Consider what a trip from Colorado’s Western Slope to Denver International Airport using public transit now looks like. A traveler must plan and pay for different legs of the journey on separate smartphone apps, transferring from CDOT’s Bustang express bus service to RTD. Juggling multiple applications can intimidate potential riders and dissuade them from using transit at all.
In the years ahead, this trip will look much different, thanks to a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) challenge grant, a program that promotes forward-thinking approaches to improve financing, system design and service in the transit industry. The $687,000 award – part of $14 million in funding announced last week, to support 25 projects in 24 states – will allow RTD and CDOT to work with their mutual mobile ticketing provider, Masabi, and app partner Transit to develop a multimodal trip planning and payment integration feature in the Transit app.
With all elements offered in one place, that trip from Grand Junction to the airport will feel much more approachable. Travelers need to open just one app, Transit, to view a complete itinerary and purchase Bustang and RTD tickets. They will know how long the trip will take and how much it will cost. They will be able to switch between tickets to show the correct fare payment to each service provider. The process will be seamless from the user’s perspective.
And because of further integrations through the project, riders also will be able to use Transit to book a ride on Lone Tree’s microtransit service, Link On Demand, and plan and pay for a scooter trip in Denver. Currently, riders cannot plan an intermodal trip and purchase fares for a transfer among RTD, Bustang, microtransit and e-scooters in one mobile experience.
In announcing the grant awards, FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams said, "As we face this public health emergency, investments in innovation are critical for transit agencies to better meet rider expectations and adapt to changes in our transportation system. We are pleased to collaborate with these grant recipients to develop new service methods to improve safety, increase access, develop more efficient operations and enhance the transit experience for all."
Riders have come to expect intuitive, accessible transit planning options through mobile apps, and transit agencies should adapt to meet these expectations, noted Tonya Anderson, RTD’s senior product manager of electronic fare operations. Through this public-private partnership, RTD plans to create an experience that consumers have come to expect.
“When it comes to mobility, I don’t think customers think about competition between providers, Anderson said. “They’re thinking, ‘Everyone should be working together, and let me have the experience.’”
“Providing passengers with a way to purchase tickets for both RTD and our Bustang and Bustang Outrider services through a single transaction is a ‘win-win’ not only for riders, but for both our agencies,” said CDOT’s Senior Manager of Mobility Operations Michael Timlin. “Promoting and increasing transit use statewide, as well as in the metro Denver region, is a primary goal of CDOT and RTD, and the development of this multimodal ticket platform provides another conduit to do just that.”
CDOT’s Bustang and Outrider services connect rural communities across Colorado, reducing highway congestion and offering a low-cost option to riders traveling to Denver, Colorado Springs and Denver International Airport.
Masabi supports all three mobile platforms on which RTD riders can buy tickets. The transit agency’s popular Mobile Tickets app launched in the fall of 2017, and RTD began selling transit tickets within the Uber app in May 2019. RTD ticketing in the Transit app, which is also the official trip planning app of Boulder County, launched in September 2019. All these services are powered by Masabi’s Justride platform, helping enable innovation and leading the movement away from static, expensive and risky bespoke single instance fare payment systems.
“The real power and value of public transit lies in its ability to transport a person throughout their journey – whatever journey they need to make,” said Brian Zanghi, CEO of Masabi. “Delivering an intuitive, transparent and convenient experience for passengers is critical, irrespective of how many modes of transport, agencies or legs of the trip are involved. Allowing agencies and third parties to work together to deliver a coordinated regional journey planning and ticketing experience using Masabi’s Justride Software Development Kit, while still giving individual agencies the data they need, is an exciting next step in putting public transit at the heart of mobility across Colorado. We are thrilled to be working with RTD, CDOT, Bustang and Bustang Outrider on this project to accelerate innovation and unlock the full power of public transit.”