Topic 1 Principles of integrated public transport system

The concept of integrated transport involves combining different modes of transport in order to maximize ease and efficiency for the user in terms of time, cost, comfort, safety, accessibility and convenience. Given the number of variables involved and the different technical and operational capacities of each transport system, good integration is important to develop an efficient public transport system in which there is complementarity.

In short, it is a matter of coordinating infrastructure and planning to ensure continuity of connections between, for example, bus and rail, bus and rail, etc. Rather than acting purely in competition with each other, modes should complement each other. From an operational point of view, this may include integration of ticketing and fares to allow for transfer of users, etc.

An integrated public transport system should contribute on:

  • Increasing public transport demand.
  • A more pleasant user experience and increased user satisfaction.
  • More efficient and cost-effective public transport.
  • Reduction of costs and generation of social and economic benefits of the investment.
  • Generation of environmental benefits, reduction of congestion and pollution.

Graphic creation source: UPV

1.1 Ticketing systems and tariffs

Further reading recommended: 

1- In the mid-19th century, coinciding with the industrial and transport revolution, the first commercial trips and an increase in personal mobility an exchange in the territory took place. At this time, the first transport tickets were issued in paper and cardboard formats to control the use and payment of the service in stagecoaches, railways and tramways.

2- At the end of the 19th century, with the creation of the first transport companies (mainly railway and tramway companies), the first regulatory frameworks for fares, timetables and lines were established. From then on, tickets began to be issuedover the counter” at destination stations. This gave rise to the “ticket agent” and the “ticket inspector”, the latter being responsible for checking tickets on the platform or during the journey.

3- Pre-printed paper and cardboard banknotes lasted until the 1980s, when the mass use of public transport made it necessary to mechanise the issuing of transport tickets. The first ticket machines were installed in metro and “metropolitan” railway stations. A large part of the tram network disappeared with the development of urban bus lines and the unification of fares within the areas of circulation. In this service, it was still the drivers themselves who were responsible for providing the ticket to users, in combination with a mechanical system that certified vouchers (normally for 10 journeys) purchased in advance.

4- From then on, steps began to be taken towards the integrated management of the different modes of public transport. Administrative integration, and above all modal and fare integration with the creation of Transport Season Tickets with a personal ticket and valid for various transport operators (metro and bus), brought about a revolution in public transport use habits. These new tickets and season tickets introduce a magnetic strip system where the coded journey data are located, easy to acquire and validate in the vending and cancellation machines, without the need for physical persons to carry out this task.

5- In the mid-1990s, computer advances made it possible to implement intelligent cardsas a support for the fare system. This new ticketing system is a source of information for analysing demand, offering multiple advantages:

– It facilitates access to all means of transport.   – It allows for the extension of the fare offer.

– It reduces the cost of system maintenance.   – It diversifies and expands the sales network.

6- Today, the challenge is for an integrated fare system that allows a passenger to make a journey involving transfers between different modes of transport with a single ticket that is valid for the entire journey. The purpose of an integrated fare system is to encourage people to use public transport by simplifying the switching between modes of transport in order to increase the efficiency of services. Deploying an integrated fare system requires coordination and cooperation between all public transport providers. Political, technological and project management issues have in some cases caused lengthy delays.

This involves the implementation of innovative ticketing and payment systems for public transport in order to increase the proportion of users. For public transport use to grow, cities must ensure that the pricing and ticketing system is attractive, easy to understand and widely available at new and accessible points of sale (vending machines in different locations, via the internet, mobile phones, contactless payment smartcards…). The new technologies are benefiting these forms of purchase-pay.


Image source:


Graphic creation source: UPV

Use of smartphones and NFC (Near Field Communication) technology for payment in urban transport.

NFC technology, called “Near Field Communication” or “Contactless”, is a way for mobile devices and smartphones to communicate with objects, devices and machines in order to transmit information or authenticate themselves. NFC is a technology that enables wireless communication between devices for data exchange over short distances (10 cm maximum) based on RFID radio frequency. It is different from Bluetooth, faster and more secure. Thanks to this technology, payment in means of transport will be as simple as bringing the phone close to the charging device and the transaction automatically takes place.

For this, mobile phones and SIM cards compatible with this NFC technology are required. In addition, users will have to download an application on their phone with which they will be able to have total control over their transport options at all times, such as: checking their balance, topping up their balance, accessing historical data on journeys made, accessing all kinds of information that the transport service provider wants to offer, for example, changes to a route due to an incident or new timetables…According to the experiences carried out in several cities, the satisfaction of users with this payment method is very high and they have valued this new technology very positively. Moreover, it is also a good solution for transport operators, as in the future they will be able to save on the installation of point-of-sale terminals and recharge terminals for transport season ticket cards.

1.2 Multimodality

The concept of multimodality promotes the integration of different modes of transport and sustainable mobility, combining various forms of public and/or private transport on the same journey, together with the integration of a unified fare system. The implementation of multimodal mobility requires careful planning of transport and urban infrastructure, efficiently coordinating different modes of transport at affordable costs for the entire population and integrating all services into one.

In the search for integration and the promotion of sustainability, the concept of multimodality encourages the use and good access to the “traditional” means of urban transport (metro, train, bus…), in combination with other means such as:

  • Active mobility: walking and cycling
  • Car sharing platforms: carsharing, motosharing…
  • The private car itself and the use of park and ride facilities at stations, etc.


Image source:

The increase of mobility in metropolitan areas is expressed in an increase of multimodal trips. In the improvement of intermodal mobility, the influence of travel time, transfer time, journey time, costs and ease of access to stations is considered important.

The use and success of multimodality depends to a large extent on the convenience of the system. Interchanges become a key element in order to reduce overall journey time. In general, it´s more an integration process than a budgeting process, with inexpensive actions that will facilitate connections, enhancing availability, usability and comfort for the public transport user. A good interchange station (interchanger-intermodal station) aims to facilitate user orientation and to minimise the distance and gradients between different modes of transport. If, on the one hand, the transport pass economically favours transfers, interchanges physically minimize transfers between the different means of transport that converge there.

Example of multimodality public transport:

Bilbao Intermodal is a project to connect all transport in the city. It is an underground station with various facilities, such as bus, metro, train, taxi, lockers, car hire, cafeteria, shops, etc. It has a car park with 526 parking spaces and the latest technology, as well as a central square of 7500 m2 with a leisure area.

Graphic creation source: UPV