How contactless payments make cities greener

Last updated: 13 March 2017

The people running the public transport systems of major global metropolises are continuously looking for any edge they can get to improve the passenger experience. And their efforts often have benefits that go beyond reducing journey times and increasing capacity.

Take the environment for example. We know that a bus takes more than 50 cars off the road, a subway train can take almost a thousand. Multiplied up, that is a huge boost to cities trying to meet emission targets.

Looking at the passenger numbers alone is incredible. More than 10 billion journeys are made every year on the Beijing, Paris, London, Tokyo and New York subways each year.

Being able to move such large numbers of people around so quickly has allowed these cities to thrive—as evidenced by higher visitor numbers, increased real estate prices, and improved quality of living.

But once the mass transit system is up and running, public transport authorities face a new challenge trying to make the networks run as efficiently as possible.

In the past few years, contactless payments have been a potent innovation that has streamlined the passenger experience. There have been contactless tickets for over a decade, but the recent addition of contactless bank and credit card functionality has taken this to the next level.

In London, since these cards were added to the network 18 months ago, more than 350 million journeys have been made, accounting for 28 per cent of all pay as you go journeys on Tube and rail services. Nearly 25,000 new cards are used on the network every day, and in March, TFL, London’s public transport authority, announced it had seen its ten millionth unique contactless card on the system. The impact is so impressive, that buses in London no longer accept cash, or issue tickets.

The success is replicated across the world from Chicago to Johannesburg, Kiev to Saint Petersburg, and it’s all down to the simplicity of the solution. Passengers simply use the payment cards they use every day, with no need to register, and no need to carry an extra ticket. Plus, with more and more transport systems adopting mobile contactless payments, the convenience is even greater.

In addition, the approach doesn’t impact the experience of existing commuters as it is an additional way to pay fares on top of the usual concession contactless cards (like Oyster for instance).

With the Internet of Things starting to take root, we could well see governments, transport authorities and enterprise use big data and new technology to develop new transport methods that will reduce both our carbon footprint and congestion.

We hope that you have the chance to try out a contactless payment card on your next visit to a major city. And if it means you don’t have to take a cab, you’ll be doing your bit to make the planet that little bit greener.

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