The problem is not the UI, it’s the pricing

Bus ticket machine suck. The UI sucks. To get the right ticket, it’s like a treasure hunt. Find where is the place you want to go on the map. Find out how many zones this means for the machine. Is this one zone? Ah and by the way, where am I on that map? In the major cities of Switzerland the pricing based on zones. It makes the UI of the ticket machine super complicated. You have to choose the number of zones. Or you have to choose for a daily ticket. Or maybe for a short ride ticket. But what is exactly a short ride. The UI of these machines can’t be simpler than the pricing.

If the pricing is complex, the UI will also be complex.

We have to build a clear solution to rethink the public transportation pricing. Zones are great for the transportations companies. Especially when there are several companies for a same region or city. They know how much money goes to one company and how much goes to another. And that because each company has its zones. But people don’t think in zones. People think with locations (or streets and number). People know where they want to go, but that doesn’t mean that they know where it is on the map. I know where my friend lives, but I have no clue where this is on the giant city map. Cities like Reykjavik use a simpler pricing for their buses. You pay for a ride. Each time you enter in a new bus you pay a new ride. The ride is quite cheap, so it’s ok because it’s simple. When the pricing is like this, you just buy the number of rides that you need. It’s that simple.

An example of smart pricing

The General Abonnement

In Switzerland, we have what we call the General Abonnement. This is a yearly subscription. It gives you access to all public transportation in Switzerland. It includes trains, boats, buses, trams. It works in each city with every company. You pay once, and you can go everywhere for a whole year. This solution solves for me the problem of the zones I don’t need one. I don’t need to know where I want to go; I just pay for the year of transportation. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just buy transportation ticket for a duration.

Making complex simple

UI can improve things a bit

Of course, UI could improve the zone pricing system. First we could make the zones invisible. Instead of asking people to buy zones we could ask them where they want to go. Then the ticket machine would calculate the best itinerary. It would also count for you the number of zones. You wouldn’t have to know where the place is on this big scary map. If ticket machine did that, tourists would be happy. Imagine a ticket machine connected to a database like the one of Google maps. You enter the name of your hotel as a destination, and it finds the right address. Then the ticket machine tells you what bus to take. That’s one way we could solve the problem of zones. But still, if companies didn’t base their pricing on zones we wouldn’t have to solve this problem. And the UI of the ticket machine could be even simpler.