Dublin, Ireland


  • Dublin Bus is the publicly owned operator of the bus network in Dublin. It operates 980 double-deck buses in the city and hinterland of Dublin.
  • Dublin Bus has a 5-year Public Service Obligation contract with the National Transport Authority. The NTA is the tariff-setting authority.
  • The tariff structure at Dublin Bus is based on stages travelled, clustered to four single journey prices in the urban area. Child and schoolchild variants are also available. Cash still accounts for about 50% of all passenger journeys.
  • A wide range of prepaid fare products are available, mostly time-based with unlimited travel during the period. There is a range of bus-only fare products, and other ranges of fare products for combined bus/rail and bus/tram.
  • Electronic Ticket Machines were first implemented in 1989 and have provided the backbone of the on-bus intelligent network. The ETMs were upgraded in 2005. Both generations of ETM have been highly reliable.
  • Magnetic Card Validators were implemented in 1990-1. Smart Card Readers were implemented in 2008. Prepaid tickets have been migrated to smart cards and the MCVs are being phased out.
  • The Rail Procurement Agency is mandated to implement an Integrated Ticketing System. Dublin Bus ETMs and SCVs are required to be compatible with this system. System tests are ongoing at present. Multi-modal stored value and other fare products will be launched in 2011, and will be accepted on Dublin Bus
  • RPA has procured back-office and revenue clearing functions, also live in 2011.

Scope of the Case Study

This case study deals with the Fare Collection systems implemented at Dublin Bus, the public bus operator in the metropolitan area of Dublin.

It does not cover the Fare Collection systems implemented at the rail or tram operators, or any fare collection systems at the small number of other operators of urban bus services, except where this is directly relevant to the Fare Collection implemented at Dublin Bus, and for multimodal fare products.


Dublin has a population of 1.2 million people, the broader metropolitan area population is about 1.6 million people.

Public transport in Dublin consists of the following:

  • Urban bus services
  • Tram/light rail (“Luas”, 2 lines, implemented in 2005)
  • Urban commuter rail (DART, 1 line, renovated in 1984)
  • Suburban commuter rail (multiple services sharing the mainline tracks)
  • Outer suburban/hinterland bus services

Urban bus is the main means of public transport, providing citywide coverage and carrying more passengers than the other public transport modes combined.

Overall, public transport mode share is low, although this varies greatly across the metropolitan area. Public transport has a relatively high modal share for trips entering the central area during the peak hours (>50% on some corridors). This quickly tapers off with distance from the centre. Private car is the dominant mode outside the centre, and for suburban and peripheral travel. Cycling and walking have low mode shares, despite being favoured in policy terms. Taxis are deregulated, plentiful, and relatively expensive, and have a low share of the travel market.

Plans for Metro and additional LRT/tram are well advanced, although the economic crisis in Ireland has made their implementation uncertain and BRT may be considered as an alternative. These policy issues and investment decisions are likely to be determined in 2011-12, and will have major impact on the modal balance in Dublin.

The primary means of travel demand management is parking control, with strongest parking control in the central areas and in suburban hubs. This is primarily based on dissuasive pricing mechanisms, and to a lesser extent on quantity control.

Institutional Framework

Regulation of Passenger Transport

A major transformation of the Institutional Framework was taken place since late-2009, and it continues to evolve. Previously, all aspects of passenger transport strategy, regulation and financing was with the national Department of Transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) now takes on many of these roles.

Certain aspects of the framework remain unaltered. All scheduled public bus services require a licence, which is issued by an agency of national government. Regulation continues to be carried out at national level, the local authorities have no statutory role in passenger transport regulation or development. Subsidy is provided to public transport, through the regulator and at the regulator’s discretion.

In December 2009, the National Transport Authority (NTA) was established with an extensive remit for planning, regulation, development, subsidy management and capital investment in public transport. It also was given an extensive land-use planning brief, traffic management powers, and step-in powers in relation to transportation. The NTA is an agency under the governance of the Minister for Transport, who appoints the CEO and the Board members.

The NTA was originally intended to be a transportation authority for the Greater Dublin Area (Act of 2008) but this was amended in 2009 to extend its remit to the national level, and to become the public transport regulator (Act of 2009). On formation, the NTA took over the strategic planning function and staff of the Dublin Transportation Office, and through 2010-11 the Taxi Regulator and its staff have been brought into NTA. It is currently proposed to merge the Rail Procurement Agency with the National Roads Authority, forming a new commercial State body.

From the outset, NTA took over the oversight and subsidy to the CIE Group companies through new Public Service Obligation (PSO) Contracts. In late-2010, following the development of new guidelines for commercial licensing, NTA became the regulator of commercial bus services, and the relevant functions and staff were transferred from DOT. NTA has, either through its own mandate or through that of the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA), responsibility for all multi-modal transportation services, including ticketing and passenger information.

Public Transport Operations

Córas Iompair Eireann (CIE) is the state-owned public transport company whose business is primarily in the passenger sector (the rail division still has greatly reduced freight activities). It was restructured in 1987 as a group of corporatised companies, such that the Minister for Transport owns the CIE Group, and the CIE Group owns the individual subsidiary companies. Aside from some ancillary businesses such as tours, the CIE Group consists of three main companies:

  • Irish Rail (Iarnród Eireann): has monopoly operation of all mainline and suburban passenger and freight services. It also operates the urban commuter rail services in Dublin.
  • Dublin Bus (Bus Atha Cliath): is the dominant operator of urban bus services in the Dublin Metropolitan area
  • Bus Eireann: operates inter-urban and regional bus services in competition with private operators, urban bus services in the smaller Irish cities (Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford); subsidized local and rural bus services; administers the national schools transport scheme for the Department of Education, in which it contracts out about 70% of the work to private operators and operates the remainder in-house

Until now, the CIE Group organized the internal allocation of subsidies and other finances, and carried out the direct oversight of the companies. With the establishment of the NTA and the PSO Contracts, the governance and institutional arrangements are facing major change, with the individual companies having far more direct accountability to the regulator.

The LUAS tram lines are organized separately under the Rail Procurement Agency, with 10-years operating contracts awarded to Veolia.

Local Authorities

The main metropolitan area of Dublin is covered by four local authorities (Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin, Fingal), and the extended suburban area extends in three other local authority areas (Kildare, Meath, Wicklow). There is no higher-level authority or co-ordination entity for either the four metropolitan authorities or for the greater Dublin area. However, as local authorities in Ireland have never had any mandate for public transport, the lack of such as authority does not have a significant impact on the sector. The one direct area of relevance for the public transport sector is provision of bus priority and traffic management measures. Hitherto, this was done by the individual authorities with some difference in emphasis, but now the Quality Bus Network Office of Dublin City Council deals with bus priority for all of the area. This unit has transferred to the NTA during 2011.

Operator Structure

Dublin Bus is the dominant operator in Dublin. It had a de facto monopoly of urban bus services in Dublin for until about the year 2000, based on the 1932 Road Transport Act, reflecting the national policy of the time. In recent years, the Department of Transport has interpreted the act somewhat differently, allowing some other operators to enter the market on new routes. Dublin Bus is a wholly-owned subsidiary company of the CIE Group, which in turn is a public entity owned by the Minister of Transport.

Over the past decade, some licences have been granted for non-subsidised services from outer suburban areas to the city, and for specialist services such as to the Airport. However, these are negligible in terms of market share of the urban bus business.

Dublin Bus operates approximately 200,000 kms. of service per day using a fleet of c. 980 double-deck buses. Dublin Bus did previously operate articulated buses, but these have been phased out for operational reasons. There had also been a major move towards single-deck buses during the 1990’s, but these have also been gradually phased out and the fleet has reverted to double-deck buses.

Dublin Bus operates from seven depots, most of which are in the city and inner suburbs, with the fleet currently allocated as follows:

Clontarf 85 buses

Conyngham Road 98 buses

Summerhill 103 buses

Ringsend 117 buses

Phibsboro 180 Buses

Harristown 183 buses

Donnybrook 214 buses

Total 980 buses

Key metrics for Dublin Bus in 2009 were:

Passengers 128 million

Revenue €196 million

Costs €292 million

PSO payments €83 million

Deficit €13 million 

Dublin Bus have reduced their fleet from over 1100 buses due to two perhaps not unrelated factors, and the downsizing is not yet complete:

  • Passenger numbers dropped significantly since 2008 due to the economic crisis, leading to less revenues, bigger deficits. The fleet was reduced in line with the changed demand.
  • The Network Direct project restructures the bus network to make it more efficient and with less duplication. 

Dublin Bus currently has a total of 3,685 staff of which operating staff includes: 

  • 2,545 Drivers
  • 139 Supervisors
  • 15 Chief Supervisors

Basis of Service/Route Award

There are currently parallel systems for Dublin Bus, which is subject to PSO Contract, and to commercial services.

Dublin Bus

In December 2009 when the NTA was established and the PSO Contracts introduced, Dublin Bus was granted a PSO Contract covering all of its then-existing routes. This was done as a direct award (as permitted under EU regulations) and no part of the Dublin Bus network was made available to competitive processes. The Public Transport Regulation Act of 2009 mandated that it would be done in this way.

The Act also stated that the NTA could, when this first contract is due for renewal (2014), put services to competitive processes. At present it is not known whether the NTA will renew the direct award to Dublin Bus, put all or part of the network to tender, or adopt some other model.

While the award of the global PSO Contract to Dublin Bus has been clear, it is currently unclear how it will work on a route-by-route level, either when Dublin Bus seeks to amend existing routes, or if a new route or route variant is deemed necessary.  It is also unclear to what extent NTA will be able to direct Dublin Bus on the services it should operate, or if the planning initiative remains with Dublin Bus.

Commercial Operators

Operators wishing to operate commercial (i.e. non-subsidised) services must apply to NTA (to DOT prior to November 2010) for a relevant licence. The award of a licence and any conditions that may apply are at the discretion of the Minister for Transport. Certain criteria are set out in the relevant legislation, including that there should be a demonstrated need for a service, that the impact on existing licenced services must be taken into account, fitness to operate, etc.

The new guidelines implemented in November 2010 novated the existing Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus commercial route licences, but requires them to apply and be assessed on an equal basis with private operators in all future licence applications. It remains to be seen what impact the new guidelines will have on bus services in the Dublin metropolitan area.

Permits or Contracts

Dublin Bus and other State-owned Operators

Dublin Bus has a Public Service Obligation (PSO) Contract with the National Transport Authority, which covers all of its current services. This Contract is for a period of 5 years. Whether it will be renewed and, if so on what basis, are currently unclear.

The PSO Contract requires Dublin Bus to provide a specified set of services, to specified performance criteria. In the first year, as the system was being established, the performance criteria were very light and were not linked to payments.

From January 2011, a strengthened set of performance criteria and target values was implemented. Achievement of the performance criteria was linked to payment, up to 10% of the full payment could be withheld for failure to meet the targets. The day-to-day mechanism for linking payment with performance appears to be still in formation.

It is unclear whether targets will remain at these levels for the remainder of the Contract, or whether the performance targets will be progressively increased in subsequent years.

Performance targets that are relevant to the Fare Collection system are:

  • participation in the Integrated Ticketing System

The quantum of the payment is not specified in the Contract (at least, not in the version in the public domain), nor is the specific linkage between performance and withheld payments/penalties. It is expected that these matters will be formalized and quantified to a greater extent as both NTA and Dublin Bus gain increased experience in operating through PSO Contracts. 

The other State-owned Operators have PSCs on a similar basis.

Tramway services 

The two tram lines (Luas) are operated by Veolia under contract to the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA). The contract is for operation of the services, and the operator is paid for production and service performance. Fare collection is the responsibility of the RPA.

Other Operators of Bus Services

At present, all other operators of bus services do so on a commercial basis. They are subject to the conditions of their licence and do not have any other form of contract or agreement. At present, no private sector operator of urban bus services is in receipt of subsidy or holds a Public Service Contract.

Allocation of Revenue and Cost Risks

Revenue and Cost risks lie with the Operator.

Dublin Bus receives payments under the PSO Contract (i.e. subsidy).  The amount is set by NTA, although the basis for calculating the amount is unclear. Until now, subsidy is provided as a global amount, and is not itemized by route. It remains to be seen whether NTA will seek to move to support defined at route or route cluster level.

It is known that the amount has been reduced in both 2010 and 2011. A keynote review in April 2011 (McCarthy report on State Assets) recommends that subsidy continue but on a reducing for all of the CIE companies, and this now appears to be Government policy. The scale of the reduction and whether it is targeted remains to be seen.

Dublin Bus carries all risk for both Revenue and Costs. In some years they have generated a modest surplus after receipt of the subsidy/PSO payments. Following the Irish economic downturn in late-2008, ridership has dropped significantly, and revenue with it, resulting in deficit. The deficit in 2009 was €13 million, or about 4-5% of total costs. Dublin Bus reduced its fleet by about 10%, and continues to restructure its network to improve both operating efficiency and revenue yields.

Financial Flows within the System

There are multiple financial flows within the system, each with a different mechanism.

Passenger Revenues

Cash Fares are collected on-board the buses. Passengers place their fare in the AutoFare device, which is then removed from the bus at the depot during the overnight service. Cash is counted, bagged and banked to the Company’s account. These revenues are centralized to Dublin Bus, which then authorizes budget-based expenditure at division and depot level. While the revenue may be notionally allocated to routes for management purposes, there are no associated financial flows, all revenues remain at corporate level.

Dublin Bus Prepaid Tickets (i.e. prepaid tickets which can only be used on Dublin Bus Services) are sold through a network of agents and the Dublin Bus Head Office. The agents are obliged to remit the sales revenues to the account of Dublin Bus, less the agreed commission. While the revenue may be notionally allocated to routes for management purposes, there are no associated financial flows within the company, all revenues remain at corporate level. There is no sharing of this revenue with any other entities.

Multimodal Prepaid Tickets (i.e prepaid tickets which can be used both on Dublin Bus and other transport services) are sold through both a network of agents and the sales outlets of the transport operators. An agreed formula has been derived for the repartition of this revenue among the transport operators participating in each ticket type. The sales revenues are lodged to the account of the selling company (including sales by its agents), they are not centralised. A periodic calculation is made of the sales, revenue distribution, and revenue receipts. Based on this, balancing payments are then made among the transport operators.

NTA-supported tickets (e-purse, Integrated Ticketing System) are expected to be implemented from 2011. An NTA-owned back-office facility will receive all sales and usage data, and will allocate revenues based on recorded usage.

Other Revenues

Public Service Contract payments commenced in December 2009, when a PSC with NTA was established. Prior to this, subsidy payments for all of the State-owned operators were made by the Department of Transport to the CIE Group, which then allocated the subsidy amounts among the various operating companies. Under the PSC system, the Department of Transport provides funding to the NTA, which in turn uses part of this funding to meet its obligations under the PSC. As the PSC is with Dublin Bus (rather than with CIE), the associated PSC funds are now provided directly to Dublin Bus. As with the cash and prepaid ticket revenue, these funds are retailed centrally and any allocation by depot or route is purely notional.

Concessionary Travel  (i.e. free or reduced rate travel) is available to various groups within Irish society. The operators are reimbursed by the sponsoring Government Department on an agreed basis. The most significant sponsor is the Department of Social Welfare (or equivalent, as the Department names and scope frequently change) which sponsors free travel for elders and for people with various categories of disability. The Department of Education funds the Schools Transport Scheme, although this is of minor importance in the urban areas. The funds are transferred to CIE Group, which determines the allocation among the various Operating Companies.

Tariff Setting Mechanism

Authority for setting tariffs for public transport services has been transferred from the Department of Transport to the National Transport Authority. While the NTA has the authority to set the tariffs, neither it nor its predecessor has ever taken a proactive role in tariff-setting. The practice for many years has been to respond to applications for increases to the existing tariffs.

There is no formal basis for calculation of the tariff. Dublin Bus makes application for increases to the historic fares and offer evidence of why such an increase is justified. The NTA (and previously Department of Transport) assesses the application according to its own internal, unpublished criteria. The tariff increase granted (if any) is invariably less than that requested by Dublin Bus and the other Operators.

In January-April 2011, NTA authorized tariff increases for Dublin Bus and Irish Rail at levels lower than those requested by the Operators. Dublin Bus had requested tariff increases equivalent to 6.3%, NTA approved a tariff increase equivalent to 2.1% overall.   In an unprecedented move, NTA published their rationale for the level of the tariff increase. While this was based on rationale and did not provide formulae or calculations, it may be the forerunner to a more formal mechanism for tariff determination.

To date, there has been no formal tariff review period or other basis for review. Neither is there any formal threshold (e.g. increase above a given % of input costs) at which a tariff increase may be considered. Both the decision to grant a tariff increase and the quantum of such increase appear to be arbitrary and political. There have been periods of several years in which no tariff increase has been granted. It is believed that tariff control is used a mechanism to force cost rationalization and efficiencies within Dublin Bus.

Tariff Structure and Fare Product Range

Travel on Dublin Bus consists of a mix of cash fares, prepaid tickets, and Concessionary passes. All of these must be individually recognized, validated and recorded for by the Fare Collection system.

Tariff Structure and Normal Fares 

Tariffs at Dublin are distance-based, utilizing a system of fare stages. A typical fare stage consists of 2-3 bus stops, or about 600-900 metres.

Tariffs are ‘banded’ – i.e. there is a limited number of tariff values for clusters of fare stages. Different tariffs are applied to adults, children (under 12 years) and schoolchildren (under 16 years during school-going hours).

Currently, the tariff structure for Dublin Bus is:

Passenger category


Tariff (€)


















Note: some routes serving outer suburban areas have additional stage bands for the longest journeys.

Standard single tickets are valid only for the journey on which they have been issued, and do not entitle the customer to transfer to other buses to complete their journey.

Variants on the Normal Fare

Other than the child/schoolchild tariffs, there are no variants on the standard single tariff. There are no peak/off-peak or promotional tariffs. 

Dublin Bus operates a limited number of peak-hour express services (‘Expresso’). These have a higher tariff (Adults €2.60/€3.60; Child €1.70/€2.00) 

Dublin Bus-only Commercial and promotional fare product range

The following commercial and promotional fare products are restricted to use only on Dublin Bus services:

  • Monthly/Annual tickets valid for a calendar month or calendar year of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services.
  • Day-based tickets (“Rambler”) available for non-consecutive days of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services. Adult versions are available for 1-, 3,-, 5-, and 30-days; Student versions for 5- or 30- non-consecutive days;  Child version for 5 non-consecutive days.
  • Multi-journey tickets, valid for 10 journeys which allow transfer between Dublin Bus routes provided the subsequent boardings take place within 90 minutes of the first boarding. Adult, Child and Scholar (16-18 years) versions are available
  • Tourist tickets allow unlimited travel on Dublin Bus services for 72 hours from first validation. It includes the Dublin City Sightseeing Tour
  • Nitelink, Airlink are night time services and airport express bus services respectively. These are premium-priced products with their own tickets. The various prepaid tickets above are not valid on these services.

Combined Bus and Rail Tickets

The following fare products are valid for travel on all Dublin Bus scheduled services, on the urban commuter rail line (DART) and the suburban commuter rail services. The urban and suburban rail services are all operated by Iarnrod Eireann, a sister company of Dublin Bus within the CIE Group.

  • Monthly/Annual tickets valid for a calendar month or calendar year of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services and all urban/suburban commuter rail services within the specified zone.
  • Day-based tickets available for consecutive days of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services and all urban/suburban commuter rail services within the specified zone. Adult versions are available for 1-, 3,- and 7-days. There are not corresponding Child or Student versions.
  • Family day tickets, valid for 1 day of travel on Dublin Bus and urban/suburban commuter rail services. Two adults and four children (under 16 years) may travel on the same ticket.
  • Airlink Bus and DART single journey ticket are available for a single trip to/from Dublin Airport, allowing transfer with the urban commuter rail.

Combined Bus and Luas Tickets 

The following fare products are valid for travel on all Dublin Bus scheduled services and on the two tramway (Luas) lines. The tramway services are operated by Veolia under contract to the Rail Procurement Agency.

  • Annual tickets valid for a calendar year of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services and the two tramway lines.
  • Day-based tickets available for consecutive days of unlimited travel on all normal Dublin Bus scheduled services and the two tramway lines. Adult versions are available for 1-, 7,- and 30-days. Child versions are available for 1- and 7- days. Student versions are available for 7- and 30-days. 

Combined Bus, Commuter Rail and Luas Tickets 

Combined tickets for all modes are available as Monthly/Annual tickets, valid for unlimited travel on all of the modes within the specified zone.

There are no journey-based or day-based variants of these tickets.

Concessionary passes and fares

There is an extensive scheme of Concessionary passes in the Republic of Ireland, which extends to the Dublin Bus services.

  • The Free Travel Scheme, sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare, allows various categories for persons to travel free on public transport services, including Dublin Bus services.
  • Application is made to the Department of Social Welfare, and a Free Travel Pass is issued to those deemed eligible.
    • All persons aged 66 and over, and permanently living in the State, are entitled to free travel.
    • Persons aged under 66 years and with various categories of incapacity (e.g. visually impaired, disabled, cognitive difficulties) are also entitled to participate in the Free Travel Scheme
    • Where a person is deemed to require a companion for travel due to incapacity, the Companion may also travel free for such trips
    • There is no longer any restriction on travel hours for Free Travel Passes. (Prior to September 2006, such passes could not be used during peak hours on Dublin Bus services).

Students attending recognized tertiary education are eligible to Student variants of many of the Adult prepaid ticket range.  They are entitled to discounted fares on the longer-distance bus and rail services, although this is not relevant on the urban public transport such as Dublin Bus. Students are required to have a current Student Travelcard, and to carry this with them when they avail of discounted travel.

Associated schemes

The ‘Taxsaver’ scheme is designed to allow commuters gain tax relief on the cost of commuting by public transport. The scheme is operated through registered employers. In essence, it allows the employer to provide tax-free public transport tickets to employees in lieu of part of their salary, bonus or other benefits. Neither tax nor social insurance is applicable to the sum involved. The scheme is applicable only to Monthly and Annual tickets – i.e. it is intended for regular commuters. The Taxsaver scheme does not have any direct implications for the tickets or the fare collection processes, but does have background requirements as the employer must purchase the tickets on behalf of the participating employees.

There is a reciprocal arrangement in relation to Free Travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This does not involve any additional Fare Products or passes, but it does require that the fare collection arrangements recognize and accept the relevant passes. 

Citizens from other EU countries are eligible to various elements of the Free Travel Scheme on an equal basis to Irish citizens. This is particularly relevant to recognition of certification of invalidity issued by agencies in their home countries. This has no impact on the tickets/passes or the fare collection processes, but must be accommodated in the back-office systems – e.g. application screening.

Extent of Integration and Common Ticketing

As described in the section above, there is a wide range of prepaid fare products that allow bus-to-bus and bus-to-rail/tram transfers. Most of these are in the form of unlimited travel time-based tickets. The 10-journey ‘Travel 90’ offers bus-to-bus transfer for individual journeys, but must be pre-purchased in units of 10 journeys.

For single journeys and cash fares, currently there is minimal integration. Dublin Bus does not offer any single trip fare products that allow bus-to-bus transfers, nor does it offer single trip fare products allowing transfers between bus and commuter rail or tramway (there are a few exceptions, e.g. DART to/from Airlink).

RPA’s Integrated Ticketing System will host an electronic purse that will allow the same card to purchase travel on all public transport modes, including for single journeys. It is not expected that there will be an integrated tariff structure across the modes. It is not yet clear what level of discount or rebate will be available for transfer within or between modes.

Management and Oversight of Fare Collection, and allocation of Responsibilities

Overall responsibility for Fare Collection rests across several agencies.

Responsibility for tariff-setting has been delegated to the National Transport Authority within its establishment Act. In practice, the Operators propose the tariffs and the NTA determines what tariff increase, if any, will be approved.

Other than tariff-setting, Dublin Bus is responsible for all aspects of the fare products, fare collection and oversight of its revenues. This responsibility includes:

  • Determining the fare collection procedures
  • Determining the fare collection ergonomics
  • Specifying, procuring and operation of all fare collection equipment and ticket media (subject to requirements for compatibility with the RPA system)
  • Management of the fare collection on the vehicles
  • Management of the prepaid ticket sales and the Ticket Agent network
  • Management of all aspects of the cash collection, counting, reconciliation, accounting, treasury and reporting
  • Management of all data related to its ticket sales
  • All aspects of revenue protection
  • Determining the range and conditions of prepaid fare products
  • Marketing and customer awareness of the fare products, including signage and user information in relation to fares and fare products
  • Customer support in relation to fares and fare products 

Responsibilities are shared among the Operators in relation to the multi-modal tickets. The CIE Group provides the oversight and framework for multi-modal tickets involving the CIE Group companies.

The Department of Social Welfare and other sponsoring agencies are responsible for the funding, eligibility criteria and overall management of the Free Travel Scheme and other concessionary schemes. The Operators, including Dublin Bus, are responsible for the operational aspects relating to these schemes.

The CIE Group is responsible for the requests for the funds under the Free Travel Scheme and other concessionary travel schemes, for revenue allocation formula, and for the distribution of received funds.

The Rail Procurement Agency has been mandated by Statutory Instrument to implement the Integrated Ticketing System. The RPA has responsibility for:

  • Design, development and pilot testing of the Integrated Ticketing System
  • Specifications for equipment, cards, security interfaces, data  and other aspects of the system to ensure full integration across Operators
  • Ensuring full interoperability across the participating Operators
  • Procurement of the back-office systems, including the data collection and revenue distribution applications
  • Managing the contract with the back-office service provider
  • Procurement and distribution of cards for the Integrated Ticketing System
  • Development of the specific fare products for the Integrated Ticketing System, including the electronic purse
  • Marketing and support of Integrated Ticketing System products and services

The individual Dublin Bus depots are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that all buses are equipped with functioning fare collection equipment
  • Managing the data uploads and downloads from the fare collection equipment
  • Organization of the day-to-day fare collection on all routes operating from their depots, and on any ancillary services
  • Organisation and training of the staff, in particular the drivers who operate the fare collection equipment
  • Organisation of consumables (e.g. ticket rolls, emergency tickets), in-vehicle signage, and other day-to-day operational support for fare collection services
  • Handling of the AutoFare boxes, cash recovery and remittance.

Ticket Agents are responsible for:

  • Sales of prepaid fare products
  • Sales reporting and administration
  • Remitting collected revenue to Dublin

Revenue Sharing or Revenue Distribution

All revenues received from the farebox and from prepaid bus-only tickets stay with Dublin Bus, there is no sharing of this revenue.

There are revenue sharing agreements for multi-modal prepaid tickets, as described above in the section ‘Financial Flows within the System’.

Ticket Agents receive an agreed commission for ticket sales.

There is no revenue-sharing or other fare collection-related bonus scheme for drivers or other personnel.  

When the stored value facility of the RPA’s Integrated Ticketing System is implemented, revenue for such fare products will be centralized to the RPA’s system, and this will have a formal revenue distribution mechanism. The precise details are not yet in the public domain.

Fare Collection on Dublin Bus

All Dublin Bus services are one-person operated. In the early 1980’s, almost all services had Conductors. During 1985-9, a large number of services were converted to one-person operation, and Conductors were phased out completely by the mid-1990’s. 

The Driver is responsible for all Fare Collection on the bus. All passengers board by the front door of the bus and are obliged to either purchase a ticket or present proof of payment to the Driver. They will do one of three actions: 

  • Purchase a ticket for travel from the Driver
  • Validate a prepaid smart card or magnetic ticket in the appropriate reader, without interaction with the Driver
  • Display a pass to the Driver

All cash tickets are purchased on the vehicle, at the time of travel. There are no facilities for kerbside or other off-vehicle ticket purchase (this facility is available at the stations for the tramway system). 

When purchasing a ticket, the passenger states either his/her destination or the value of ticket required. If the former, the driver advises the customer of the applicable fare. The passenger then places the cash in an AutoFare device. The driver checks the amount and, when satisfied that sufficient has been paid, issues a ticket from the ticket machine. If the amount tendered is more than the fare due, the driver also issues an excess payment ticket that can later be reclaimed.

Passengers using prepaid tickets should present them to the smart card reader or the magnetic card reader, as appropriate, for validation. An audio signal indicates whether the card has been accepted for travel or declined. If the latter, the passenger should interact with the driver, and either be accepted for travel or purchase a cash ticket.

Holders of various passes present the pass to the Driver for visual check and acceptance.  The driver registers the passenger using a key on the ticket machine.

Fare Collection Technologies used at Dublin Bus

For many years prior to 1989, tickets were issued using mechanical ticket issuing machines designed for conductors (Almex, Setright, Timtronic).

In 1989, Electronic Ticket Issuing Machines (ETMs) were implemented. This was the beginning of a sequence of fare collection and related devices and systems. It also set the platform for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) at Dublin Bus (see separate Case Study in the ITS Toolkit). 

The deployment path of Fare Collection systems at Dublin Bus is summarized as follows:

1989 Electronic Ticket Machines

1990-1 Magnetic Card Readers and launch of magnetic-stripe tickets

1995 Autofare machines

2001 Trunked Radio System

2005 Replacement Electronic Ticket Machines

2008 Smart Card System and Readers

2009 Radio system upgrade

2010 AVL and Control Centre

2011 Integrated ticketing (in progress)

The ETM uses a network approach on the vehicle, whereby the ETM acts as the focal point for peripheral devices (e.g. card readers) with which it can communicate, share commands and receive data for storage. This network approach provides the backbone for most of what has been done since.

The ETM has two distinct aspects, which provided the twin platforms of operational/data generating devices, and back-office/data analysis systems:

  • Ticket issue, cash receipts and sales management
  • Data generation, understanding of the business

First Generation Fare Collection Systems (1989-2005)

Wayfarer Mark 2 ETMs were implemented in 1989. These were multi-button devices with preset buttons for standard ticket types and values, and options to issue open value fares.  The ETM issued paper tickets with various data including route, date/time, boarding stage, fare paid, ETM identifier, etc. One of the innovations was to print on the ticket the name of the last stage for which the fare paid was valid.  This feature was designed to combat over-riding, and was quite successful, leading to an uplift of over 1% in revenue immediately on implementation.

Configuration and route data was set up on the depot PC, and then manually uploaded to the ETM by means of a memory device (‘module’).

Each driver was issued with another memory device (‘Driver’s Module) which was initialized in the depot at the start of the working day. This was inserted into the ETM to enable it, stored all of the transactions during the driver’s shift, and was then returned to the depot for data download at the end of the shift. An ‘end of duty’ report was printed from the ETM which was then included with the driver’s waybill and the driver should lodge the matching amount of cash as the day’s takings.

The ETM holds a full record of all transactions, including individual ticket issue, validated tickets and pass recordings, as well as data entries and events. These are associated with the individual trip, and thus date and route stamped.

Wayfarer Magnetic Card Validators (MCV) were implemented in 1990-1 and remain in operation, although they are expected to be phased out shortly. The MCVs are connected to the ETMs by the RS485 network, received initiation and reference data from the ETMs. They pass their transaction data back to the ETMs for storage and subsequent transfer to the company’s data systems. While the implemented configuration is one MCV per bus, the capability has always been there to host multiple MCVs on each vehicle.

Magnetic Stripe Tickets are credit-card sized with central stripe position. The magnetic stripe is low-coercivity. The physical dimensions and the encoding format, data fields and data values on the magnetic stripe were agreed with the other CIE Group Operators to ensure technical and logical interoperability. This was successfully achieved and provided a stable platform for a wide range of multi-modal prepaid tickets.

The Autofare system was implemented in 1995. Following implementation, drivers no longer handled any cash or gave change. Customers purchasing a ticket on board placed sufficient cash in the Autofare device, the driver issued a ticket from the ETM for the requested fare, and if the cash tendered exceeds the fare, a supplementary receipt is also printed from the ETM for the difference. When the tickets are issued, the cash drops into a safe beneath.

While the Autofare achieved is primary function, it had multiple issues:

  • Very high back-office burden – removal of safes every day, handling the safes, transfer of safes and money, safe management and reconciliation
  • Cash reconciliation and accountability, since multiple drivers may be assigned to a bus during the day, and hence associated with the takings in the individual safe
  • Limited integration with the ETM

This first generation fare collection system did not have any facility for communication to off-bus systems. The ETM hosted an on-bus network so that the ETM, MCVs and any other devices could communicate with each other and exchange data on the RS485 network. However, there was no connection with the radio system, nor was there any other communication channels for radio or near-range transmission.  All data uploads and all transaction downloads were done by means of memory modules which were inserted into the ETM and then returned to the depot for data extraction.

Current Generation Fare Collection System

Dublin Bus needed to replace their ETMs, both because they had already exceeded their design life, and to increase the functionality and memory / processing power. They also wanted to implement Smart Cards and move away from the magnetic card readers that were also past their design life, but in addition were becoming increasingly unreliable.

In 2005, the Electronic Ticket Machines were placed with a newer generation of Wayfarer ETMs. The main characteristics are:

ticket machine

  • It replicates the functions of the old ETM system, with which everyone was familiar
  • The entire fares and routes tables can be held by the ETMs, due to greater memory capacity
  • It supports the Integrated Ticketing System – i.e. the ticketing requirements of the scheme supported by the Department of Transport (this was obligatory on Dublin Bus)
  • Wireless communications are used for data downloads – this removes the previous requirement for portable data modules which each driver had to bring to the depot for download at the end of his/her shift
  • Wireless communication is also used for uploading information and data updates. It is also used for uploading software upgrades, removing the previous requirement to physically change the (E)EPROMs in each ETM every time software was amended.
  • Improvements were made to the cash reconciliation facility
  • Opportunities were taken for further integration

    ticket machine

    • A linkage was made with the electronic destination scrolls so they are updated automatically when the driver enters the route details to the ETM at shift/trip start
    • An electronic tag was embedded in each farebox safe, holding a unique ID. Records are written from the ETM of shift open/close events. A reader in the cash office downloads the data when the safe is being emptied and the cash counted, so it automatically knows which bus the safe has come from, and which drivers were associated with it for that day.
    • A permanent identifier of the vehicle is embedded in the ETM tray (permanent fixture on the vehicle). This is transferred to the ETM and from the ETM to any other device that needs it. It means that whenever ETMs are switched they automatically pick up the vehicle number, and in turn are automatically assigned within the system.

The radios (see Case Study in the ITS Toolkit) are integrated with the ETMs through the RS485 network hosted by the ETM. As far as the ETM is concerned, the radio is just another device on the network with which specific functions and data exchanges take place.

ticket machine

Smart Cards were implemented in 2008. Smart Card readers are installed on the buses (one per bus) in parallel with the MCVs. The SCRs are another device on the ETM-hosted RS485 network.

Handheld checking devices were also acquired, primarily for the RPU function.

 Currently the MCVs are still in service alongside the SCVs. Existing tickets have been migrated to smart cards. At this stage, about 90% of the prepaid ticket transactions are with smart cards. 

The tickets were issued as smart cards combined with magnetic stripe. Passengers continued to use the tickets as before. When Dublin Bus were satisfied that the Smart Card Readers and the Smart Cards were functioning reliably, they began to inform passengers to use the Smart Card Reader. As the card transition had already taken place in the background, it was just a matter of adjusting the validation habits.

Magnetic strip tickets are still used for common tickets with Irish Rail and Luas. The MCVs will be phased out soon as the RPA/DOT’s Integrated Ticketing System comes on stream.

ticket machine

The current Dublin Bus ticketing system supports the RPA/DOT’s Integrated Ticketing System. Dublin Bus have received circuit boards and software from the RPA to be fully compatible. These security modules need to be installed on all devices (ETMs as well as SCVs). The key challenges have been (i) how to get the circuit boards to fit within the available volume of the on-bus fare collection equipment (which is much more compact than the barriers and vending machines used in the rail modes) and (ii) the complexity of the dialogue between the security module and the smart card reader. For the latter, it is a new device for which there is not prior experience to draw on, so there has been something of a learning curve for all parties, but this is now being resolved. There are also some back-office issues, particularly relating to the configuration of devices. 

They have been testing these during Q1/2011, with successful results.

From Q2/2011, Dublin Bus is expected to accept Stored Value Card.

Back-Office Systems

The Ticketing and Cash Counting system are the systems that are primary generators/acquirers of information. They provide feeds to the Cash Reconciliation and MIS systems. The Cash Reconciliation system provides feeds to the Accounts system.

When the RPA’s Integrated Ticketing System comes on-stream, the Ticketing system will provide feeds to a common Reconciliation and Settlement system, which will in turn provide inputs to the Dublin Bus Accounts system.

Off-vehicle Ticketing Sales and Distribution

Off-vehicle ticketing is done through a network of Ticket Agents. The Sales and Marketing Department of Dublin Bus has established the network, which now extends to over 400 Agents with coverage of all parts of the urban and suburban areas. Each Agent signs an agreement with Dublin Bus, and then receives prepaid ticket stock from Dublin Bus, which it either sells or returns.

Dublin Bus also has a major sales point at its Head Office in the City Centre. This is also the issue point for photo ID that is required for all personalized tickets (monthly and annual period tickets), and where customers can receive refunds for excess fare tickets.

Currently there are not internet-based facilities for adding value to prepaid tickets or purchasing additional time periods. It is anticipated that such facilities will be implemented when the RPA launches the smart card-based Integrated Ticketing System and associated stored value fare products.

Revenue Protection

Revenue Protection is carried out directly by Dublin Bus. This is organized as a centralized function with a dedicated Revenue Protection Unit. The Unit consists of a number of squads who carry out ticket inspections and other counter-leakage measures. The objective is to provide a baseline level of checking on all routes, to supplement this by targeting known problems areas with additional checks, and to follow-up on any drivers or areas of below-average revenue and other anomalies.

Since 1989, Dublin Bus has operated a penalty system for customers who travel without a valid ticket for their entire journey – i.e. who travel without any ticket; who underpay/override; whose tickets is not valid by way of expiry, tampering or fraud; or who use a ticket in an improper way; or who do not have photo ID or other supporting documentation required for that ticket type.

Due to the political difficulty in getting new types of fines added to the national legislation, Dublin Bus instead invoked a different mechanism using its power to establish Bye-Laws. A legal mechanism called a “Standard Fare” was established, wherein all persons travelling on a bus were deemed to be liable to pay a Standard Fare by the very act of boarding the vehicle. The Standard Fare is set at a high level determined by Dublin Bus – currently about 40 times the lowest adult fare. The obligation to pay the Standard Fare is waived for any person in possession of a valid ticket for the journey they are undertaking.

By this technical mechanism, a person without a valid ticket is liable to pay the Standard Fare once detected. This can be paid on the spot or within a set number of days. Failure to pay within the set time period renders the person liable to prosecution in Court. Dublin Bus established the necessary administrative system and training to all personnel, and allocated sufficient resources to bring successful prosecutions. The system stood up in Court and has become firmly established.  

Capital costs of Fare Collection System

A detailed breakdown of the capital cost of the Fare Collection system is not readily available. In part, this reflects the incremental nature of the system, and that individual components may be replaced within a stable legacy framework.

The capital cost of the fare collection mostly consists of:

  • Electronic Ticket Machines, including spares
  • Smart Card Readers, including spares
  • Fixings, including ETM tray, wiring, MCV/SCV stanchions/supports
  • Depot-based and central computer equipment and peripherals
  • Smart Cards
  • System software

Operating Costs of the Fare Collection System

The operating costs of the Fare Collection system are not available. After more than 20 years of using ETMs and card readers, this means of fare collection is fully embedded in the Dublin Bus organization and operational methods. As a result it is not really possible to extract the specific costs of the system.

The marginal operating costs currently consist of:

  • Maintenance of the units
  • Support fees for the system
  • Consumables, including printer paper for the ETM and tickets
  • Disposable smart cards 

Benefits realized from the System

The achieved/perceived benefits of the Fare Collection investments have been:

  • Efficient, effective ticket issuing
  • Reliable equipment requiring low levels of maintenance support
  • Secure fare collection system, with good protection against attempted fraud by drivers and other internal threats
  • Good platform for revenue protection and good security against threats of fraud and other malicious attack on revenue integrity
  • Extensive, reliable data on all sales and validation transactions
  • System which is accepted by the drivers and other personnel

There is not a formal quantification or other evaluation of the benefits of the Fare Collection systems. When the first generation ETM system was implemented in 1989, it was estimated that the payback period for the capital and implementation costs was less than one year. This was based on the uplift in revenue, in large part due to printing the point of fare expiry on the ticket.

Dublin Bus notes that some benefits take many years to come through, and would not appear on a contemporary benefit assessment. For example:

  • the original ETM in 1989 established the RS485 network on the vehicle. For more than a decade, the MCV was the only device on the network, and it could have been argued that a network was not necessary. However, the Network is now invaluable, first for the integration with the Radio, then with the SCR and the destination scroll, and now with the AVLC
  • the driver sign-on facility was originally used only for the ETM. It now provides the initialization basis for multiple systems

Experience and Critical Success factors in Implementation

The Critical Success Factors in implementation of the Fare Collection system date back to the initial implementation of the ETMs in 1989-90. The key factors were:

  • Leadership from the Managing Director, for whom the implementation of the fare collection system was a fundamental enabler of his Business Plan
  • Establishment of a Project Team with clear mission and sufficient resource
  • Careful attention to the functional and technical requirements
  • A well structured procurement phase, which included a demonstration period
  • Selection of a reliable, well-proven ETM that had the capacity to accept additional functionality required by Dublin Bus
  • A well-structured installation and deployment phase, which was rolled out on an depot-by-depot basis
  • A well-structured training and information program, including explanatory booklets about the ETMs for drivers
  • Reliable operation from the outset, building confidence in the system, and rapid effective response to the start-up problems that did occur

Despite a few software-related incidents in the initial months, the ETM system was quickly accepted by the drivers as being easy-to-use, reliable and accurate.

The lessons learned in this initial implementation have been carried forward to subsequent technology projects, both for Fare Collection systems and for ITS. 

Experience in Operations

Experience with the Fare Collection equipment

In general, the ETMs work well. The ETMs are suitably functional, robust, and technically reliable.  Failure rates are low and within range acceptable to Dublin Bus.

The Magnetic Card Readers have not been quite as error-free or reliable as the ETMs. In the initial stages (1990-1) there were many problems of malfunction and data corruption. These were traced to a design problem in the connector, which tended to work loose, and when this was replaced this major error source was removed. Further occasional problems occurred with the magnetic stripe tickets, which may have been due to their being low coercivity stripes.

To date, the new generation of ETMs and the Smart Card Readers have shown good reliability.

Fare Collection System maintenance and support

Dublin Bus has established supply, maintenance and support agreements with the suppliers of both Fare Collection and ITS equipment and systems. This includes the regular maintenance and bi-annual site inspections.

There are currently no 3rd party maintenance contractors. All maintenance is done either by the suppliers or by their appointed agents (who must be approved by Dublin Bus).

Dublin Bus recommends this approach and have found it invaluable. At this stage, Dublin Bus have worked with the radio and fare collection system supplier for many years. The systems always need adjustment, enhancements and upgrades, and a good working relationship allows this to be done without fuss or having to launch new procurements – it can be done as a request or if necessary as a variation order. Probably more importantly, their suppliers understand the systems and their history.

Dublin Bus considers that it becomes particularly important where there is integration between systems, and either new functionality must be added or problems identified and resolved. As they need to work with two or more suppliers, it is essential that all parties have good working relationships with each other, and are interested to find a good solution.

Potential Developments in the near future

The main area of future development relates to the RPA’s Integrated Ticketing System.

for future developments:

Technical Documentation

None sourced.

Background/Reference documentation

To be determined.