One app to pay for all mobility in any city

Introducing Transit Accounts: a universal solution to bikeshare and public transit payments — with more modes coming, in more and more cities 🛴🚖

Transit
· 7 min read

Here’s the pitch that most new mobility companies seem to be making:

“Hey! Please download our app. With it, you can use 17% of the scooters in your city.”

Other, bigger conglomerates add delicious icing to that cake:

“Not only can you use 17% of scooters with our app — but you can unlock 50% of the bikeshares in your city, hail 26% of the available cabs, and there’s an option to find the bus schedule if you look really hard!”

This is absurd. Thankfully, most people agree. It’s why cities are pushing mobility operators to work together, even ones that don’t want to. One perk of mobility operators working together? Transit Accounts: a new way to plan & pay for every mode, whatever the operator, whatever the city.

No more downloading ten different apps, or entering your payment info ten different times. Today we’re announcing some new systems, like RTD (Denver), Citi Bike (NYC), Capital Bikeshare (DC), Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica), and Cincinnati Metro — big ones, joining a large list of operators you can already pay for, using Transit. But more than adding them piecemeal, the old way — where you had to create a new account to use each system — we’re rolling them all into one simple account that works everywhere, for everything.


How it works

  1. Download Transit
  2. Create a Transit Account
  3. You can now instantly pay for all the following bikeshare systems: Citi Bike (New York City); Capital Bikeshare (DC); Divvy (Chicago); MoGo (Detroit); BIXI (Montréal); Bike Share Toronto (guess what city); Bike Chattanooga (ibid.); Nice Ride (Twin Cities); We-Cycle (Aspen); CoGo (Columbus); LouVelo (Louisville).
  4. And these transit systems: Denver (RTD); St. Catharines Transit Commission (Ontario); a half dozen Ohio agencies (thanks to EZFare); with a few more launching imminently like Southern Nevada (RTC) and Dayton (RTA) and Santa Monica (Big Blue Bus) and Cincinnati (Metro, TANK, and BCRTA).
Every system, one account.

Next up: more modes, more cities.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And getting mobility operators across a half-dozen modes in hundreds of different cities to all integrate payments within Transit? It’s not gonna be a leisurely walk through the Sistine Chapel 😉. But we’re at a point where we support payments for at least one operator in our biggest North American cities, with more joining each month. It was time to roll all those disparate accounts, sign-up forms, credit card flows, etc. into one account.


How? Public transit is leading the way.

The reason you can plan transit trips in multiple cities within the same app (be it Google Maps, Apple Maps, Transit, etc.) is because of something called GTFS. It’s an open data standard that transit agencies use to share where their buses and trains are.

Transit agencies let anyone — even Uber and Lyft — integrate transit into their app with GTFS.

And every agency in North America, more or less, uses GTFS. But agencies don’t stop there. Beyond sharing transit schedules and real-time vehicle positions, many agencies are pushing for even more openness, by letting you buy tickets in third-party apps. When an agency launches their ticketing API for partner apps? We can add their tickets for purchase with your Transit Account.

Folks like RTD in Denver are leading the way in opening up payments. They realized (1) riders might not want to use two separate apps to plan and pay for trips; and (2) many people don’t even have the official RTD ticketing app on their phone.

So RTD worked with their ticketing provider, Masabi, to build an API that could plug payment support into any major mobility app.

It means that transit-oriented apps (like ours) and even ridehail-oriented ones (like Uber) can make transit more accessible to their users.


Cities demand open standards.

As transit agencies lead the charge for open mobility ecosystems, city council is right behind them. Cities like LA and DC and Chicago and Denver all want private mobility operators to be as open and collaborative as transit agencies are.

But while big mobility companies take advantage of public streets and public transit APIs, they don’t always give back in equal measure.

Uber and Lyft haven’t pulled out of our app. But they have shut down their public APIs. It’s a big step backwards, toward a closed, walled garden.

Other operators were better at this: Motivate, a big private bikeshare company, led the charge for open data standards in bikeshare (GBFS). Motivate was also among the first to open up bikeshare payments — facilitating millions of third-party-powered, car-free trips.

Story here

However, Motivate got bought by Lyft, and now the open ecosystem they were building is becoming a walled garden. Progress on third-party partnerships is coming to a standstill; interest in open data has palpably cooled. E-scooters and e-bikes, for instance, aren’t being added to public GBFS feeds — they’re now Lyft app exclusives 🚲™.

The seamless, people-oriented, open vision Motivate used to pitch is taking the (albeit, befitting! 🚖) back seat. At Transit, we have the benefit of having been grandfathered in by the “old” Motivate, hence why we can now sell passes for Citi Bike and Capital Bikeshare, etc. But we’d like to see API access extended to more modes, systems, and third-parties.


Users want open standards, too.

Like Lyft, many mobility operators don’t share APIs. But it’s not because users don’t want them — even average users are clamouring for open data!

In a city without open APIs? The average rider:

  1. Has to juggle lots of apps to find the closest scooter/bikeshare/ridehail
  2. Can’t easily compare price and ETA between different services
  3. Can’t plan a combined public transit + {🛴🚖🚲} trip
  4. Can’t pay for a combined trip with one app, either
  5. Gives up in frustration and takes a ridehail the whole way home

By obfuscating their data and spiking the ball on third-party payments, sure, mobility companies might fend off competitors. But it just makes it all the more compelling for city commuters to take a car. No one wants to stitch together a janky bundle of apps.

Luckily, cities don’t care about which mobility companies are competing with whom — which one has 17% of the scooters and which one has 15% of the scooters but also 22% of the taxis.

What they care about is:

  1. preventing mobility monopolies
  2. making sure operators are accountable
  3. getting people out of their cars

An open, integrated mobility ecosystem is the best way to encourage it, hence why Chicago, LA, DC, Denver, Portland, and other cities are expecting more openness from the mobility operators who use their streets and sidewalks.


More and more cities are promoting open mobility ecosystems by requiring open APIs (PDF).

Be on team open, not on team closed.

Every new mobility company says that they “want to work with cities.” Committing to an open mobility ecosystem is the most obvious, easiest way to do that. Thankfully TONS of cities, transit agencies, and operators are fighting the good fight. Companies like Masabi and Token Transit are making it super easy for transit agencies to expand payments to other apps; bikeshare companies like P3GM, PBSC, NextBike, Shift Transit (and perhaps, the Motivate of yore) are bucking the trend, supporting open data and third-party payments; apps like Spin and Zipcar and Waze Carpool are uniting forces with cities like Pittsburgh in order to reduce their dependence on cars.

With Transit, we let you combine any operator, and any mode, to find the single, fastest trip plan. Now with Transit Accounts, we’re doubling down. We’re working with everyone who wants to build an open, car-free future in EVERY city.

More agencies? More operators? More simplicity?

Soon.


To open up your Transit Account (and to get real-time availability of nearby scooters, bikes, Uber, Lyft, and public transit) you can download Transit on iOS or Android.

Keep in mind: Transit Accounts are rolling out gradually over the next few days! 😘📲


Want to learn more about Transit?

Here’s how we help make ridehail actually serve cities.
Here’s how we’re bringing multimodal to the masses.
Here’s more about our fight for open APIs.

Transit

Building better cities through better transit.

Transit

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Transit

The simple and beautiful way to get around. Available in more than 200 cities. Ready for a spin? transitapp.com

Transit

Transit

Building better cities through better transit.

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