Transport Toolkit: Integrated Ticketing

What is it and what does it aim to do?

Integrated ticketing provides users with transferability across different modes, operators or geographies. Integrated ticketing is often implemented as a ‘smart ticket’, where information is stored electronically rather than being printed on a paper ticket. UK examples include London’s Oyster Card, Birmingham’s Swift Card and the ITSO Card. Benefits to users include ease of access and the ability to treat a public transport system as one single integrated system. In most cases, an integrated ticketing system will also involve integrated tariffs, whereby common pricing structures exist across different transport modes and operators. This may have the additional benefit to users of reducing costs, as multiple tickets are not required for travel.

This toolkit considers what the evaluation evidence tells us about the impact of integrated ticketing on local economic growth. As none of the available studies examine local economic growth effects directly, we focus on ridership effects. Increased ridership may reduce congestion, which acts as a barrier to growth. Some of the additional journeys, e.g. if they are work-related, may also directly generate economic benefits. Furthermore, whilst user benefits are not the focus of our toolkit, increased ridership may be a sign of improved service experience for public transport passengers.

The toolkit does not attempt a full assessment of the overall costs and benefits of integrated ticketing. Instead, it is intended to inform discussions about potential wider economic benefits that may be used to justify investment.

How effective is it at increasing ridership?

The available evaluations suggest that integrated ticketing may increase ridership on public transport services. All four studies that consider the impact of integrated ticketing on overall ridership find positive effects.

The evidence suggests that the ridership effects from integrated ticketing may be significant, even in comparison with other ridership determinants such as service quality and economic growth.

Different features of integrated ticketing systems may have different impacts on ridership. For example, on the basis of the available evaluations, transferability across modes and operators (single ticketing) usually has a positive impact, whereas the ability to transfer the ticket between people appears to be less important.

How secure is the evidence?

This toolkit summarises the available ex-post (i.e. after introduction) evaluations of the effect of integrated ticketing on ridership. We focus on evaluations that identify effects which can be attributed, with some degree of certainty, to the introduction of integrated ticketing. More details and discussion of our inclusion criteria are covered in the annex.

The evaluations provide some guidance on possible impacts on ridership. But given that results are likely to be scheme specific, additional sources of evidence (e.g. bespoke surveys, ex-ante modelling, etc.) should play an important role in making decisions around integrated ticketing in any specific context.

Generally, the evaluation evidence base on the wider economic benefits of integrated ticketing is quite weak, and focussed only on ridership, meaning that the conclusions are based on a limited number of studies. We found no evaluations which directly explore the effects of integrated ticketing on wider economic factors such as employment or growth. More rigorous studies, which look at a wider range of economic benefits, are required. We found no systematic reviews and no meta-analysis.

We found five studies that evaluated the effectiveness of integrated ticketing on ridership. Two studies use panel data methods to deal with selection. The other three studies provide before and after comparisons using reasonable control variables, but no control group.

Four studies look at the overall levels of ridership, while one study looked at the impact of an integrated ticket on additional ridership by customers using standard (i.e. non-integrated) tickets.

All of the studies come from countries in Europe, however only one is from the UK.

Oyster is widely cited as an example of a case where integrated ticketing has boosted ridership, but we have not been able to find any evidence of the impact of Oyster on demand (and discussions with TfL suggest that they do not have such evidence).

Is integrated ticketing cost-effective?

None of the five studies provide a detailed analysis of the wider economic benefits of integrated ticketing (e.g. in terms of congestion, employment or productivity) so we cannot assess these benefits relative to costs.

The annex briefly summarises the findings from the five evaluations in terms of operator revenues. But it is important to note that cost-effectiveness in terms of operator revenues and costs was not the focus of our review. A much wider evidence base is available that could inform assessments of possible effects on operator revenues and costs.

Things to consider

  • What type of integrated ticketing system should be adopted? The available evaluations suggest that transferability across modes and operators is the feature that is more likely to deliver ridership increases.
  • Is integrated ticketing more suitable for urban and intercity travel? Evidence from one study suggests that certain kinds of integrated ticketing have ridership effects that vary by the type of service e.g. single ticketing may be more beneficial when applied in an urban setting.
  • Could the effect on ridership vary across different transport modes? For a system implemented in Madrid, one study suggests there are larger ridership effects on the underground network than on buses. This may be inherent to underground as a mode, or it may be because underground travel is longer and more complex (e.g. involves more interchanges).
  • Will operators need to be compensated for lost revenue following the introduction of an integrated ticketing system? Although integrated ticketing schemes don’t necessarily result in discounted or reduced fares, the studies highlight the concern that where this is the case, (especially when heavily discounted) integrated tickets can impact negatively on revenues. However, the studies suggest that the increase in ridership eventually makes up for the fall in price and operator revenue increases in the long run. Once again, it is important to note that a much wider evidence base is available that could inform assessments of possible effects on operator revenues and costs.
  • What kind of evidence will be used to inform decision making? Results are likely to be scheme specific: changes in fare structures (including new products and discounts, concessions, special offers, zoning) the number of operators and modes covered in schemes, retail systems, marketing, etc. may all have a direct impact on ridership. The evaluation evidence provides some guidance, but additional sources of evidence (e.g. bespoke surveys, ex-ante modelling, etc.) should play an important role in making decisions around integrated ticketing in any specific context.

Other tools for transport:

Real time information systems

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