RTS had originally planned to launch the fare payment system in conjunction with its transit system redesign in June 2020. - RTS

RTS had originally planned to launch the fare payment system in conjunction with its transit system redesign in June 2020.

RTS

Now in its seventh year, the Innovative Solutions Awards honors bus operations and their supplier partners who have implemented initiatives that helped them save money, run more efficiently, streamline operations, increase safety, improve customer satisfaction, increase ridership, and more. 

METRO’s staff would like to thank everyone who applied, and congratulations again goes to all our winners.

Rochester, N.Y.’s Regional Transit Service (RTS) recently launched the world’s first Account-Based Ticketing solution powered by Masabi’s MaaS-enabled Fare Payments-as-a-Service platform, in the Transit app.

“The way our partnership with Masabi and Transit came together was like catching lightning in a bottle,” explain RTS officials. “As a transportation authority created by New York State, we have to follow a very specific procurement process that often decides for us the vendors and partners we work with. The timing of that process happened to coincide with the innovative progress Masabi was making on integrating their product offerings with Transit, putting us on the cutting edge with this project.”

RTS had originally planned to launch the fare payment system in conjunction with its transit system redesign in June 2020. Due to the challenges presented by COVID-19, the agency was forced to postpone the system redesign. While the implementation of the new transit system was on pause, RTS officials explained that they were able to redirect their focus toward the development of the agency’s new fare payment system.

“The [circumstances] presented us with the opportunity to release this innovative project to our customers during the height of the pandemic,” RTS officials tell METRO. “The launch of RTS Go in July 2020 provided additional protections for our customers and bus operators by reducing contact and simplifying the boarding process. Rolling this out in the Transit app made it easier for our customers to transition to the redesigned transit system that was later implemented in May 2021. We worked closely with Masabi on the marketing launch and with the team at Transit to communicate the system redesign ahead of time, in the app our riders were already using to plan, track and pay for their trips.”

RTS Go ticketing is available in Transit, North America’s top-rated mobility app, as well as through smart cards that can be managed through the app. With Transit, RTS riders have access to an integrated mobility experience including trip planning, real-time information, and multimodal connections to bikeshare and ridehail — all in one app.

The Account-Based Ticketing system powered by Masabi also marked the introduction of fare capping, making it possible for Rochester riders to trust that they’re always getting the best price for their ride. Instead of buying tickets or selecting a fare beforehand, riders can tap their smart card or the secure barcode in the Transit app on the onboard validator, and the amount for their ride is automatically deducted from their account.     

The new system not only supports fare equity by ensuring riders have access to the benefits of period passes based on their usage, rather than whether they can afford to pay for them upfront, but ensures all riders are fully supported. Riders without a smartphone can use the RTS Go smart cards, and unbanked or underbanked riders can add value to their card or Transit account using cash.

For Rochester, ensuring the availability of fully contactless journeys for riders was central to delivering a transport-led recovery from the pandemic and was important in keeping public transport safe. The launch has been received with enthusiasm, with RTS riders using the Transit app more than four times as often per month since July 2020. RTS Go usage in the app has steadily increased, more than doubling after the first full month after launch. Today, nearly 40% of riders add value to their account every month using Transit.  

“We know first-hand that the best fare payment experience is almost invisible — and together with our partners at Masabi, RTS is able to provide riders with a seamless all-in-one tool to simplify their commutes,” says David Block-Schachter, chief business officer at Transit. “By making fare payment available in the app riders already use for real-time trip planning and vehicle tracking, RTS was able to streamline the rollout of a robust and innovative fare payment system, at exactly the moment riders needed it most.”  

As the deployment is based on Masabi’s Justride FPaaS (Fare Payments as a Service) Platform, the system will have upgrades and new features and functionality available as the company continues to develop the software. RTS is also exploring adding new capabilities and services over the coming year including opening retailers so passengers can use cash to pay their fares at local shops throughout Rochester and adding additional account-based tokens like contactless bank cards and mobile payments.

“Transit agencies have traditionally purchased bespoke Automated Fare Collection (AFC) systems, which are built from scratch. These solutions are expensive to build, maintain, and update,” explain Masabi officials. “Instead, the FPaaS model offers a better way of providing fare payment services. Transit agencies can reduce cost and risk by procuring for a platform that is already live and in use. In addition, if agencies want to prioritize technological relevance and stability over a bespoke system with a finite useful life, the FPaaS model benefits from regular updates and a future-proof roadmap.”

Masabi officials add that since the successful implementation in Rochester, the company has deployed FPaaS systems with Transit in cities, including Dayton, Ohio; San Antonio, Texas; Saskatoon, Canada; and more.

RTS officials add that customer feedback has been positive since the implementation. 

“Through the customer satisfaction surveys we have conducted, nine out of 10 customers have consistently indicated that RTS Go makes it easier to pay their fare,” officials at the agency say.

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