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Accenture examines transforming the transit passenger experience

The passenger experience is changing in the digital era. Consumers expect ease and efficiency in their public transportation transactions.


If a transaction is confusing, they tend to choose other options. The protocol for hailing a cab is the same in every city around the world, yet the protocol for purchasing a train ticket is different in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris, London or Singapore. Travelers, daunted by city-specific nuances and seemingly complex systems and routes, hail a cab rather than take the more affordable, and in some cases more enjoyable, option of public transportation.

Our goal is to transform the transit passenger experience. We aim to help riders travel, commute and explore their communities with ease, efficiency and delight—giving them more and better Reasons to Ride.


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Transit passengers are a highly diverse group, with a wide range of behaviors, needs and preferences. Take for example the daily commuter. These transit customers may be willing to use self-service channels with flexible payment options. Many also may seek a mobile-optimized experience that can give them more potential benefits during their commute, such as GPS-enabled travel alerts, trip updates and tracking functionality.

Occasional passengers require more assistance than daily commuters. They may be anxious about taking transit along unfamiliar routes. Easy and flexible digital payment options help the occasional rider who may not have cash or tokens at the time of travel. Other features that would enhance this passenger’s experience include frictionless boarding, navigational tools within stations, and GPS-enabled group locators for families or people traveling in large groups.

Then there are first-time riders, who will be unfamiliar with transit routes, ticket purchasing processes, and locations of stations and bus stops. These individuals require more detailed assistance to find their way around the transit system and the city: mobile-optimized way-finding functionality—including trip planning, Augmented Reality (AR) maps, geo-location and iBeacons—as well as destination way-finding can all be helpful.

Key Findings

Digital solutions offer new opportunities to provide a frictionless, useful and enjoyable passenger experience—from trip planning to destination. The opportunities are immense: increasing sales, attracting new customers, building affinity among existing passengers, and delivering a better experience.

Agencies can begin by using analytics to cull through passenger data and provide insight into behavior and expectations. For some, this has been a challenge as, historically, it has been focused on operational improvements, such as route planning or service expansions. Moreover, passenger data has been nearly impossible to capture when traditional fares such as cash, tickets, tokens and early generation magnetic-stripe fare cards do not provide information about the individual using them.


As many transit agencies move toward account-based fare management, there will be more opportunities to gather passenger insights, which can be used to target passenger segments. However, agencies first must establish the appropriate infrastructure and data security measures.

Transit agencies face an important challenge. The number of potential passengers continues to grow and diversify, while the rate of change in the transit experience is at a relative standstill. At the same time, expectation among consumers has evolved—they increasingly expect experiences to be enhanced by digital solutions.

Transit agencies are at a proverbial crossroads—they must decide to invest in the appropriate research and analysis of available data to understand passenger behaviors, needs and attitudes, and then they must be prepared to leap forward to deliver the next generation transit experience—giving passengers more and better Reasons to Ride.