Israelis, tourists can now pay for public transportation with all-in-one app

Moovit and Pango join forces to make bus and train rides simpler by allowing users to pay via app; service to start Tuesday for buses, February 1 for trains

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Commuters wear face masks as they ride a public bus in the southern city of Ashkelon, March 29, 2020 (Flash90)
Commuters wear face masks as they ride a public bus in the southern city of Ashkelon, March 29, 2020 (Flash90)

Moovit and Pango, two of Israel’s most popular transportation apps with millions of users, have teamed up to improve the payment and travel experience for passengers. The cooperation paves the way for riders in Israel, starting Tuesday, to get public transit information, help with travel planning and easy mobile payment all in one app.

Moovit, a startup acquired by Intel Corp. in May for some $900 million, is a free, crowdsourced application that provides real-time information about public transportation schedules in Israel and abroad, and as of May was used by 930 million riders in 3,400 cities across 112 countries as of mid December.

The Pango app allows users in Israel to pay for parking, toll roads, rescue services, refueling services and even purchases at Sonol convenience stores. Pango will provide the technology for user accounts and payment clearing in the new app.

The new service, according to a statement, will revolutionize payment for public transportation in Israel as riders will be able to pay their fares via the Moovit app without having to buy and top up a travel card – called a Rav Kav card — in advance, and without concerns of losing or forgetting it.

A bus ride confirmation using the Moovit app (Courtesy)

Rav Kav cards are used on public transportation but can be a problem for one-time users or tourists who do not have the card, as buses have stopped selling tickets on board.

Now, riders can pay using the Moovit app, which will be available on all buses in Israel, and, starting on February 1, will also be available on Israel Railways and the Carmelit underground funicular in Haifa, the statement said. The Rav Kav card, of course, remains as an option for ticketing and payment.

“The launch of mobile ticketing is an important milestone for public transportation in Israel,” said Yovav Meydad, Moovit’s chief growth and marketing officer. “From our vast global experience, we know that making transportation more accessible increases riders’ satisfaction and ultimately their loyal ridership. Moovit now has everything one needs to plan, pay, and ride — all from one app — which makes getting around more convenient and efficient.”

The new app will calculate passengers’ trips at the end of every month and charge them retroactively. The fare for each trip is calculated according to a new formula set by the Transportation Ministry. It calculates the cost of the trip based on the distance traveled between six zones, with a daily spending cap.

With the app, there will be no need for passengers to commit in advance to a monthly, weekly or daily pass. They will only pay at the end of the month for the actual rides taken. Those entitled to reduced rates, such as youth, students, senior citizens and the disabled, will have to submit an application for the discount on the app.

Moovit users have to update to the latest version on their smartphones. On the home screen, they can then sign up for the payment service and begin using it immediately after entering their payment details. When selecting a means of payment, users who already have a Pango account will be able to link their account as the means of payment for public transit travel.

Using the Moovit app to ride on buses and trains. students will still be able to benefit from discounts (Courtesy)

After the registration process is complete, users can launch the Moovit app when boarding a bus and select the “Validate” option. The phone’s camera will be activated to scan a QR code sticker located near the doors of all buses in Israel. After scanning, users will select a destination station or travel distance, tap confirm, and the validation screen will appear. This will be presented to the driver or a ticket inspector upon request.

After scanning the first QR code sticker on the first bus, riders will be able to ride all other buses for 90 minutes without an additional charge, as they do currently, although they will need to scan the QR code on each bus they ride.

The scanning is voluntary, with the system relying on users to report when they have taken a ride. Inspectors and the drivers could ask to see the validation on the app.

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