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.
MPI offers flexible, technology-forward solutions to transit providers. However, agencies have both a legal and an ethical responsibility to serve their entire populations, and not all users have access to bank cards. Thus, any potential MPI implementation—no matter how cutting-edge its primary ticketing system is—must provide an easily accessible way for travelers to pay for their trips with cash. The assessment provided a number of possible solutions to support under- and un-banked customers.
- Offer vending machines at stations or bus stops that accept cash. It may not be feasible to place vending machines at every bus stop along a route, so the assessment noted that this is best included as one part of multiple efforts.
- Offer "gift cards" from retailers. In some cases, this may be a simple preloaded card that is available for purchase; in others, customers may be able to reload their transit accounts via participating retail stores. This requires adequate consideration for the spatial locations of eligible outlets.
- Use a purpose-built app to manage the funds electronically. It is important to ensure that the app is accessible from as many types of phone as possible to ensure that customers with affordably priced smartphones may access it.
- Continue to accept cash at gates and on-board vehicles. This solution may not be physically possible depending on the hardware used for the mobile ticketing platform, and it may mitigate any reduced boarding times from the new system, but it does ensure that travelers will be able to equitably access service. While many agencies are eager to move towards being cashless, it may be worthwhile to fully investigate if this is the best direction to take.
Interviewed agencies did note that it was more difficult than they had expected to integrate their gift cards with retailers' operation. In particular, replenishment was a source of complication, as some businesses have different replenishment policies and it may be difficult or impossible for an agency to ensure that a given store location will have sufficient stock of cards.
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