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The easiest ticket in the world? BVG  offers tickets via chatbot

Berlin's public transportation company is taking modern steps in ticket sales. In automatic ticket sales, to be exact: with Chatbot BerTi (short for BerlinTicket). A personal report by //next columnist Markus Sekulla. 

berlin, deutschland - 20. dezember 2016: leere bvg subway train (u-bahn) / metro train in berlin, deutschland.

Berlin and local public transport – a love-hate relationship. Kreuzberg in November 2019: On a rainy day, I’m standing at a bus-stop with my criminally patched-up umbrella, waiting for a bright yellow bus. None comes. After waiting a further 40 rather unremarkable minutes in my wet shoes, I can now choose between any of the four buses arriving at the same time. I’m not exactly in the mood for “Singin’ in the Rain”. So much for hate. At the same time, though, if you look how regularly and reliably the Berlin Ringbahn (circle line) runs 24/7 – or how the BVG communicates on Twitter and Facebook – you can feel nothing but love. 

 

Hello, I’m “BerTi”

Staying with Facebook, the BVG is not only innovatively on the move there in terms of communication – it’s also taking modern steps there in terms of ticket sales. And, in fact, in an automated way, with the chatbot “BerTi” (short for BerlinTicket). According to Carlos Reinsch, BVG’s Project Manager, the BVG would like to use BerTi to provide travellers with day tickets, especially at transport centres like the main railway station or the airport (currently Tegel). These tickets can be ordered via the bot with a few simple touches of the finger, and paid for using PayPal.

Now I could call that a gimmick, as there’s already the BVG app which gives you considerably more payment options. But who wants to have a separate app in every city for the local integrated transport system? No thanks! The best solution is to have everything in a single app, like the German Railways’ DB Navigator. But that wouldn’t help me abroad. So if I were to arrive in Vienna, I would very reluctantly download the local app. The “Ticket” option on Facebook or WhatsApp (or also DB Navigator, of course) would then certainly be a help. Or it could also be Twitter, TikTok or Wallet – any app that you already have on your smartphone anyway and doesn’t unnecessarily draw data volume.

“People are not going to go back to cash again”

What I also like is any option that saves me having to handle cash. If you’d like to hear of something positive to come out of the coronavirus crisis, then it’s certainly the fact that I can now also pay at the baker’s with my contactless credit card. If the founder of the N26 digital bank, Valentin Stalf, is to be believed, people are not going to go back to cash again after the crisis (link in German only): 

https://www.welt.de/finanzen/article206834097/N26-Gruender-Die-Menschen-werden-nicht-zum-Bargeld-zurueckkehren.html

I totally agree with you, Valentin. The BVG is therefore following the trend. And looking at the new mobility service providers of the shared economy, I think you’ll search in vain for a slot for coins on your e-scooter. Here, apps using a credit card or PayPal are increasingly becoming the payment method of choice. Like.

Conclusion

Sales via Messenger are still modest, according to the BVG. And they’ll probably also remain so. But should integration via WhatsApp or the “millennials’ Facebook” Instagram follow – or be technically possible – then maybe this alternative app could indeed turn out to be something. I’d be all for it!

Text: Markus Sekulla