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Integrated ticketing for public transport

A transport ticketing system is ‘integrated’ if it allows travellers to pay for all legs of a journey on different public transport modes – buses, trams, subways, light rail and in some cases even taxis, ferries, shared cars and bicycles. The environmental benefits of integrated ticketing schemes are primarily related to the increased ease and convenience of using public transport by eliminating the hassle of paying for each individual journey and thus contributing to wider modal shift strategies.

Integrated ticketing has existed in many cities for several decades, with varying technological requirements and covering different combinations of transport modes within specified zones and time frames. Sometimes integrated ticketing is understood as some form of proof of payment (e.g. a paper ticket or a magnetic stripe card) for a lump sum, which allows travellers to use different public transport modes for a certain time. This approach is very easy to implement and therefore widely deployed, but it is not the avant-garde in the area of integrated ticketing.

This best practice refers to an integrated ticketing system based on a smart system with the capability of identifying and charging trips that use multiple modes. In most cases, the charging method is a deduction from a prepaid amount and runs with a different type of card (or even a smartphone) and different technical infrastructure.

The acceptance of integrated ticketing systems depends on the practical usability of the service, its positive ‘image’, and the pricing – both in terms of actual money spent and the subjectively perceived price.

Integration across various modes of public transport can be challenging as it requires the coordination of various stakeholders (operators, authorities, financial service providers, telecommunication operators and suppliers) and also a good interaction to ensure certain processes such as the exchange of data and automated financial transactions. But despite these undeniable difficulties, many cities have managed to introduce various forms of integrated ticketing.

Cities themselves can implement integrated ticketing if they act as a public transport operator, or by stipulating integrated ticketing solutions into the tender documents if they award public transport services to private companies. If public transport is provided through multiple competing private companies, coordination efforts can be particularly challenging, but even there, public administration bodies can bring these actors together and facilitate their cooperation as neutral broker.

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