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Integrating DRT and ticketing systems: The next step in building seamless transport networks

  •   3 min read

Intermodal partnerships, like Via and Ticketer’s, create better connected transport networks and enhance the passenger experience.

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With the dust settled on the long awaited publication of the National Bus Strategy back in the spring, the work of innovating bus networks nationwide has begun. Most English local authorities are now sprinting to understand expectations and gather resources to deliver their Bus Service Improvement Plans ahead of the October deadline. 

The team at Via has been no less busy — this month saw us put pen to paper on a partnership with Britain’s leading ticketing systems provider, Ticketer.

A fragmented bus network.

One of the many unintended consequences of UK bus deregulation was the fragmentation it caused in the bus system. For the consumer, using the bus became a baffling patchwork of prices and propositions with little semblance of coherence. The Bus Strategy fronted up to this reality and certainly identified the right vision — seamless, integrated travel between modes and between operators with simple, common and capped ticketing. The question was how to achieve it. 

Here at Via, we have been working with our partners towards this goal for some time. We believe that demand-responsive schemes shouldn’t sit as isolated parts of the transport system — they should link seamlessly with the wider network.

To this end, many of our services around the world now already deliver exactly the sort of integration the UK government is envisioning. Within Via-powered apps, users first tell us where they want to go and can then be offered a variety of options: a fixed route bus or a DRT trip. They can also see details of the fixed bus route network and how a DRT trip could link into it as a first/last mile connection. 

Our MK Connect service in Milton Keynes is a great example of just this. Designed to ensure that the DRT service complemented the commercial fixed bus route network rather than competed against it, users are only presented a DRT trip option when a commercial bus is not a convenient option (e.g. the walk would be too far or the bus is not running). This kind of holistic approach to the network ensures that users are presented with a bus proposal that is most appropriate for the trip they want to take. 

But this isn’t just about seamless booking integration. Gone should be the days of needing different types of tickets for various modes of transport or even different types of bus. Public transport users should be able to purchase a single ticket that can be used across multiple modes. Via already integrates a number of local transport cards into our services — and we’re now pushing for this to be the norm across the board. 

The importance of our Ticketer partnership. 

In the UK, outside of London, a fragmented transport system makes integration a challenge. This is where our partnership with Ticketer is so important. Using real-time data from both conventional bus services and DRT, this partnership will enable multimodal and intermodal journeys in a single mobile application, powered by Via’s technology. 

The partnership goes beyond creating compelling customer experiences; it’s equally important to begin providing efficient services for increasingly challenged transport operators. Through our partnership, operators, local authorities, and transport agencies will now be empowered to make informed decisions, backed by data, that enable providers to seamlessly switch between DRT and conventional bus service based on demand. DRT can be used on certain days of the week, or even at certain times of day, based on demand patterns with all vehicles enabled to deliver either service. 

If England’s National Bus Strategy is to deliver on its lofty ambition, it will need more than partnership between authority and operator. It will need new innovations and new partnerships. As a growing number of local authorities adopt DRT alongside scheduled buses, as a way of creating equitable, compelling and efficient bus networks, we believe the power of the Via/Ticketer partnership has room to grow. Joint discussions with partners about initial applications of both technologies are now underway — stay tuned! 

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