Open fare collection has been piloted on trunk route 550 since autumn 2013. Open fare collection means that passengers can board through both front and middle doors if they pay their fares with a Travel Card. Those who have a valid season ticket, do not need to show their cards to the reader. Value tickets are purchased at a card reader available both next to the driver and by the middle doors. Drivers sell single tickets.
Improved reliability, increased ridership
Open fare collection has improved the punctuality and reliability of route 550. Variation in dwell times and total journey times has clearly decreased and the buses keep to their timetable better. At the same time, the route’s ridership has significantly increased. At present, there are nearly 40,000 passengers on weekdays while in autumn 2013 the figure was about 30,000. Despite the increased ridership, no new buses have been needed on the route. At peak times, 33 buses run on the route every 3 – 5 minutes, at other times there are 13 buses running every 10 minutes.
If the open fare collection was discontinued on route 550, more buses would be needed to maintain the punctuality and reliability of the route. One extra vehicle would costs 200,000 – 400,000 euros a year depending on whether the extra vehicle would operate only at peak times or throughout the day. At present, the operating costs of route 550 are about 7.7 million euros a year.
Passengers have been extremely satisfied with route 550. The route received its highest ratings in HSL’s customer satisfaction survey in autumn 2013 when new buses, the orange color scheme and open fare collection were introduced. The number of satisfied passengers went up to 93 per cent. Passengers’ opinion on open fare collection has not been systematically studied.
Drivers have mainly positive experiences of open fare collection. According to their estimates, however, dwell times could be shortened if getting on and off the buses could be made smoother. Now only few passengers board the buses through the front doors while most try to squeeze in through the middle doors.
Pros and cons weighted
Open fare collection has increased fare dodging. On route 550, the percentage of fare dodgers is on average 3 per cent, on other bus routes the figure is only 0.7 per cent. On route 550, the loss of ticket revenue is estimated to be 300,000 euros a year. Open fare collection calls for increasing the number of ticket inspectors.
On the basis of the pilot, open fare collection has its pros and cons but the cost effects offset each other: The loss of ticket revenue and increasing the number of ticket inspectors increase net costs but savings are achieved by service operation and effective use of the fleet. Satisfied passengers and transport staff is another benefit.
The Executive Board of HSL decided on 14 April to make open fare collection permanent on trunk route buses from the beginning of the winter timetable season 2015. There will be open fare collection also on the new transverse trunk route 560 Vuosaari - Mellunmäki - Kontula - Malmi - Paloheinä - Myyrmäki, which will start running on 10 August.