Urban mobility is the backbone of a city, as it enables people to access vital spaces for work, education and leisure. As rapid urbanization continues to intensify pressure on infrastructure and services, cities are faced with growing challenges. Open payments allow people to use any contactless credit or debit payment card to pay for transportation rides as closed loop cards, like metro or bus cards. This means payments for rides are more efficient, safe and time effective improving rider experience and incentivizing financial and digital inclusion while also generating savings in resources, costs and operations for governments in the long-term shaping mobility systems that are better prepared to adapt and respond to changing circumstances.
The seventh session of Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, 2023, with the support of and in partnership with Visa, focused on ‘Urban Mobility: Innovating Through Payments’. The session was moderated by Andrés Polo, Head of Urban Mobility LAC, Visa and Luis Bonilla, Lead Partnership and Programs, R-Cities.
Thea Fisher, Sr. Director, Head of Value-Added Services for Global Urban Mobility, Visa began by highlighting the progress that urban mobility industry has made in the last year in putting the customer experience first driven by innovations in payments. Visa has seen over at 650 open loop launches globally and in 2022 and over a 100 open loop projects launch which is on a path to increase in 2023 where riders can just tap their credential at a contactless transit terminal to travel around their city. The Visa Economic Empowerment Institute rider study resulting from a survey of 75 transit agencies and 3,000 transit writers around the world, yields compelling findings on the benefits of transitioning to an open loop payment system and what riders are really looking for next. The study found that nearly half of all transit riders would use public transit surveyed would use public transit more if it were easier to pay to get on board. The findings concluded that contactless, open-loop payments help to reduce carbon emissions and promote financial inclusion—among other important benefits. It showcases the role of digital payments in a sustainable, inclusive, urban mobility future for our cities. As cities are looking for solutions that entice more riders to choose sustainable modes of travel, the finds have shown contactless open system payments are a key solution enabling a multimodal transport system, ecosystem and increased use of public transit systems.
“From my perspective, the starting point should be passenger experience. What do you want your rider to experience? Is this a chance to simplify your fare? Is this a chance to change how people travel? How has the way people move around the city and engage with their spaces changed since the existing system was designed? So, this is a great chance to refocus on that passenger experience and go from there.”
Álvaro Madrigal Montes de Oca, General Director of Coordination of Public Organizations and Strategic Projects, Ministry of Mobility of Mexico City spoke about the experience of Mexico City in innovation through payments. In the last five years the city has reformed and modernized the transportation sector with creation of new infrastructure and integration of all modes of transportation. Payment is an important aspect of this integration of systems. The city is taking strategic and progressive steps to offer new means of payment to public transportation users, while taking into consideration that the finances of the city’s transportation agencies are not affected. Given the high ridership of around 34 million persons per day, the city is undertaking crucial steps like eradication of fraud in the recharge system, implementation of the Single Integrated Mobility Card, payment with mobility card in Passenger Transportation Network, Trolleybus and Cable bus, inclusion of concessional transportation in the mobility card payment system, mobility card recharging in stores and through cell phones and EMV Payment in BRT and in the coming months in Metro. With these measures, the city is working towards innovating payments for a better user experience in the context of Mexico City.
“Focus should be on more payment options in terms of technology, keeping in mind a healthy and robust transit system for the cities.”
Annalise Czerny, Payments and Mobility Lead, Rebel introduced the California Integrated Travel Project; which is a statewide initiative designed to unify transit in California with fare payment systems, real-time data standards, and seamless verification of eligibility for transit discounts. The vision of the project is not only to increase the efficiency of the system, but also to use public transit as a catalyst for increasing access, equity, and affordability. California introduced the open payment systems through a series of pilots with a handful of small transit agencies by setting up public transit focused contracts that allowed these agencies to be able to buy the technology, software and services off a pre-negotiated contract, leveraging the State’s buying power for better pricing. Support was also provided in sharing information on why and how to implement open payments. Financial inclusion to ensure that everyone has an ability to pay is also crucial to the state. This is being worked through payment options for un/underbanked through affordable accounts and promotional pricing and prepaid bank cards to distribute public benefits. These experiments have witnessed positive results and the state is on its way to setting up ecosystem options for all transit agencies and riders to take advantage.
“This can be an opportunity to not only to improve the public transit experience but also look at broader economic and social objectives. Open payments, rather any new technology, is an opportunity to make broader (bigger) change.”