Delhi; October 4, 2023: Koan Advisory Group, a New Delhi-based public policy consulting firm released a report titled “Transit Payments in India – A Case for Choice and Interoperability”. The study highlights that India’s public transit systems should allow integrated fare payments across different modes of transit, to provide end-to-end payment interoperability for commuters. It is based on a survey of 1,250 commuters in over 60 different locations across four metro cities. The study is a first-of-its-kind report that focuses on the problems commuters face while paying for public transit, and the factors that influence their perceptions of different payment modes.
The report examines recent developments in transit payments in India, highlighting the need for authorities to prioritize account-based ticketing systems over those that solely rely on prepaid card balances. It begins by first identifying the gaps in transit payments based on an analysis of commuters’ responses to an on-ground survey. The study found that 90 percent of commuters use different modes of travel to complete their journey and 76 percent of them want multiple modes of payment-enabled throughout their journey. Interestingly, the survey also found that 66 percent of the total respondents want to use their bank cards at transit entry or exit points.
The report also claims that 66 percent of respondents preferred using a debit/credit card in transit systems, and 63 percent of respondents agreed that it would save them time as they wouldn’t have to purchase and recharge a prepaid transit card.
This trend, in line with India’s evolving demographic landscape, suggests that the preference for debit/credit card usage in public transit is poised to grow over time. Simultaneously, commuters’ reliance on cash and prepaid transit cards is expected to decline. This observation is in sync with the expanding accessibility of digital payment products and fintech solutions, including virtual cards, in India.
Key observations from the survey:
- Over 90 percent of respondents use several modes of transit (such as autos and buses, along with metros) in the first and last miles of their journey. Over 60 percent of them want to be able to choose the fare medium in transit payments.
- Two in three respondents (including 70 percent of millennials and GenZers and 87 percent of international and interstate travelers) want to be able to use their debit /credit cards as one of the payment options on public transit.
- Two in three commuters say that incentives such as cashback offers, discounts, and brand rewards will influence them towards a particular mode of payment.
- Three in four commuters prefer to have multiple payment options for transit fares. Commuters prefer interoperability in payment modes for the ability to choose the most convenient payment option for their needs.
Speaking on the launch of the report, Ateesh Nandi, Koan Advisory Group says. “India’s public transit systems must evolve to provide integrated fare payment options that cater to the diverse needs of commuters. Our study clearly shows that commuters are looking for choice and interoperability in payment methods, with a growing preference for debit/credit cards and digital solutions.
To address the challenges of India’s fragmented transit landscape, it is essential to prioritize account-based ticketing systems that connect seamlessly with users’ bank accounts. This approach will not only enhance convenience for commuters but also pave the way for a more inclusive and modernized public transit system in India.”
The report also discusses how the Union government’s One-Nation, One Card initiative does not address the needs of commuters for inclusive and interoperable transit payment systems. Specifically, since the One-Nation, One Card initiative prioritizes offline payments at transit turnstiles, it does not solve the legacy problems with closed-loop prepaid transit cards. In other words, those cards only work within a circumscribed network of transit turnstiles and require users to re-load stored balances.
The Koan study emphasizes the importance of account-based ticketing systems, which connect with users’ bank accounts through methods like mobile ticketing or debit/credit cards for public transportation. These systems enable the development of unified fare management solutions for various modes of transportation, a crucial factor in India’s diverse and fragmented public transit system.
- As commuters depend on more than one mode of transit, there is a need for end-to-end fare rationalization and integrated ticketing across different modes. Further, payment infrastructure on public transit should be agnostic of the payment option used.
- A choice of payment options across bank cards, prepaid transit cards, and QR-based tickets would create an inclusive public transit system for tourists and locals. Transit payments in India need to be modernized beyond payment instruments that have in-built prepaid balances.
- Their preference reflects a larger shift toward cashless payments and indicates the potential value-addition from data-driven integrated fare management systems.