Why Amsterdam is the first stop for urban mobility innovation

June 27, 2024 | By Chapin Flynn

This week, Mastercard is unveiling a new space in our Amsterdam office to showcase something that isn’t there: friction.

We’ve been on a decade-plus journey to enable people to move through cities with ease by enabling transit and micromobility payments with a simple tap of their card or smartphone. At the same time, tap and ride is simplifying journeys and making operations more efficient for transit agencies and e-bike, scooter and rideshare operators.

Now it’s time to scale our vision of a frictionless future by bringing others along for the ride — literally. Our Amsterdam center is a place to showcase our best-in-class technologies and learn about best practices in implementing open loop and encouraging usage. We are also convening leaders to debate and direct the future of urban mobility and working with our experts to rapidly prototype solutions to pressing challenges.

Cities are growing rapidly, and gridlock has returned after a pandemic respite, according to a recent Texas A&M Transportation Institute study. Having more vehicles on the road — from rideshare drivers to delivery trucks — contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change.

The need for better, more inclusive mobility solutions is great, but so is the opportunity. In cities around the world, transit systems are aiming to grow ridership by delivering an improved customer experience while attempting to modernize infrastructure. Private e-bike and scooter operators, too, are looking for ways to streamline the registration process, which often makes potential users give up before their first ride. Our leadership in contactless ticketing — also called open loop — has helped agencies and operators from New York to London to Sydney do just that.

We chose Amsterdam because the Netherlands is an epicenter of seamless mobility, implementing, with our help, what is believed to be the first national tap-and-ride ticketing system in the world.

Any visit to our transit showcase will start with a trip across the city — tapping your way via train, tram, metro, bus and ferry. Back at our office, you’ll find a bright yellow e-bike equipped for contactless payments, like the hundreds you can find in Lahti, Finland, where we worked with Freebike to enable tap and ride last year. Think open loop is an investment only suitable for big cities? With Mastercard’s Cloud Commerce software, any smartphone can be turned into a contactless payment acceptance device — mounted one on your bus, and it’s tap-and-ride ready.

Our mobility efforts extend to creating more streamlined and intuitive payment experiences for drivers, including fueling, parking, tolling and EV charging, so you can also  watch how Mercedes-Benz drivers can make payments via a fingerprint sensor in their dashboard entertainment system.

Navigating cities with inclusion in mind

As open-loop payments become the norm, we are also working purposefully with cities and transit authorities to ensure that there are simple and effective solutions for unbanked and underbanked riders.

A recent study by the Mastercard Economics Institute on so-called transit deserts found that a lack of access to public transit deepens socioeconomic divides, with significantly higher household income and education levels where public transit was more available. Often, low-income populations can’t afford to live close to a metro line or are priced out when one is built.

You cannot be financially included when you’re physically excluded. If you don’t have access to transit, you often don’t have access to healthcare, employment or education. You don’t have access to opportunity.

And that’s why we’re looking to extend the tap-and-ride experience from the first mile to the last mile. When we apply open loop to other means of transportation, there’s a cascading effect. We are committed to making it easier for people to move around a city, no matter where they live or where they need to be. We see a positive impact on sustainability and more people pursuing an active lifestyle. We help transit agencies save money and deliver a better experience for their riders.

Still, worldwide, open loop is the exception rather than the rule: Only about one in ten midsize to large cities have significant tap-to-ride capabilities across their transit systems.

It’s clear we’re at an inflection point. Our center shows that the technology and expertise is in place to make urban mobility simpler and more accessible, no matter how a rider chooses to move, be it by train or bus, scooter or bike, or even driving to their destination.

It’s time for the world to get on board. Next stop: Amsterdam.

Photo of Chapin Flynn
Chapin Flynn, senior vice president, global lead for urban mobility, Mastercard