Ticket issuing machine

Mechanical ticket-issuing machines (TIMs) print paper or cardboard tickets for travel on passenger transport services.

Mechanical ticket issuing machines are of two main types:

  • Designed as a handheld TIM, suitable in ergonomic design and weight for use by a roving conductor. Although designed for portable use, this type of TIM is frequently also mounted on a stand for use by a driver or by a seated conductor. Portable TIMs invariably use plain-paper rolls, although they may also have the capability to stamp cardboard ticket stock.
  • Designed for use in a booking office environment. These may be larger machines, with a wider array of fare product parameters and ticket registers. They frequently use cardboard ‘blanks’ as ticket stock onto which the specific ticket details are printed. The ticket printing and issue processes may be mechanized.

Mechanical TIMs have now largely been replaced by electronic ticket-issuing machines, and are more or less an obsolete technology. However second-hand machines are still widely available should an operator seek a low-cost entry to a more secure fare collection system.

The most common type of TIM used in the urban bus environment prints the ticket details onto a section of a blank or semi-blank paper roll, which is then cut or torn off to form the customer’s ticket. The operator uses a set of keys, button or dials to select the ticket value, the ticket type, fare stage / zone, and any other relevant parameters. When the ticket value and type have been selected, the operator turns a handle causing the ticket to be printed and issued.

For both administrative and revenue protection reasons, the TIM is equipped with a set of registers, indicating the cumulative number of tickets issued and the cumulative total value. In some models, there may be separate registers for each ticket value or type.

Benefits of mechanical ticket-issuing machines are:

  • Provides an effective ticket issuing capacity for urban, regional and inter-urban bus services.
  • Can issue tickets quickly when used by an experienced operator.
  • Does not require advanced skills by either the conductor/driver or the supporting personnel.
  • Does not require an external power supply.
  • Robust equipment and technology.
  • Low cost of consumables (paper rolls, ink), which are easily procured.
  • Does not require supporting IT systems or data configuration.

Cautions with regard to mechanical ticket-issuing machines are:

  • Vulnerable to a wide range of frauds by operating personnel.
  • Does not generate transaction-level data.
  • Data is not in electronic format, and requires manual transfer to manual or automated administrative and audit systems.
  • Need to establish an effective maintenance regime.
  • Need to secure the maintenance of the TIMs, since tampering with the internal mechanisms or registers can facilitate significant frauds.