Passenger on railway platform looking at phone


Why is open-loop fare collection better for tourists?

Date: June 4th 2024 | Author: Melanie Haynes

Major cities worldwide will see an influx of tourists over the summer months. Many of these visitors will be working out quickly how to get around a new and unknown city and may need to familiarise themselves with using public transport. Open-loop payment systems and mobility apps are ideally placed to enhance this experience.

What is open-loop payment?

Kuba’s open-loop fare collection systems accept ‘taps’ from credit and debit cards and mobile wallets. Once a fare validator receives taps, they are communicated to a back office and aggregated. The correct trip fare is then calculated and charged as a post-payment. Riders find tap-and-go convenient using the card or smart device they carry everywhere. 

Open-loop fare collection offers many benefits for transit operators. But, ultimately, public transit is for the public, so it needs to enhance their user experience. In addition, Kuba provides a mobility app that offers easy-to-use journey planning, including walking routes, making navigating a new city a breeze. At Kuba, our mission is clear: put our customers – and their customers – at the heart of everything we do. 

Passenger on railway platform looking at phone

What are the benefits for tourists?

  1. There is no need to queue at a ticket machine and get stressed about working out the right ticket to buy. Anxiety can be exacerbated when the instructions are in a foreign language, and you have a line of impatient people behind you.
  2. Travellers feel less vulnerable on public transit if they don’t have to hesitate over how to pay for their tickets. Struggling with a ticket machine is a surefire way to say you are a tourist and attract the attention of pickpockets.
  3. Doesn’t everyone have the fear that they will get it wrong when buying a transit ticket in a new city or country and getting whacked with a colossal fine? There is no need to worry with open-loop, as the system ensures you pay the right fare, taking into account any fare caps.
  4. People trust public transit more than private options as they perceive that public transit authorities are not out to cheat them.

At Kuba, we can see that this works. 

TipTap advertising on a bus wrap in Tuscany.

In March this year, open-loop payments managed by Kuba were activated across Tuscany’s bus network and Florence’s tramway. This was the largest open-loop deployment to date on a European transit network.

The roll-out extends across 273 cities and towns, including 13major cities. One month later, data showed strong passenger adoption, especially among occasional riders and tourists.

Transport operator Autolinee Toscane says that, in that time, 400,000 passengers used the system, and about 650,000 ‘taps’ with bank cards and mobile wallets were received by vehicle fare validators. 60% were occasional passengers, with less than 2 taps and about 50% of cards used on the system were issued abroad. 

By constantly innovating and adopting the latest technologies, we ensure that transit agencies can offer the best service to the broadest number of riders. This commitment to technological advancements instil confidence in our users.

Tourist Experience with Open-Loop Fare Collection in Brussels

Brussels central station

Tourist Experience with Open-Loop Fare Collection in Brussels

I travelled to Brussels with my husband and teenage son earlier this year. I had the opportunity to use its open-loop fare collection system, which was provided by Vix Technology, Kuba’s sister company and a fellow ICM Mobility Group member.

We spent a week in the city and relied on public transport to get around. We are experienced in public transit in our hometown of Copenhagen and other major Northern European cities. However, Brussels was the first city where we needed to use a tap-in system (we have a barrier-free system in Copenhagen, and in other cities, we have chosen to use a tourist travel pass).

The obvious benefit was tapping my phone and getting onto the metro platform without buying a ticket. This was a relief and helped to boost my confidence. I blended in with the other travellers, which hid the fact that I was a tourist.

I didn’t need to understand travel zones, so the worry of not having the correct ticket was removed. Coming from a city with only four metro lines, I found the vast spaghetti map of metro lines daunting.

Although it wasn’t 100% clear what fare I would pay, I trusted the transit operator. When I checked my banking app at the end of the first day, I found that my fare had been capped at the maximum daily rate.

Compared to the tap-in experience, my son used a preloaded travel card with ten prepaid rides. This had a few downsides. Firstly, it was a card that could easily get lost, and it wasn’t possible to cancel. The card is purchased and topped up at a machine, and there is a one-off fee for the card itself. Additionally, you needed to keep track of how many rides you had remaining. Each issue is resolved by using your phone with the tap-in system.