Is the transport industry’s focus on technology ignoring the needs of our more vulnerable citizens?

Posted on 28th April 2017

As we strive to ensure our businesses are sustainable in an ever-changing, technology-driven world, we often focus on ensuring that our services are keeping up with our customers’ expectations in terms of technology. Having an amazing, state-of-the-art mobile app and supporting strategy is great: you’re catering to the changing needs of the majority of your customers, app ratings are solid, your NPS score is high and you have a strong online presence with high traffic coming through your website. But what are you doing for those for whom technology or even mainstream public transport are out of reach? By assuming that everyone has a smartphone or the ability to access a bus stop or train station, are we failing to cater for our more vulnerable citizens – the lower income, disabled or elderly travellers?

The lower income households

So many people walk down the street glued to their smartphones, it’s easy to assume everyone can afford one. However, the reality is that for many individuals and families this is simply not the case. Other priorities, plus the cost of living on a lower wage can mean that even the cheapest smartphone is financially out of reach.

Data source: Pew Research Center’s American Life and Internet Project

In addition there’s the ongoing cost to use a smartphone. Again, many lower income citizens may not be able to afford the cost of mobile data in cities and regions where free public Wi-Fi is not available.

The older generations

Mobile strategies often assume that everyone wants to own a smartphone but for those who have managed to live the majority of their life without this technology, it is neither a need nor a want. So when the world starts to move to mobile-centric models, this can cause anxiety for older generations for whom this technology can be quite daunting.

As shown below, the number of citizens owning a smartphone is on the rise across all age groups, however there is still a significant number over the age of 55 who don’t – and likely won’t – own a smartphone in their lifetime.

Data credit: Edison research – US citizens

The disabled

In the public transport industry, we often focus on enabling travellers at the payment end of their journey, sometimes forgetting that for those with a permanent disability, the real challenge is physically accessing the mode of transport – getting to the bus stop or train station for example.

Most Transport Authorities have had the foresight to implement products and concessions that can make it easier for their citizens to use Public Transport services. Smartcard-based ticketing systems are ideal for concessions for children, tertiary students, the elderly and other targeted groups.

But how do we ensure that we’re catering to the needs of other, more vulnerable groups?

Customers shouldn’t feel forced to join the smartphone “revolution” in order to live their daily life: they can feel discriminated against by a lack of alternative options for topping up, preventing them from accessing the convenience of a smartcard. In Wellington and Whangarei in New Zealand, Snapper has taken several measures to ensure that our service is available to everyone.

Not everyone has access to a smartphone?

Solution 1: self-service kiosks

Located at convenient locations around the city, our free-standing kiosks have recently undergone a major upgrade meaning that the services provided by the unmanned kiosks range from top-ups and balance checking right through to the collection of tokens and credits. There is no additional fee for using the kiosks and there is no internet or mobile connection required – just tap your smartcard to the reader and go.

Solution 2: retail reload

Retail reloads (top-ups) are also available via Snapper’s retail partner network – these account for around 70% of all top-ups and are a convenient option that accepts cash payment.

Solution 3: online

Being a more mature technology, the internet is now more readily available and is widely used across all age groups. The graph below shows the preferred methods for banking across all age groups. Surprisingly, online is the preferred banking method for all age groups in the US, including those aged 65 and over. Ensuring that customers are able to check their balance online provides peace of mind by allowing all users to prepare for travel before leaving the house.

Credit data: – U.S citizens 

Not everyone has access to public transport?

Solution: Total Mobility Scheme

In the Wellington region, Snapper has partnered with the Greater Wellington Regional Council in providing smartcards for the Total Mobility service offered to eligible citizens. The service provides door-to-door travel (via local transport businesses such as taxi companies) for those with a disability causing impairment to use the usual forms of public transport.

Total Mobility also offers a substantial discount, making transport affordable for those who may be unable to earn an income, whilst Snapper ensures that paying for the service is simple and stress-free via its smartcard system. Most importantly it provides an important option to enable those with disabilities to fully participate in society.

In conclusion, as an industry whose focus is to serve the needs of the many, it is easy for us to neglect the needs of the few – even though they are often the ones who need us the most.

Want to catch up with Snapper Services? CEO Miki Szikszai will be attending the UITP Summit in Montreal, 15-17 May. Feel free to drop us line if you’d like to schedule a meeting.

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