Mobile payment in public transport

A benchmark of functionality, user experience and technology

This study is done as part of the Expertise Center for E-ticketing in Public Transport (X-CEPT) of the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft. X-CEPT develops user-centered solutions for ticketing and payment in public transport, with a focus on the Dutch OV-chipkaart system. This study is used as input for a user-centered design project in which TU Delft and Translink explore the possibilities of introducing mobile phones for payment in the OV-chipkaart ecosystem.
The research was completely developed by myself with support of a X-CEPT committee in a time lapse of 8 months of part time work.

The opportunity

Mobile payment can become a valuable addition for public transport. For passengers it can make it easier to pay for trips and for service providers it can reduce the costs for distribution of tickets and subscriptions.
Due to the daily and extensive use of public transportation systems with great numbers of people traveling everyday, a user-centered implementation of mobile payment in this sector can be a considerable improvement of the service, with the potential of drawing more people to public transport.
Research goal
Create an overview and generate insights about technology, functionality and User Experience of current of mobile payment systems for public transport around the world
Research questions
-Which mobile payment service for public transport are available worldwide?
-What functions do these services have?
-How do people experience the mobile payment service (features, payment process)?
-Which technological platforms are available nowadays to provide mobile payment services?
The study had two main stages:
An online review was conducted to identify mobile payment services worldwide. The found services were listed and detailed, of twenty of the services that were identified a basic overview was created, in order to select the most relevant ones to analyze in more detail. Four were selected to further detail. 
User experience:
User experience is characterized by its intangible interactions and multiple users’ perspectives, consequently it is a challenge to heuristically recognize patterns and draw conclusions. To that end of each of the selected services a customer journey of the 4 selected services was created, thus facilitating the analysis of the usage of the system by categorizing and visualizing the steps of the travel from an human centered design perspective. For each of the steps in the customer journey, it was assessed how travelers experienced these through comments made on forums, in reviews, etc.

Before the inventory a research into technology working principles was performed to understand and evaluate the services. Being self-ticketing and Near Field Communication (NFC) the most common.
Inventory, service catalog
The first step was to research mobile payment services around the world. To this end an online survey was performed, given as a result a service catalogue. A format was established for presenting the list of mobile ticketing services. This provides information about the app that supports the payment, since most of the systems adopted apps as part of the service model.

Of each service that was initially identified the following aspects were documented:
- Location: Geographical area covered by the system (either country, region or city).
- Public transport system size: measured by lines, stations, ridership.
- Technology used
- App that supports the service (if applicable)
- User satisfaction of the service’s app in both Google play and App store
- Amount of installs on Android phones (information not available for iPhone)
- Transport modalities included in the service (e.g bus, ferry, commuter rail)
Services selection
A selection process was performed to select those for analysis that would provide the most relevant insights for applying mobile ticketing in the Dutch public transport sector. To that end selection criteria and a weighing scheme were developed.
Service and user experience analysis

The deeper analysis of the selected services is done by constructing a customer journey. Firstly, the main journey steps were structured according to the travel experience stages used in previous evaluations of the Dutch transport services: purchase, pre-travel experience, travel experience and pos-travel experience. However, due to the differences in technology and service structure applied in the services under investigation, the steps inside those stages were significantly changed. The services steps were defined based on information from official websites, popular (technology) press, and online forums.

Once the service steps were clear, the collection of self-reported experiences from the users of these services started. The raw data was collected from user self reports online found in social media, more specifically Facebook, Twitter and Reeddit, and app reviews in both App store and Google play. The collected self-reports where then located in a specific step of the customer journey. Based on the collected self-reports an analysis of both the positive and negatives aspects of the service steps was performed.

The MBTA Commuter Rail system serves as the commuter rail arm of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s transportation coverage of Greater Boston in the United States
The Mobile payment service is a self-ticketing model with open gates, the payment is done through the “MBTA mTicket” app, which gives the users a QR e-ticket. The ticket must be activated before boarding the train, so the driver is able to easily check it.
- It is clear that mobile payment positively impacts the traveling user experience in comparison with paper tickets. In this case no needing cash, the flexibility of buying the ticket in any step of the travel and the easiness (linear menu) to buy the tickets in the app are appreciated.
- Even though the system has a high satisfaction in Android with a 4.2 score, several complaints were identified. Inaccuracy and technical issues are the most common factors that create mistrust. This is complemented with the inability of the app to correct user mistakes (e.g through a refund option).
- From a user interface and information architecture perspective, the fact that the app does not foresee user needs negatively impacts the user experience. For example, it does not provide filters for the schedule searching or shortcuts, it always return to home screen independently of the step of the travel, and finally it does not alert the user on the inactivity of monthly tickets.
The public transport payment in Hong Kong is based on the Octopus card. This is a reusable contactless card launched in 1997 to replace paper tickets (which had magnetic strips) in the transit system, and has increased its scope since then to retailer shops, parking meters, convenience stores, fast food and online payments, among others.
To introduce mobile payment options to this system, in October 2013 a pilot of the Octopus mobile SIM card was launched, with the support of Sony and PCCS. The SIM card has both Octopus card and by mobile operator services and only can be used in mobile phones with NFC (Near Field Communication). The SIM is exclusively sold in Seven Eleven stores and mobile operators and it is available in 3 different SIM sizes. The SIM card must be paired with an app for checking the balance and topping up if required, the app is also essential for online payments.
- Octopus is a a well-established brand with multiple services and widespread use, nevertheless its focus is not solely on payment in public transport, but on payment services in general (e.g. online payment).
- Even though the purchase and pre travel experience are long and require some effort to be done, this effort is compensated with a very simple and effective daily use. No comments were found regarding the check-in time at the gates.
- The lack of a preparation step to search travel details and schedules does not seem to negatively impact the user  perception of the system. This might be due to other apps fulfilling this need.
- In terms of user interface design, the use of widgets to show the balance immediately provides easy access to the most relevant information to the user but on the other hand the chosen colors do not provide a smooth experience.
- On the negative side, NFC technology is reduced to high-end devices and to phones running Android (for iOS devices a separate card reader is needed), thus limiting the potential user base.
- Finally, the technology itself is perceived as unreliable given the frequent technical issues in the app and the reading process of the SIM card either by the mobile phone or the gate reader.

Deutsche Bahn AG (abbreviated as DB, DB AG or DBAG) is a German railway company . It is the second largest transport company in the world and the largest railway operator in the world with a ridership of 1.8 billions passengers a year
Through a self-ticketing approach DB Navigator provides QR tickets for all DB railways services in Germany. The users are able to choose the most convenient ticket in the app and pay afterwards. The app pays substantial support for the pre-travel experience by providing complete maps, different ways of searching for tickets, regional tickets and real time information (delays and cancellations). It is also possible to save favorite routes, places and itineraries, what which speeds up booking for frequent users. Finally, based on those favorites the user can activate delay alarms. For long travels the QR ticket is purchased for a specific journey so there is no need to for it to be activated, it is scanned by an inspector on board.
- Overall the service is positively evaluated with the highest score among the four analyzed services. It is also the one with the most accepted device including Apple Watch and tablets.
 - The core service of planning journeys creates a strong positive bond with the users given the daily use, as well as the multiple services for both short and long travels and the accuracy of schedules.
- Contradictory opinions were found regarding the accuracy of the mapping. Some users found it highly reliable in terms of routes and stations while others complain about the lack of information. This duality is also identified with the realtime information feature. - The use of widgets and shortcuts in the interface, plus the side menu and multiple options for searching provide a rich experience that aligns with the preferences that different users might have.
- Aspects of the app that are highly appreciated by users are the ability to store favorites (journeys, stations and routes), as well as the easy access to information about the current trip. However, users are expecting even more “smart” and real time features as reliable and accurate alerts.
- Frequent technical issues, especially during booking and searching, is the most common negative concern.

Operated by Transport for London (TfL) the London transport system includes, among others various rail networks including the London Underground, London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and TfL Rail, and London’s trams and buses.
TfL has developed a contactless payment system, including contactless payment cards (Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Maestro), Apple Pay, Android pay and Barclaycard. All contactless work with pay as you go fare, therefore there is no need to top up or buy a ticket in advance.
Mobile payments are mostly done through Apple and Android Pay.  Both Apple and Android pay work by providing a mobile wallet for a bank card and since the system is already set for contactless payment it is possible to check in and out with the cellphone as a card. To that end the user must tap in and out at station gates. Mobile payments are available for the following services: Tube DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line and Thames Clippers River Bus. The service is restricted to only card issuers with a previous agreement with both Apple and Android. It is essential to use always the same payment method (mobile or card) because even if the card is the same in the mobile wallet, when using it the system recognizes a specific card and not a specific mobile device, and if users check in with one virtual card (on their phone) and check out with another, extra charging will occur for incomplete travels.
- The user experience might be affected by the complete service of the mobile wallet, that allows not only payments in the public transports but also in stores.
- Both Apple and Android Pay are easy to configure and use, the steps for purchase and configuration are short as well as the check in and check out.
- The novelty of the technology positively influences the experience, the users feel proud.
- Similar to Hong Kong service, this is limited to certain high end mobile phones. Secondly, the technology can fail at the gates for different reasons (weakness of the reader or NFC ). The latter might lock the user inside the station or increase the fee for an incomplete journey.
- The most common complaint is related to the time it takes to check in or out. It is slightly longer than the oyster card, this is not only affecting the user checking in, but also the people in the cue behind him/her, thus creating an awkward social experience.

The chosen technological platform for a mobile payment service defines the main customer steps, however how are the features designed in each step can change the use experience in either positive or negative way. This means that even
services that share the same technology can offer a completely different user experience.

The conditions for which the service is designed, the socio-cultural context, the current infrastructure, the type of public transport services, and the type of payment are primary factors influencing the service structure, steps, stages and all the customer journey.

The preparation step (checking map and/or trip planner) is not essential for providing a positive experience, however it might be able to strengthen the brand customer relationship on a daily basis if in this step an accurate and reliable service is provided.

Reliability is essential for a positive experience as a reliable system promotes trust. Being able to trust the service is deeply appreciated, on the other hand unreliable systems are strongly criticized. Basically, any technical issue has the potential of travelers forming a bad opinion of the service.

Given the fast development of technology nowadays users expect even ”smarter” systems that foresee their needs and provide them with required information at the right time. In the case of preparation specifically, real time accurate information is imperative (e.g alerts). Also, the use of favorites or autocomplete functions are appreciated. The user interface design (e.g. menus structure, interaction gestures, colors, error messages) are crucial for providing a smooth
use experience of the app.

Having a deep understanding of the user concerns in each step of the travel process is indispensable for offering a simple and easygoing experience. For instance, a feature that allows the user to undo mistakes (e.g refund) might reduce the perception of risk and consequently increase the willingness of using mobile payment.

Some features that are appreciated are:
- Personal log in with ticket management, allowing the user to check transactions, and history.
- Widgets for instantly checking information, as well as shortcuts for accessing the most relevant features.
- Multiple methods of payment.

Technologies based on NFC are limited to certain types of mobile phones, hence reducing the target group potential user base. Secondly, users of mobile payment services seem to encounter technical issues, which may be due to the novelty of the technology.

 The main conclusions might be that all details are crucial, user experience in mobile payment is complex and does not depend on one specific feature or step. Traveling start way before check in in the station or boarding the train, and it therefore transcends the physical interaction at the gate. Mobile payment in public transport is about more than opening a gate or obtaining an e-ticket. -among others- are interconnected and together form what we call user experience.

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