Mass Transit Multi-Format Ticketing Validation – The Key is to Provide an Easy Ride

Mass transit has been exploring and implementing ways to self-ticket for quite a while. What has become more critical of late is the need for state-of-the-art transportation validation. In today’s world, the need to seamlessly handle a high volume of passengers who want to use their phone or contactless card as well as the needs of transit operators who want quicker throughput and less crowding is even more acute today with the need for social distancing.


What is AFC?

AFC (Automated Fare Collection) is an entire integrated ticketing system that automates the fare collection and ticket validation process with various components:

  • Fare media (tokens, paper tickets or magnetic stripe cards)
  • Devices that read/write media (terminals, ticketing machines, fare gates, stand-alone validators, on-vehicle validators, conductor/inspectors)
  • Depot/station computers (used to concentrate data communications with devices in a station or bus depot. Common in older AFC systems where communication lines to upper tiers were slow or unreliable.)
  • Back office systems (servers and software to provide management and oversight of the AFC system
  • A central clearing house (Central Management System)



Many public transportation systems employ a Proof-Of-Payment (POP) or Proof-Of-Fare (POF)  honor-based fare collection system mainly to speed up boarding and avoid crowding. With older, primitive systems, random spot-checks are conducted by inspectors and passengers are required to carry a ticket, pass or a transit smartcard to prove that they have paid the fare.
Take Vienna for example. There are no ticket barriers at stations or formal checks on the metro, local trains, trams and buses. You just hop on and off. On newer systems, the passenger must insert the ticket or pass a validation machine.


The technologies

There are a number of technologies used separately or in tandem to provide validation:

  • Barcode/QR code
  • SMS-based
  • Flash Pass/Visual Verification
  • Mifare/RFID
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • BLE (Bluetooth Low-Energy)


Ideally, one should be able to arrive at a station, pay at the gate or barrier and ride the transport without the hassle of purchasing a ticket separately.


Today’s trends

Traditionally, validation rights were encrypted directly onto a ticket’s magnetic stripe or a transport smartcard chip.
Today, Smart cards and smartphones, using NFC or cloud-based technologies, are superseding validating tickets. Tap and go using contactless cards and mobile wallets are becoming the norm. Validation and fare collection methods will minimize contact making it safer and more efficient.
Visa, for example is working on more than 500 urban mobility projects in cities across the globe, including Brussels, Bratislava, Bucharest, Hong Kong, Santo Domingo and Turin, Italy.


Mass transit ticketing validation is a cornerstone of efficient mass transit operations

Electronic validation and the ability to get passengers moving more quickly at the station is a key to reducing lines and streamlining access to mass transit gates. NFC technology is driving this with passengers using their smartphones or simply tapping their mobile device or contactless cards to get going.

The keys to look out for when selecting a partner for delivering a solution are:

  • Expertise and field-proven technology
  • EMV certification to reduce time to market for operators
  • Reliable, robust ultra-compact devices
  • Modular, easily customizable solutions
  • Full customer support for customizations


The benefits

Contactless validation offers the following benefits:

  • Improved customer experience – Passengers can travel without physical tickets and smartcards using EMV/open payment cards and mobile phones instead. Saves the need to buy tickets or top-up cards. Combing other apps can add functionality
  • Versatility – Multiple technologies can be used for validation such as bank cards, e-wallets, smartphones, smartwatches and biometry
  • Cost effective – Easy and automated. Saves on labor costs for fare collection costs as well as heavy equipment maintenance and simpler station design
  • Contactless safety – disperses passengers quickly. Saves drivers from collecting fares, and makes it possible to use all doors for boarding
  • Profitability – Helping to eliminate fare evasion is a major win for mass transit, especially as they are working to overcome financial losses resulting from the pandemic
  • Lowers fare evasion – This is an additional concern for many mass transit systems, with billions of dollars of revenue lost yearly. For example, during the Covid pandemic ticket inspections and front-door bus boarding were halted, further exacerbating an ongoing problem that could be alleviated with electronic validation technology.


In summary, automated ticketing and validation make things simple, easy to monitor, quicker and safer to implement, while adding the safety that touchless can provide both internationally and locally. Usage of a modular NFC-reader in transport validation guarantees technological scalability in the context of future modifications, which is a key point that should be taken into account at the systems design stage.


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