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Public Transportation Pricing in Mediterranean Cities

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Mar 15, 2017 / 0 Comments

Case of the City of Tunis: Evolution or Revolution?
Hurry, it’s urgent!!


Public passenger transportation in Greater Tunis is currently provided by two public operators – TRANSTU and the Société nationale des chemins de fer tunisiens (Tunisian National Railway Company SNCFT), Four private operators, and taxis (individual and collective).  Together, they move 1.4 million passengers per day.  TRANSTU is responsible for the majority of this traffic, moving some 1 million passengers per day.  The SNCF transports 80,000 passengers per day.


The collective public transportation system in place in Greater Tunis is complex, involving several modes and operators working simultaneously to provide service to a metropolitan and regional area.  It is marked also by the absence of a global collective public transportation strategy and the lack of a network fare integration system.


TRANSTU operates the light rail network, the Tunis-Goulette-Marsa (TGM) commuter train line, and a network of urban and suburban buses.  These modes were integrated with the establishment of the Société des Transports de Tunis[1] (Tunis Transportation Corporation STT), of which TRANSTU is the commercial name, with responsibility to maintain the two networks (bus and rail).  A smart ticketing system is being developed across this network to better integrate the two modes.  However, rates are not integrated among the STT sub-networks.


The SNCFT operates a commuter train line between Tunis and Erriadh via Hammam-Lif (line A of the future RFR – Réseau Ferré Rapide (Rapid Rail Network).  Ticketing on this line is still paper-based, with pricing by sector.  However, studies are being conducted on the integration of the TRANSTU and RFR systems of ticketing and rates, once the latter starts operating in 2018.




Private transportation companies (TUS, TCV, TUT, and STC) operate over 30 bus lines within the conurbation, comprising less than 10 percent of the network.  The urban transportation sector was opened up in 1989 with the aim of inviting the private sector to operate a first rate service, in which all passengers would be guaranteed a seated place and for which a price higher than that charged on public buses would apply.


At present, there is no rate integration among the different operators.


The pricing system currently being used on the bus and metro networks and on the TGM line is based on dividing the networks into sections (10 sections for the bus network, 5 sections for the metro network, and 2 sections for the TGM line).  The following are some of the features of the pricing system:

  • A variety of transportation tickets and rate categories (around 280 tickets and rates);
  • Relatively complex organization for sale, validation, and control;
  • The transportation tickets sold on the TRANSTU bus and rail networks are sold as units (or booklets of 10 tickets), weekly cards comprising tickets by sector or subscription passes (monthly, yearly, or for students).


The case of TRANSTU aside, the various operators in Tunis have their own pricing system that is not compatible with the integration and inter-modal operation of transportation modes.

The Ministry of Transportation, which has oversight of these companies, sets the rates and has not made any adjustments thereto since 2010.  It determines, in particular, the rate reductions to be effected, with any loss of earnings assumed by the State, and therefore ultimately by the taxpayer in the form of various subsidies (students, operational, balancing).


The public companies suffer huge losses and it has become imperative to re-examine the business model, as the current model is completely obsolete.

These companies are hampered by a severe lack of liquidity and often turn to State-guaranteed loans to meet their needs.


The challenge now, therefore, is to find other sources of financing and to establish a new transportation pricing structure.  These new initiatives will help alleviate the burden on the State and promote the financial sustainability of the companies.

With this in view, a pricing integration policy should be pursued with the following objectives:


For the user:

  • Ensure the continuity of the network to meet the objective of paying for each journey rather than for each mode used;
  • Be more transparent, particularly in relation to the balance between the price demanded and the service provided;
  • Promote understanding of the rates and reduce the cost of travel demanded by the customer.


For the Ministry of Transportation:

  • Promote the attractiveness of public transportation by highlighting the benefits of a modal shift among customers using their personal vehicles;
  • Promote complementarity among the various collective public transportation networks;
  • Improve the quality of service, particularly by simplifying its usage, shortening of queues, effectiveness of compensation mechanisms;
  • Optimize the utilization of the residual operational capacity of the networks, for example during off-peak hours;
  • Be compatible with the new ticketing system to be rolled out on the TRANSTU and RFR networks as well as with private buses.



  • Limit the economic and financial impact on operators, the State, and users;
  • Reduce fraud, and overhaul the advantages granted through reduced rates and free transportation, justify the rates, and ensure that they are socially acceptable;


A number of prior steps should be taken at the regulatory level:

  • A real organizing authority with agreements with transportation companies on targets and a clearing house for revenue sharing;
  • The possibility of putting in place new sources of financing (such as a transportation subsidy by companies that benefit from the service);
  • Combat fraud by promoting customer loyalty with options such as the creation of new transit cards that meet their real needs, and requiring the payment of a portion of the pass by the employer;
  • There is no doubt that many other sources of financing exist across the globe and so why not draw on them while taking account of Tunisia’s socioeconomic situation.


All these measures should go a long way toward improving the financial standing of companies and should enable them to focus completely on upgrading service quality and on moving to make the necessary investments without waiting on aid from the State, which is already operating with budgetary constraints.

The expected roll-out of the new ticket system by end-2017 has underlined the urgency of upgrading the other transportation companies to achieve fare pricing integration and has emphasized the need to urgently address other forms of transportation financing.

The stakes are high!!



Head of the commercial and marketing department and project director for TRANSTU’s new ticketing system.  Mr. Slimane’s mission is to improve the brand image and oversee the qualitative and quantitative development of the company’s commercial activities.  His main mission as head of the commercial and marketing department is to help general management to prepare the company’s commercial strategy and to manage the company’s advertising through leasing of space (rolling stock, stations, ticketing…).  As the ticketing system project director, he is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the project, while serving as the operational focal point with Xerox Business Solutions, the contract holder.


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