Digital Ticketing For NEMT Providers

By August 5, 2019

Advances in technology continue to shake up the NEMT/paratransit industry. If you’re looking to enter the field with your own transportation business or to expand existing operations, it’s crucial to keep up with the continuously evolving world of microtransit. 

For example, as transit companies and organizations have embraced digital technology, most aspects of operations have changed. As computers and the internet first became widespread, companies started out with using comparatively rudimentary software to dispatch rides. Today, a NEMT company can get software that centralizes and integrates all areas of operations including route planning, realtime location tracking, ridership information, and even ticketing. 

Although the demographics of individuals who most often use NEMT and paratransit may skew slightly older than average, cellular phones are nearly ubiquitous in this age group, with some 50% of seniors owning a smartphone. This means that some of the most important advances in NEMT operations come with taking advantage of riders’ smartphone capabilities to provide a seamless and convenient transit experience. 

Advantages of Digital Ticketing 

While the industry started out using punch cards or other paper tickets, digital technology is making those methods obsolete. Besides being more work to issue, paper tickets also necessitate that transit companies reconcile ridership numbers, sometimes by hand.

In comparison, “smart” tickets allow NEMT or paratransit operator software to track rides directly from the smartphones of riders. Digital tickets can also allow for other microtransit trends like dynamic pricing to be enacted. This pricing model takes into account the exact length of the route along with how in-demand services currently are, and adjusts the ticket cost accordingly.   

Additionally, NEMT companies with software that provides an app or online gateway for their riders can even collect fares beforehand, eliminating the need for riders to have to carry cash⁠— and drivers no longer have to handle money. This is most often done by equipping the driver with a QR reader that can scan the riders’ phones. NEMT software that provides this option will also integrate ticket sales into the rest of operations, potentially saving bookkeepers an extra step as they analyze cashflow.       

Other Considerations for Transit Provider Software 

Of course, if all the transit operations of your company are going to be digitized into a single program, you need to make sure you’re getting the right software for your situation. To keep up with the industry, look for software that is agile and responsive, with updates regularly being offered. These days, if the software you’re looking at doesn’t offer easy integration with smartphones and a mobile app, you should probably keep looking. For example, a digital payment gateway is a bonus right now, but today’s younger users may expect this feature as standard due to the popularity of TNCs like Lyft

When shopping around, there is another crucial thing to keep in mind besides pricing and available options: how is data stored and kept safe? You need to know that, in the event of an outage or another unfortunate event, the software company will support you with fast and responsive customer service. If your software is handling potentially sensitive financial information from real-time digital ticketing, it’s very important to understand the software’s privacy tools. 

Choosing the Right NEMT Software Provider 

At the end of the day, the software you choose will be the foundation of all the day-to-day operations of your transit business. It’s crucial that you ensure that your business has enough time to do thorough research. Good software companies will even have a free demo product that you can take for a test run⁠—don’t be afraid to go hands-on if you like the features to make sure that it has an intuitive interface and is straightforward to use.

Finally, remember that a NEMT/paratransit program that costs a little more upfront may have features like digital ticketing that ultimately save you time and money down the line. For more on what to expect when deploying or upgrading your transit software, read this article