Hello to the habrasociety!
On Friday evening, on my way home from work, I listened to the latest Habr Weekly
podcast and cannot help but insert my 5 kopecks into the topic “Bus Stations Against Aggregators”. For about 5 years we have been developing for a major Swiss project in the public transport industry, and the observations that I managed to make for myself seem to me more relevant than ever to this topic.
Let's start in order. The very news
: “Bus stations, which represent the All-Russian Association of Passengers, sent a proposal to the State Duma to regulate ticket aggregators.” The stated purpose of this proposal is to protect the Russian passenger from gray carriers. However, it seems that the true goal is to protect not the passengers, but the monopoly interests of the bus stations themselves. Moreover, both the solution and they found a truly Russian one: to call for state regulation to help and shift the costs of achieving their goals to private companies (aggregators).
On the one hand, the situation is sad. Instead of developing their high-quality customer service based on digital technologies, bus stations decided to simply impede passengers' access to the service of gray carriers. On the other hand, we will be realistic: the amounts that are needed to switch to Machine to Machine interaction and improve the quality of service are enormous, and the priorities in the issue of financial expenses for transport companies are usually shifted towards material resources.
So, turning to the Swiss example, just a few years ago in Switzerland - a country smaller than our Leningrad region, about 100 transport companies were operating in full force, offering their own auto / railway / shipping. There are more than 15 types of railways with gears in them. It so happened that each mountain was driven by its own train, represented by a separate transport company, which had its own branded trains, rails, ticket offices and tickets; almost every city had its own buses, and ferries across numerous lakes. Their ticket sales systems, if they were interconnected (if they existed at all), nevertheless strongly resembled our transport system: buy tickets for each individual transport company separately. This approach is not very convenient for the user. Imagine that you need to go from St. Petersburg to the Moscow region, for example, to Korolev. You need to buy a ticket for the St. Petersburg metro (1), figuring in your head how long it takes to get to the Moscow station, then a ticket for Sapsan (2), since you can buy it on the Internet; then a ticket to the Moscow Metro (3) and then a bus ticket to Korolev (4). In total, such a thick pack of tickets, a lot of time spent in queues or mobile applications and a whole stack of travel cards that you should always carry with you. It was also in Switzerland, for example, if you are going from Bern to Lucerne with the intention of climbing Mount Pilatus.
Could each individual transport company in one of the richest countries in the world afford the development of its own high-quality digital ticketing system? I don’t think so. Of course, there are giants on the market with a very impressive market share, and therefore financial capabilities. In Switzerland, these are the Swiss Railways (SBB), an analogue of our Russian Railways. However, to get to the SBB train, departing from Bern's main station, from the area near the Ara River, you either have to stomp uphill on foot or use the services of a tiny carrier: an elevator built at the end of the 19th century and lifting you from the bottom of the mountain by one flight upstairs. This tiny company,
which is almost a monopoly on climbing the mountain, employs less than 10 people and all of their main expenses go to the restoration of a rather old building.
The solution to this situation was found in the unification of all transport corporations under the auspices of the transport committee
with a contractor in the form of the local giant SBB, which agreed to take on most of the costs and risks with the ability to recover costs in the future. Thus, having gathered together, they began to build a unified system of tariffing and ticket sales throughout Switzerland. Now, the average Swiss can quite easily select any 2 points on the map of Switzerland on the phone’s application, the date of the trip, after which the money will be debited from his bank card, and a ticket will be recorded on his SwissPass (our Podorozhnik or Troika, personalized only) . At the same time, he now does not need to think at all: what should he take: on the Matterhorn Bahnen train, on the PAG bus or on the SBB train.
We get the win-win situation:
- Small companies do not need to develop their own IT system for selling tickets, everything is bought through the mobile applications of large carriers.
- Large companies are increasing turnover from tickets sold and increased flow.
- The government receives increased tourist flow and all reporting digitally, which makes it easy to adjust prices.
- Residents - minimum price and single ticket.
What does it take to develop such a ticketing system?
- It is necessary to agree and develop a mathematical algorithm that allows not only to search for all kinds of routes from point A to point B, but also to compare the solutions found with those real routes that carriers in this region can offer at this time. Moreover, do not forget that at some point in time, the road can be repaired and blocked.
- It is necessary to identify the traveler and offer him a ticket in accordance with the category to which he belongs, whether it be a student, child, senior citizen, adult or even a dog. And in the future, it is desirable to store this data.
- You need to be able to distribute on the fly the money received for the ticket between all transport companies that carry out transportation on the chosen route, and the services that sell tickets.
- You need to be able to generate a printed ticket based on all the information received earlier in the form that a particular transport company expects (and in the right language).
- You must be able to exchange or renew previously purchased tickets.
- It is necessary to report all tickets to all third-party integrators, so that the tickets of different transport companies can be validated and make sure that at the time of control, the ticket purchased is valid, matches the expected route and the traveler, and was not returned or blocked on the date of the trip.
And a lot of other tasks, each of which is a need for high-quality product management, good architecture, many hours of development and testing, huge budgets.
It is likely that the Russian bus stations are aware of this and admit their insolvency at the moment to solve these problems due to the lack of know-how or at least the availability of those budgets that are necessary to solve such problems. Therefore, I join the opinion of the guys with Habra: awareness is the beginning; Awareness of the problem is the first step in solving it. However, trying to aggressively defend your borders and your market share is not a solution. If you really want to influence integrators like tutu.ru or yandex.bus, it would be better if you invested in the joint development of some cool and convenient services that would bring our Russian reality at least a little bit to the digital future, perhaps this will reduce the cost and remove illegal carriers.