket purchase should be as easy as possible. Although sales by drivers are essential, especially in regional bus services, there are good arguments to reduce ticket sales on-board by the driver of urban buses: speed of service (avoids time-losses, accelerates boarding), road safety (driver can concentrate on driving only), security (less cash on-board). Since an
abandonment of driver ticket-sales often results in occasional users making
unintended rides without a ticket, a slightly higher fare for a ticket
bought from drivers is generally accepted and encourages customers towards
other distribution channels.
The use of electronic payment systems facilitates more and flexible tariff differentiation (peak / off-peak etc.). From the customer’s point of view, on the other hand, there is a need for an easy- to-understand and simple ticketing and fare system. The use of all the possibilities of tariff differentiation offered by electronic ticketing, therefore, should preferably be limited to some easy to understand principles.
The non-regular user is an important target group for public transport. Whatever ticketing system is used, it is important to keep in mind that also the accidental / non regular user should be able to easily obtain a ticket (in the bus or at a vending machine at the bus stop) whenever he / she wants to use public transport.
Almere (The Netherlands): In order to attract new passengers, some special MAXX city bus tickets are issued in addition to the tickets of the Dutch national tariff system for local and regional bus services:
Maxx reis: € 2.00 per ticket, valid on all MAXX lines in Almere for 1.5 hours
Maxx meerreizen (Multiple trip ticket): € 12.50 for ten trips
Maxx nacht: € 3.00 per trip on the night buses.
Bregenz (Austria):All buses are equipped with ticket vending machines. Single, day, week and monthly tickets can be purchased from the ticket vending machines in the bus. Single trip tickets can also be purchased from the driver. Season tickets can be bought at the office of ‘Stadtbus Bregenz’.
(rows: different user groups children, youth/student, disabled/elderly, adult, families, …, columns: ticket types per period of travel single, day, week, month, year, left: address, opening hours, phone number of the local customer centre ‘Urban bus office’)
Chur (Switzerland): The BUSvuCHUR is a relatively new transport operator with a young and dynamic image. Buses and information systems are state-of-the-art. Innovations concerning ticketing and information systems are developed in conjunction with the University of Applied Science in Chur. For the future, plans are to improve the 10-year-old ChipCard system, so that more functions and information, e.g. for customers of the car sharing provider Mobility (http://www.mobility.ch), can be registered on the card. Today, there are combinations with ski-tickets, deposit-box card systems and credit cards available. Currently, there are 50,000 ChipCards in use (Chur has 35,000 inhabitants).
France: There is an increasing deployment of smart card payment systems in urban public transport, with integration with regional public transport. In the city of Limoges (Limousin region), magnetic intermodal ticketing combines the city and regional bus networks. In the Rhône-Alpes region, the "OùRA" smart card can be used as an electronic purse or a season ticket on the regional rail network and on urban buses in over 20 towns and cities in the region, including Lyon, Valence and Grenoble. In Bouches-du-Rhône (Marseille area) the TICKETREIZE smartcard can be used either for season tickets or loaded with credits for individual or multi-journeys. It is available either as a personal card (with name and photo) for season tickets, or an “anonymous” card which can be loaded with multi-journey tickets and used by several people making the same journey. Although these initiatives are generally in larger cities or at regional level, they are relevant to smaller cities insofar as they are increasingly harmonising their ticketing systems with neighbouring authorities in the region in order to facilitate intermodal trips between different networks. In some larger cities, public transport smartcards can also be used as a support for a subscription to self-service bicycle hire.
Jönköping (Sweden): Special tickets for young people: school card (free for pupils, paid for by the municipality), leisure card (as an addition to the school card, € 72 for a half-year), summer card (offering discounted travel for children and youth in the summer months, € 64). The tickets have an attractive ticket design which is part of the brand (Figure 5‑9).
Figure 5‑9: Ticket design as part of the brand in Jönköping (Sweden)
Klagenfurt (Austria): Regular users can use the electronic ticketing system with the smartcard (“Kundenkarte Klagenfurt”). The special feature of this electronic ticketing system is the “best-price-guarantee”, i.e. with electronic ticketing passengers never pay more than the price of a season-ticket. The card is multi-purpose, e.g. it also works as ticket for various leisure activities.
York (UK): Multi-journey bus tickets for the main operator can be purchased from an extensive network of 47 'PayPoints' (a cash sales service available at many retailers). ‘Lower-value’ tickets can be purchased in the bus as well.
Hodson, P. (2005) Price differentiation and fare integration in urban public transport. Proceedings from European Transport Conference 2005. Download: http://www.etcproceedings.org/paper/price-differentiation-and-fare-integration-in-urban-public-transport