Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government is outlaying $371 million to invest in Smart Ticketing – to design, develop and implement one of the most advanced ticketing solutions in the world.
Brisbane’s Central Station is the busiest public transport hub in Queensland – accounting for more than 11 million customers each year. The morning peak hour hustle sees more than 23,000 commuters rush their way out of trains and through the ticketing gates into Brisbane’s CBD each weekday.
At the end of 2019, it was also the location of a four week trial designed to assist the public to move through the gates more easily and faster than they have before. Four “Express Lanes” were trialled at the Edward Street exit from 7–9am on weekdays – all part of the Palaszczuk Government’s Smart Ticketing project.
The trial – focused more on encouraging greater efficiencies in changing commuter behaviour – is designed to see customers slip through the gates swiftly with limited or no wait time.
The Smart Ticketing team is eagerly awaiting an academic report on the Express Lanes trial, but it’s just one piece in the bigger puzzle.
The wider project, costing $371 million in total, will use the most advanced global ticketing technology to deliver a more personalised public transport experience for Queensland’s commuters and visitors.
“Ultimately, Smart Ticketing will transform how Queenslanders plan, catch and pay for public transport,” Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, said.
“It will be one of the most advanced ticketing systems in the world, joining the likes of New York, Boston, London and Chicago on the global stage.”
A world-leading digital experience
Mr Bailey said Smart Ticketing will not only provide customers with more choice in paying their fares, but will also deliver upgraded ticketing equipment, an improved mobile app and website, and faster gates at busy stations such as Central.
“It’s a significant innovation investment for Queensland that will see us deliver a world-leading digital experience to public transport users,” he said.
Among the most progressive changes by TransLink, Queensland’s public transport agency, is the introduction of new ways for customers to pay, including debit and credit cards, smartphones and wearable devices such as smart watches.
It’s the biggest shake-up in the management of public transport in the state since the go card was launched in 2008 – stepping away from the traditional paper tickets. Ticketing technologies have developed quickly since and the transport sector has experienced resulting disruption.
“The go card has been very good to us and continues to keep Queensland moving,” Mr Bailey said. “However, that system is now more than ten years old.
“As with all technology, it has an expiry date and doesn’t have the capability to keep up with our rapidly-evolving customer needs and expectations.
“With Smart Ticketing you can genuinely pay as you go. You can use whichever payment method you have on hand.
“No longer will you need to remember to have your go card on you.
“If you only take your phone with you on a night out, you have your mobile wallet to catch the bus into town.”
Real-time technology trial
Smart Ticketing’s account-based model offers flexibility to implement new technology in a phased approach at a time when Queensland is delivering the $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project.
“It’s a big job as it involves the replacement of more than 1,200 fixed devices at stations and 12,000 on-board devices over the next four years to enable the new technology,” Mr Bailey said.
It is also planned to improve customer experience through the delivery of a new, intuitive customer mobile app, website and access to real-time service information.
It’s a four-year program with a phased approach to both testing and delivery to ensure optimal customer experience and a seamless transition.
“We have one shot at this project and it’s important we take the time to deliver a product that delivers benefits for our customers – and that means future-proofing it too,” Mr Bailey said.
“We have to take time to get it right for Queensland – a state that is nearly five times the size of Japan, seven times the size of Great Britain and two-and-a-half times the size of Texas.”
Trialling began in October with five regional centres selected to introduce new ticketing hardware that up until then only printed paper tickets.
The tropical towns of Innisfail and Bowen as well as holiday spot Hervey Bay, nearby Maryborough and Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) were the first to test TransLink’s equipment in different climatic and geographical conditions, before taking on board real-time technology.
The real-time technology already enables live tracking of any service and allows customers to know where it is and when it will arrive. The Express Gates trial was run during the same period, with the results to be published in a Queensland University of Technology study, which is due in late February 2020.
Greg Ellis, TransLink Ticketing’s Program Director, pointed out the Central Station trial was the first customer-facing element for the Smart Ticketing project.
“The trial provided valuable insight into how our customers use the gates and how we can make them more efficient,” Mr Ellis said.
Among the investigation was ‘eye line’ market research which recorded and analysed the emotional response that individual customers had when using the express lanes.
Mr Ellis said the equipment worked well with initial feedback showing customers supported the speedier gates but wanted more assurances they had touched on/off correctly.
“TransLink will be considering larger display screens for the new system that are easier to read and give a clearer signal you’ve paid, in addition to an audio prompt.”
Featured image: Commuters make their way through the Express Lanes gates at Brisbane’s Central Station.