If you’ve never played around with the website Rome2Rio.com then you are missing out.
The Australian startup has created a single portal for making your travel plans a little more concrete. While there are a dozen different sites that will find you a flight from one place to another, only Rome2Rio allows you to map your entire journey from door to door.
I searched on Rome2Rio for options to take me from the CoSMo office in Lyon to the CoSMo office in San Francisco. I’d catch a local metro to the main train station in Lyon, take a light electric railway to the airport, fly to California, then take two different BART trains on arrival before an MTA tram dropped me a two-minute walk from our US office.
In one sense, this is a pretty smooth journey. But this journey could be even smoother. Take the first legs of the journey in Lyon, for example.
The ticket I buy on the local metro is of no use to me when climbing aboard the light rail to the airport less than 15 minutes later. The two services are managed by different companies and so both their ticketing and schedules don’t align at all.
It’s the same in San Francisco.
I can buy a ticket for the BART trains easily enough, but I’ll need a different ticket from a different operator for the final tram trip to the office. While there are special Clipper Cards available that make things a little easier for locals, for a traveler fresh off the plane it is not an obvious first purchase – and even then the schedules of the BART commuter rail system and the MTA light and surface rail are not obviously in sync.
Aligning Ticketing and Scheduling for Better Service, Greater Efficiency
Wouldn’t it be so much simpler if the ticket I bought at the metro in Lyon could also be used to catch the connecting light electric rail to the airport? Or if the simple BART ticket I bought could see me step onto the MTA tram without fearing a fine? And what if the schedules of the various urban, suburban, light and commuter rail operators on either side of my journey could be aligned so that moving to and from the airport was smoother, faster, and more efficient?
For travelers, this would take them closer to a perfect journey. Look again at the trip that Rome2Rio outlined for me and note the 2 hours and 24 minutes of transfer time involved. More than 10% of my voyage from office to office is waiting around for the next mode of transport. Who wouldn’t want to win back that time?
For operators, too, there are advantages to better aligning ticketing and schedules with other operators. Schedules and ticketing that allow a traveler to move seamlessly between urban transport and light rail options only encourages more people to choose that option over the competition of private cars, taxis, or Uber. Transferable ticketing systems increase ridership by helping travelers to feel more confident in unfamiliar cities.
What’s more, studies have shown that the introduction of interoperable ticketing have net positive effects for the transport operators, too, with one study from Norway showing that transport operators were able to both reduce costs while lifting traveler satisfaction with the introduction of an interoperable ticketing system.
Take Advantage of Complexity
There’s no doubt that urban and exurban rail systems are complex, or that the interconnections between rail operators and the traveling public make for complications.
But neither is there any doubt that there are obvious advantages for operators and travelers alike when rail operators choose to align their scheduling and ticketing systems to encourage more trips, smoother connections, and higher quality service.
It’s time for operators to take advantage of their complex systems and extract the value that, right now, remains locked away.