Easily become a fare dodger

21 Sep 2015 0 Comments , , 3 minutes read

Two weeks ago, I held a session at #UXCGN16 which took Michael Schrage’s idea “Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become?” into account. So I asked myself in which case I have the impression that this question could be applied. And I ended up with traveling with the Cologne public transportation network Kölner Verkehrs Betriebe. They give me the impression, that they want me to become a fare dodger.

I have recently started to travel occasionally with them – mostly because of a bike accident at the end of may. Most of the times, I travel short trips with 3-5 tram stops. Even though I’d prefer to use another means of transportation, I have to use the tram when walking is not an option (because I’m to late or my destination is too far away or just because it rains). But in Cologne there’s one big pain in the ass: paying the transportation fare.

There are several options to pay the fare, but none of them works well. Especially as the ticket system is quite complicated. The first option are vendor machines at some tram stops. Those vending machines sell practically any ticket you would need. You can pay with coins and even ec card – notes don’t work. And it takes quite some time to buy the ticket. Don’t get me wrong: though the fare system is quite complicated, the on screen process works quite well. Until you have to pay. Have you ever had more than 12 Euros in coins?

In all trams, you can find other vending machines, that only accept coins and Geldkarte (for which I don’t how I can get money on that crappy payment thingy). But buying a ticket at this vending machine still takes heaps of time.

Next option is their ticketing app Handyticket. And this app is the worst. It always needs internet connection – which is crazy when you are in an underground tram. There is some connection but as all calculations of fares seem to happen server side it just takes time. As I don’t travel very long distances, it usually takes me more time to buy the ticket than to travel. But wait, you have to buy the ticket before entering the tram. Crap. So if the tram is just at the station, they would want you to wait for the next one (if you wanted to purchase a valid ticket). Great service.

The ticketing system is designed that poorly, that I would call it designed in order to get their travellers to become fare dodgers.

Could they do better. Yes, for sure. Just have a look at ticketing systems like Melbourne’s myki or Sydney’s opal. Tap on when entering, tap off when leaving. Damn simple.

Update 04/10/2015: Two years ago I stumbled upon a project MasterCard and the New York/New Jersey Transportation companies from 2010 where they used MasterCards PayPass feature as a ticket. So no extra device was needed. Thanks two Facebook’s memories function I found it again.

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