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For better commuting, look to your smartphone
Julia Johnston

Julia Johnston

Everything is undergoing digital transformation—including public transit, but the key to better travel is already in the palm of your hand.

You have a bus to catch and your fare card is running low, giving you little choice but to wait in the long, winding ticket line. Or perhaps a tourist is using the subway during peak hours and can’t quite figure out how to swipe in through the turnstile. Or maybe you just wish your commute could be a little more productive. We’ve all been there, but with technology it’s changing.

Smartphones can make traveling and commuting easier, more convenient and even more productive. Here’s how your phone is reinventing the way we move.

Increasing efficiency with a single tap

Many cities around the world are implementing contactless payments and mobile ticketing in a variety of ways. Contactless payments (bank cards or mobile apps) use radio-frequency identification or near field communication so you can “tap-to-pay” at cash registers, your restaurant dinner table and now public transportation.

No more stopping and swiping your metro card. Contactless payments are improving user experiences when accessing trains, trams, subways, buses and ferries, making the process faster, convenient and more efficient, all with just a simple tap.

Contactless payments can also ensure the best rates for “pay-as-you-go” fares. On London’s Tube, users must tap in, travel between stations and tap out. Contactless payment systems enable transport providers to charge (or adjust the customer’s charge) accurately taking into account the exact journey traveled, free transfers and other factors.

Public transportation systems in cities like London, Chicago, Sydney, Singapore, Bogota, Portland, Tokyo and Moscow now accept contactless payments. Cities around the world are following suit, New York and Baltimore are piloting the use of contactless cards and smart devices for payment options at a portion of their public transportation stations.

Commuting comes with perks

Mobility startups and apps are working with cities and public transportation systems around the world to incentivize and better benefit users. 

The app incenTrip has more than 30,000 users in Washington D.C. and Baltimore. It provides transit, rideshare, driving and multi-modal routes, then awards scalable “eco-points” based on traffic conditions and user preferences among other factors. A user can save up their points and redeem them for gift cards to Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. Hytch is a rewards based app. It grants public transit riders, carpool participants and ride-hail users in Nashville and Seattle with cash rewards sponsored by partners and participating employers.

Tech startups are even working to make your commute more productive. E-Commerce add-on, Enroute, is running a trial with German railway company Deutsche Bahn. If users are online shopping while riding participating transit lines, Enroute rewards them with credits for future public transportation fares.

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Companies are getting creative to make your morning commute more appealing. 

Next stop: better urban mobility

Public transit plays a vital role in urban mobility. Continuing to integrate the latest tech solutions into our everyday activities, such as commuting, is a seamless way to help achieve the best results when it comes to operational efficiency. Reimagining a device which many already rely on for communication, banking and business, can help create a more user-centric experience.

Through incentives and efficiency strategies, technology is shaping the future of mobility one smartphone at a time.