Luke Marion from Oxford Bus Company recently met with Bus & Coach Buyer to chat about how they’ve sped up boarding with Tap Off Readers and the benefits of a deeper partnership with Ticketer. You can read the feature below.
With a mission to speed up boarding on its buses and build back patronage following the pandemic, Oxford Bus Company has rolled out Tap On / Tap Off Readers from Ticketer across its fleet. The move to this technology is in response to changing passenger habits, including flexible working and the move away from season tickets.
The Ticketer Team worked with Oxford Bus, part of the Go-Ahead Group, to deploy over 260 Tap Off Readers to its High Wycombe (Carousel Buses), Didcot (Thames Travel) and Oxford (Oxford Bus Company) depots. The operator chose Ticketer’s solution for this as all its buses are already fitted with the ticketing specialist’s Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs), meaning everything is fully integrated with equipment from one supplier. They can see where passengers are tapping on and off using the system, revealing travel patterns and busy points, valuable information for optimising the bus network.
Passengers need to tap their payment card on the reader when boarding to tap in, and again when exiting the bus to tap out. Their tap out transaction can either be made on the ETM, or on the secondary pole-mounted Tap Off Reader paired to a Ticketer ETM. The external reader can be used for both tap on and tap off transactions, removing the need for driver interaction and making boarding and disembarking more efficient.
Using the data from the system which is fed into a customer web portal and app, customers can view their transactions, including where they have boarded and alighted, how much they have paid, and where caps have been applied. To bring this payment system to life for customers, Oxford Bus Company branded this as ‘Freeflow’, promoting that it’s ‘quicker, easier’ and when ‘you tap, we cap’.
So far, Oxford Bus has had over one million taps across all services and the use of Tap On / Tap Off is still growing. Boarding times per customer have sped up from seven seconds to two seconds. Data from the system is readily available to inform business decisions.
This is not the first time Ticketer has worked with Oxford Bus Company to improve its offering, as the operator’s MD, Luke Marion, explains: “Ticketer have been really good in helping support our relationship with local authorities. Obviously, with the National Bus Strategy we have now had to move into a world of Enhanced Partnerships and Bus Service Improvement Plans, so we have needed to have lots of ideas about what we can do to improve the service. We are currently trialling Ticketer’s Traffic Light Priority solution, to work with the investment that the council is putting in to traffic signals, to see if we can get buses through junctions more quickly. Another good example is multi-operator ticketing. We’ve done that in a number of areas in the Oxford Bus Company with our Smart Zone tickets. We’ve now rolled them out onto mobile.”
“The Ticketer machine also outputs Siri feeds, either the vehicle’s position or the predicted time that it’s going to arrive at a bus stop. And we can output those feeds to various partners. So that’s really good; it makes us reactive, it makes us a good partner and a responsive partner that’s able to deliver for the local authority.”
The partnership between Ticketer and the operator began in 2016 when it deployed contactless payments. Luke said the decision to go for Ticketer was taken as the company was ‘really impressed with the product’ it had seen with other operators. It has used Ticketer’s platform to launch a new app with a new website. Within that it has not only its own data but also information on other operators’ services.
Luke said: “So for the last couple of years it’s been all around trying to rebuild confidence in our services, getting people back using the services, and bringing in new and innovative ways to help make bus travel easier for them and get them back on the bus. Ticketer have been a great partner in helping us do that. I know our customers (passengers) generally don’t know the name Ticketer, but it is delivering a lot of benefits for them in their everyday lives.”