After months of delays, new public transport payment apps released

At the end of each month, the app calculates the best discounts based on the user's usage tendencies.

Bus driver works during the coronavirus outbreak, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Bus driver works during the coronavirus outbreak, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
After months of delays, public transportation users in Israel can finally use new payment applications to travel around the country with their phone instead of the traditional Rav-Kav transportation card.
The applications were originally slated for release in April but were delayed due to privacy concerns, among other issues. The apps are currently only available for travel on buses, but are expected to be available on Israel Railways and the Jerusalem light rail as well in the coming months, according to the Transportation Ministry.
Four applications are currently available for public use: The Station by the Transportation Ministry, ANY-WAY by Isracard, Multi-Pass by HopOn and a payment option built into the Moovit app. The applications are available in both Hebrew and English.
While the traditional system allows users to charge their Rav-Kav with either a stored value or a daily, weekly or monthly contract, the applications allow users to simply scan a QR code on buses (and eventually trains) and select their line and destination station. At the end of each month, the app calculates the best discounts based on the user's usage tendencies.
The QR codes are located next to the driver and by the back exit door on most buses.
With the apps, fares are calculated based on the "Ring System" in which the country is split into six "rings" with each ring representing a different fare price. The user's location is set as the center of the rings for each trip. In the traditional system, fares were calculated based on set regions, regardless of the exact location of the commuter.
The usual discounts provided to senior citizens, students, residents of the periphery and soldiers will also be provided in the applications.
Rav-Kav transportation cards can still be used as well.
THE APPS provide a significant advantage to public transport users who were until now stuck with only the Rav Kav option, as paying with cash is still forbidden for most users due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The apps also mean commuters can have even less contact with the drivers.
In the traditional system, the stored value is used like a debit card on buses and trains, with each trip withdrawing the price of a ticket. Contracts come in a variety of forms and are based on time and area, with options for monthly, weekly and daily contracts covering trains and buses in cities, regions or the entire country.
"The new applications highlight the benefits of connecting technology to transportation for the benefit of passengers," said Transportation Minister Miri Regev. "I am happy that, thanks to my intervention and insistence on discounted fares for the periphery and the protection of users' privacy, the applications will offer an accessible and smart service to all Israeli citizens. This is another step in the vision to connect Israel through smart, green, convenient and accessible public transportation."
Many haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel do not use smartphones, meaning that they will not be able to use the new applications. An official in the ministry told the haredi Bizzness news site earlier this year that bracelets are being developed for those in the haredi community that don’t use smartphones.
The ministry is also developing solutions in order to provide them with the same discounts and solutions that will be provided for smartphone users. It is unclear if the bracelets are still being developed.
The switch to payment applications will also save the state money, as the government will no longer need to pay the fee it currently pays to stores where users can recharge their Rav-Kav. The fee is about 3% of every payment or charge of the card, amounting to about NIS 100 million in payments every year. The fees that will be paid to the companies providing the payment applications will be much lower, according to TheMarker.
The companies aren’t expected to get any direct profit from the payment applications, but they will be able to earn revenue indirectly by, for example, recommending relevant services for public transportation users including Bubble taxis by the Dan company, rental scooters and taxis.
Bizzness did ask at the time why the Transportation Ministry doesn’t just implement a system allowing users to pay directly by credit card and have the calculations happen in the same way as they would with the app, but without the need for an app or bracelets. Users can already pay by credit card for trips on Israel Rail and will eventually be able to pay by credit card on buses in Eilat. It is unknown why a system using smartphone applications was chosen over credit cards.