If you’ve ever lived in Chicago, you’ve likely used the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) or Pace trains and buses on your daily commute. How did you pay for your ride? Just a few years ago, you likely owned a chip-enabled Chicago Card that was reloaded at kiosks using cash or a credit card. But, this system is becoming obsolete. In fact, the Chicago Card chip, built from the same equipment that was used to produce chips for the 90’s Game Boy, is no longer being made . All over the world, major transportation hubs are dealing with outdated technologies and infrastructure that will need a refresh in coming years.
Cubic Transportation Systems (Cubic), the subsidiary of Cubic Corporation responsible for intelligent transportation applications, is leading the charge. Cubic holds the leading market position in automated fare payment systems, best known for installing and operating the London Oyster Card, the New York MetroCard, the San Francisco Clipper, the Sydney OpalCard, and the Brisbane GoCard. The company’s transportation operations serve over 38 million people daily . In 2014, Cubic began replacing the Chicago Card with a breakthrough solution for commuters to access three transit systems from a single app. On the Ventra app, users can reload value, get status push notifications, and find real-time bus and train arrival times. On October 20, 2016, the Ventra app hit a milestone with 1 million downloads .
Ventra and contactless payment isn’t the only way in which Cubic is staying on the cutting edge of digital solutions for metropolitan transportation. For example, their NextBus app uses a proprietary algorithm that gives riders a more accurate view into bus arrival times. ParkPlus fuses together smart technologies such as license plate recognition, solar-powered pay meters, and mobile devices. This allows drivers to pay more conveniently through their mobile phones, and helps cities more efficiently manage parking availability. NextAgent combines a virtual ticket office and a video-linked call center, providing support in remote locations.
These products are meant to all feed into Cubic’s vision for the future of transportation, which it calls NextCity. In this new world, a person living in the suburbs would be notified early in the morning about a disturbance on their normal commuter route. They would receive a push notification via mobile phone with a recommendation to take the bus instead of drive. The app would let him or her know when to be at the bus station in order to avoid being late for work. As a perk, he or she might also receive a coupon to redeem at the Starbucks next to the bus station. He or she might rush to the bus station, grab a latte, and happily start the day on time – while the city would also benefit by avoiding significant congestion near the accident site. Integrated technologies would use data on consumer behavior to inform both operators and passengers, allowing information to become predictive and targeted, and to ultimately spread traveler load. Despite increased demand, the availability of trains, buses, and roadways is limited. What Cubic seeks to do is to utilize digital technology to increase capacity through improved efficiency.
Cubic gained its advantage in the 1970’s with its first major automated fare collection contract in San Francisco . Since then, it has installed devices and back office systems and provided services and repairs, all the while staying on the edge of new technologies. Digital transformation continues to push Cubic to innovate – and now, to revamp and replace outdated technologies with next generation systems.
The key trends that Cubic identifies in the space are urban congestion and demand for mobility and convenience . Cubic seeks to differentiate itself by creating and capturing value through using technology to exploit these trends and make systems more useful to patrons and more efficient for transportation authorities. The company’s efforts have already successfully driven new revenue streams from adjacent markets, enabling Cubic to expand beyond its core capability of automated fare collection . In addition to its current initiatives, Cubic may consider taking into account or integrating other modes of transportation that have arisen via digitization – for example, ride-sharing companies such as Uber or Lyft. Cubic is also poised to take advantage of the immense amount of data its apps could collect about not only travel behavior, but a variety of other consumer behaviors. If integrated with other systems, this information could be useful for a variety of constituents – whether that be retailers attempting to understand store traffic or insurance companies seeking driving patterns and reliability. (771)
 O’Neil, Kevin. “3 reasons why the CTA is switching to Ventra card payment system.” http://www.chicagonow.com/cta-tattler/2013/11/3-reasons-why-the-cta-is-switching-to-ventra-card-payment-system/. Accessed November 16, 2016.
 Cubic Corporation 2015 Annual Report. http://www.cubic.com/Portals/0/Investor-Relations-2016/Cubic%20Corporation%20Annual%20Report%20FNL.pdf?ver=2016-01-20-150814-237. Accessed November 16, 2016.
 Cubic Corporation Press Release. “Cubic and Chicago Transit Authority’s Ventra Mobile App Reaches Milestone with One Million Downloads.” https://www.cubic.com/News/Press-Releases/ID/1754/Cubic-and-Chicago-Transit-Authoritys-Ventra-Mobile-App-Reaches-Milestone-with-One-Million-Downloads. Accessed November 16, 2016.