Transportes Intermodais do Porto’s urban mobility journey
At the time its Metro system first came into service in 2003, TIP became one of the world’s first to invest in a closed-loop contactless-only ticketing system for its metro system – both for commuters and occasional users.
A disruptive ‘check-in-be-out mobile’ ticketing app, that introduced the concept of monthly optimised account, called ANDA, would follow by 2018.
More recent innovations include Explore Porto, a QR code-enabled mobile app and an open development platform that integrates information on local landmarks with real time public transport data.
The city was one of the first to begin evaluating dockless e-cycle and e-scooter systems.
Digital technology as an enabler
Digital technology has played an important role in Porto’s transport success story. The big news from 2021 was the introduction of the city’s open-loop EMV contactless ticketing solution, enabling travellers to easily use their debit or credit card to access and travel on the Metro and buses. In July, a pilot was launched, covering the Metro line that supports the international airport, plus one of the busiest bus routes. The next phase is to take it city-wide and even Porto Metropolitan Area-wide. And the ultimate ambition is to replicate it in other Portuguese towns and cities, enabling people to roam among any of them, without needing to buy a physical ticket.
Reconciling the underlying complexity
“For the consumer, it’s a beautifully simple process. You simply tap to travel – just as you would in London, or New York, or Rio de Janeiro – using the same card or smartphone, and know you’ll get the best fare and the same carefree experience,” says Fernando Souza, Vice President of Transit and Travel Services from Cybersource, Visa’s digital payments management platform and payment gateway at the centre of the implementation.
“But behind the scenes, it can be a hugely complex undertaking – involving many different stakeholders, technologies, platforms and components that need to be integrated. So, we designed an implementation process that shielded the transit operator from this complexity and minimised the investments that the players needed to make.”
“Transport operators ought to be in the business of running trains and buses, providing the best ride experience instead of handling complex ticketing and payment technologies, and managing payment risks,” continues Fernando Souza. “By delegating those complexities to the payment sector, transport operators can focus on delivering a great experience to their travellers – giving them better, simpler, more sustainable ways to get around town, and more reasons to leave their cars at home.”
Significant uptake and surprising statistics
Just a few months in, Tiago Braga is pleased by the extent of the uptake. “Our priority was the routes most frequently used by tourists and, despite the pandemic, we see that tourists from many different countries are tapping their cards. But we have also seen strong uptake from local and domestic passengers. This convinces us that our own citizens also welcome the advantages of contactless and, as the rollout continues, will be willing to adopt it more widely and more frequently.”
Tiago Oom, Head of Acquiring at Unicre, one of the other core partners, is equally enthusiastic. “I sift through the performance data at least every two weeks. It’s incredibly exciting to see the exponential growth – strong domestic use is something we never expected at this early stage.”
This initial success bodes well, not just for the next phases of Porto’s implementation, but for the deployment of the system elsewhere. “I see this as a catalyst for the entire country,” continues Tiago Oom. “Every other municipality in Portugal will want the same benefits for their own citizens and the same efficiencies for their own transport systems. And the great thing is that the hard work has all been done. With the core skills and the systems now in place, this should be easy to replicate over and over again.
Another dividend is the data that’s generated, enabling city authorities to monitor travelling habits, identify bottlenecks, make well-informed planning decisions, and work out how best to enhance sustainability.