Thursday, 9 June 2011

Public transport electronic cards by ATM: UX failure

ATM is the company in charge of the public transport system in Milan.
I have been an ATM+FS (FS = trains out of the ATM control) card holder for at least 3 years. It wasn't an easy process to get the card: I had to apply for it with a module, I got a temporary paper one which I had to show every time to get the turnstile open and eventually I got my personal electronic one. From there on I just had to swipe it and pass through the turnstile. No trouble involved.

Now that I'm staying in Milan for a while, though, I do not need to take the train (FS) any more. So this morning I tried to charge a normal ATM monthly pass on my card at their automatic machine. Yet that pass didn't show up in the list.

To my disappointment (my dark green card would let me through the turnstiles with an integrated ATM+FS pass, why couldn't I use it with a simple ATM pass?) I walked up to the ATM point to talk to an operator. It turned out that "the dark green card is only for integrated passes and trains, to be able to have an ATM monthly pass you have to purchase the orange electronic card - no, the light green won't work for that, it's only for spare tickets and weekly wages - but we can make it straight away".

So I handed him my dark green card, sure that with it he could get any information about me he would need. After all I gave ATM all my data when I purchased it, why couldn't they just access them back? He looked back at me puzzled. "No miss, we need this form compiled and a picture from you". O_o

In the end I got the card, had to pay 4 euros for the pictures and 10 for the card itself. And I got my pass. You can get all if you spend enough time on it. Yet I perceived the whole process as a failure (yeah, that's why I look so pissed off in the picture :P).

It actually came out that ATM has 3 different cards serving different purposes:
- a dark green one: ATM public transport + FS train pass
- an orange one: ATM public transport pass
- a light green one (no identification needed): spare tickets and carnet.

Wouldn't it be actually easier to have a single card for everything?
Else, wouldn't it be much less troublesome and much more efficient if they could get all the data they need from the system once you have purchased any of those cards?

There are times when it wouldn't take much to improve both the User Eperience and the efficiency within a process. This is one.
And they miserably failed.

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