The term Mobility Payment Integration (MPI) refers to a wide variety of advances in fare collection. A transportation system with "full payment integration" would be one where users may combine multiple different modes of transportation—such as a rideshare trip, a bus trip, and an e-scooter rental—and pay for the entire journey at once, with a single transaction that is divided between the providers, which would include both public agencies and private transportation providers, behind the scenes. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) defines MPI as a multimodal transportation system that has some combination of: a common payment media across participating services, mobile applications integrated with the mobility providers, common payment accounts, and the use of incentives or co-marketing to build ridership.
Such a system does not currently exist; however, many transit agencies are taking the initial steps towards this vision by upgrading from simple fares and paper tickets to contactless smart cards or bank cards, mobile applications, transit ticketing accounts, and multimodal trip planners.
The FTA performed a state-of-the practice assessment to determine the progress of MPI in the United States. The assessment found that 34 locations have adopted at least some form of Automated Fare Collection (AFC) for their transit systems; of these, a total of 18 locations had advanced to some form of MPI. All of the locations identified as using AFC to offer mobile tickets or reloadable smart cards to pay for fares; 15 of the 34 locations offered a mobile app to manage travel accounts.
The assessment identified major challenges faced by agencies seeking to update their service and offered recommendations to meet them:
- Fare Simplification. Many transit agencies have had their fare structures expand and convolute over the years, which can be confusing to customers. Developing a simplified formula is helpful, though an intensive effort that requires several rounds of public outreach and feedback. Agencies should investigate whether fare simplification would be worth the effort.
- Fare Capping. Fare capping has only been instituted in one system in the United States, but is more popular in European deployments. Interviewees noted that implementing fare capping can be difficult for riders to become comfortable with. The assessment recommended careful, intensive public education to explain and build trust in the system.
- Equity. There is a general movement towards cashless business and services, often because cash transactions are seen as inefficient. However, agencies must be careful that they do not effectively bar riders without bank cards from their services; many Americans are under- or un-banked and primarily use cash for their day-to-day transactions. One method of addressing this concern will be implemented by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) which has set a standard that 95 percent of customers must be able to use cash within 1,000 feet of any MBTA stop.
- Cybersecurity. Agencies accepting online payments must be aware of the risks of data breaches. A study referenced in the assessment noted that the vast majority of users would revert to using cash for their mass transit payments in the wake of a data breach. Agencies should "stress test" their assumptions regarding the needed number of fare cards available to the public for such eventualities.
- Business Models. Public-private partnerships can reduce the amount of public capital funding required to upgrade systems and lowers the exposure of agencies to risk. The assessment notes that agencies should determine whether their funding sources allow them to penalize payment processors who do not meet performance specifications.
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