Columbus to launch USA’s first city-managed multimodal transport payment platform


Siemens Mobility will work with its partially-owned Bytemark subsidiary to provide a common MaaS-type payment solution for Ohio’s ‘Smart Columbus’ travel app; the USA’s first-ever platform managed by a city, rather than a transportation operator or private party.

To meet the requirements of the Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) concept, the single-payment system allows for both public and private mobility services to be paid for using a single account-based system. The new payment system will now fulfill the back-end payment portion of the trip-planning capabilities currently provided on the open-source ‘Smart Columbus’ OS platform. With this centralized payment capability, Smart Columbus is pushing the boundaries of current smart city applications by seamlessly including multiple public and private modes of transportation as choices when choosing multi-leg trips; making it easier to go door-to-door with public transportation.


The payment for the entire journey, such as public transit and cab fares, is occurring just once, with the respective fares automatically routed to the right services. The payment platform will integrate all mobility provider payments, spanning both public and private mobility options, as well as multiple modes including bicycles and scooters. One scenario where commuters could benefit is traffic congestion along their typical commute home. Now, with this new all-in-one app, they can identify whether bus, train or Lyft would be faster; and then see how those or other options, such as bicycle or scooter, can take them home for the final mile. Once they choose the optimal route, they can pay for the entire trip at one time.


Following the original Finnish MaaS concept, Siemens Mobility’s vision is to provide easy and seamless access to various forms of public and private transport from a single source: bus, train, car sharing and other modes, according to the needs of the passengers and the city’s transport landscape. Siemens and its subsidiary companies, HaCon, eos.uptrade and Bytemark, provide a unique and holistic ecosystem of digital services and solutions. Bytemark offers a comprehensive suite of Transit Fare Collection solutions that digitize transit passes, tickets and fare media in a variety of innovative ways. The company’s products have been implemented for more than 20 transit agencies including: New York City Waterway, Toronto Transit Commission, Austin’s Capital Metro, and Seattle’s King County Metro.


Created for the USDOT’s Smarty City Challenge, Smart Columbus is a joint initiative of the City and Columbus Partnership, which is using government grants and private investment for mobility projects to improve the region’s transportation system. The goal is to act as a ‘living lab’ and document a working plan and playbook for other metropolitan areas to follow.


“The beauty of such a system is that you can plan, and pay for, your trips more holistically now,” explained Michael Stevens, chief innovation officer for the City of Columbus. “Instead of checking to see which mode is faster, you can actually map out the fastest multi-mode route, utilizing any/all modes of public and private transportation, including bicycles, scooters, buses, and ride-hailing. And then pay for it all just once at the end. This solution truly brings first-mile/last-mile solutions into the hands of the consumer.”


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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.