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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Across the globe, transportation services are being reinvented constantly. The public has many ways to travel to work, relatives and leisure activities. Especially in large cities, people benefit from many public transportation options like the tram, bus, metro, train and even new ways of public travel like shared-taxi ride-hauling using an app on a mobile phone. As new technologies develop and stimulate innovations in general, public transportation has become the latest subject of various innovation efforts which can only succeed through transition management of these dynamic and complex multi-actor challenges.

In the Netherlands, a novel transition has taken place during which all public transportation options were updated to allow travel using a single public transportation card instead of buying paper tickets for each separate fare. Starting in the early 2000's by introducing the idea, it was followed by planning and organising all elements necessary for a successful transition after which a four year long, nationwide implementation process of the OV-chipkaart and the accompanying check-in terminals began.

The introduction of this novel payment method for public transportation in the Netherlands has proven to be a large scale sociotechnical transition as all users had to learn the new way of paying for a fare with all available public transportation options while the technology behind the travel card was still improving and unforeseen societal challenges for various interdependent actors appeared. Further, this transition had proven to be a challenging process as multi-actor interactions between transportation providers, passengers, government and technology companies had to be coordinated. To provide a comprehensive analysis of this dynamic sociotechnical transition, this paper makes use of transition management governance theory including the multi-actor framework focussing on the implementation strategies applied for the ‘OV-Chipkaart en Poortjes'-project and elaborating on novel concerns which arose due to this transition towards the OV-chipkaart and check-in terminals like privacy, safety and payment methods.

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how the OVCP-project was managed by various stakeholders according to the transition management governance theory developed by Loorbach et al. This paper focusses on why the project is considered a true sociotechnical transition and how this transition was shaped by the stakeholders with additional attention spent on the management of the transition by the core team formed out of the most important stakeholders from the transportation, consultancy, marketing and ICT sector. Also, relevant political parties, operational employees of transportation companies and travellers provided input for the core team. Also, the results of social cost-benefit analyses but not the analyses itself, conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, which include the financial assessments of changes to privacy and safety of the public due to the OVCP-project are included this paper (Hypercube Business Innovation BV, 2016). These help assess and clarify whether the Dutch travellers actually benefitted from this transition initiated by the government and public transportation providers.

This paper does acknowledge the benefits of but does not include an in-depth, technical analysis of the substantial improvement of real-time mobility management, a boost in data availability to conduct data scientific analyses which allows transporters to control and predict passenger streams, which is enabled by the OV-chipkaart. This observation is backed by various papers and reviews directed by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, transporters and data analytics companies (Hypercube Business Innovation BV, 2016; UITP, 2016; Van Oort, 2013).

The OVCP-project is a complex, dynamic and nationwide transition related to many stakeholders, that is why this paper takes a critical look on the project and its consequences. The research question of this paper is;

How was the dynamic sociotechnical transition initiated by OVCP-project managed by the various stakeholders?

Followed by several sub questions focussing on transition management and novel concerns which arose due to this transition.

Why is the OVCP-project a dynamic sociotechnical transition?

How did the public transportation sector in the Netherlands influence the OVCP-project?

Which concerns arose due to the implementation of the OV-chipkaart?

First, a description of the OV-chipkaart is provided and followed by the associated goals of the OVCP-project and its implementation. Further, it is described why the initiated OVCP-project is defined as a dynamic sociotechnical transition instead of an incremental change using recent scientific literature on transitions. Then, the transition period is described using a timeline and specific events of great importance within the transition are outlined. Further, this dynamic sociotechnical transition within the multi-actor framework is analysed making use of transition management governance theory in order to provide a clear understanding of the complex transition accompanied by many stakeholders. Also, this paper elaborates on several arising concerns like privacy, safety and payment methods. Finally, a conclusion is provided on the dynamic sociotechnical transition regarding the transition management governance theory, stakeholder framework and the review of the project by the Dutch government and independent survey panels which focussed on the overall happiness of the passengers using public transportation across the Netherlands.

What is the OV-Chipkaart?

The OV-chipkaart is a travel permit with the same physical form factor as a regular debit card supporting a radio frequency identifier-chip. It allows the owner of the plastic card to travel using available public transportation options all across the Netherlands. This includes the train, bus, metro and tram. Also, it enables the owner of the card to rent bikes and cars facilitated at some big railway stations all over the country. This is a big change and improvement as it makes it easier for passengers to switch from public transportation option using a single, reusable card instead of having to buy a paper card every time they pay for a fare.

The user has to check in and -out respectively at the beginning and end of the fare, making use of the travel modules, RFID receivers located at new gates of railway stations, which restrict accessibility to OV-chipkaart holders, and within other public transportation options (Translink, 2011).

In order to travel, the electronic wallet located in the RFID-chip of the card needs to be charged via money transfer using designated machines placed at public transportation stations. Also, charging of the card can happen automatically if the card is personalized, meaning the card is connected to the owner's Citizen Service Number and bank account. The payment and travel information is synchronized with the online system keeping track of all travel cards in use, storing data like personal data, frequency of use, last travel locations and last charge transactions (Translink, 2011).

This card issued by Translink, the provider of the national public transportation card system, is responsible for maintaining the system and the provision of the travel card. All public transportation companies are co-owner of Translink, which, in a sense, unifies all Dutch public transporters (Translink, 2011). Their mutual goal is to maintain and improve the payment system and deployment of associated with public transportation in the Netherlands.

Goals of the OVCP-project

The ‘OV-Chipkaart en Poortjes'-project focussed on the transition towards the OV-chipkaart and the introduction of gates at railway stations. Transitioning from paper tickets used across the Dutch public transportation sector towards the OV-chipkaart, a functional travel card used for paying for all public transportation options in the country, was a complex process and marks a historic change for both transportation providers and travellers. This transition, dubbed the OVCP-project, had three main goals; Make travelling across the country with public transportation more approachable for the public, provide more social safety and make the transition cost-neutral for Translink (Van Der Zwan, 2011; Voncken, 2017).

Social safety is primarily achieved at railway stations as it only allows holders of an OV-chipkaart to enter the station instead of allowing everyone in before its introduction. Fare evasion is reduced due to the check in and -out requirements at all public transportation options (Voncken, 2017). The travel card allows for better control of who legally makes use of public transportation stations and travel options.

Further, the OV-chipkaart is introduced to make travel easier and faster as only one card can allow access to all public transportation options and it is not necessary anymore to buy a separate ticket for each fare or get a stamp on a punch card. Also, fare prices are being calculated for distance travelled instead of charging prices for separate predetermined regional zone's which were not transparent and charged travellers too much on regular bases. Finally, the smart travel card offers to handle multiple subscriptions for separate travel tariffs during certain hours and days of the week (Translink, 2011, 2011; Voncken, 2017).

Due to the digital footprint each travel card leaves when checking in and out, it allows public transportation providers to manage the deployment of resources and analyse and predict travel patterns. This prediction allows an efficient regulation of all public transportation and passenger travel flows, benefiting both transporters and passengers (Translink, 2011; Van Heerde, Hoogenboom, & Bv, 2014).

The transition

In this chapter, it is described why the OVCP-project is defined as a dynamic sociotechnical transition and which actors are influenced by this transition. Also, it focusses on which actor set which goals for the transition and how these actors are placed within the actor framework. Also, the goals and consequences of the transition towards the OV-chipkaart are outlined.

- Is it a transition or incremental change  define transition!!!

The OVCP-project initiated several historic changes with big, social and technical, implications for the Dutch public transportation sector and its passengers (Voncken, 2017). First, the project was approached rather technically and there was more need to incorporate a more societal approach, which focussed more on transporters and passengers. A lot of attention was given to realise a full, four year transition towards a 100 percent OV-chipkaart implementation across Dutch travellers.

In terms of technical change, it allows transporters to analyse and manage the streams of travellers and occupation numbers of the public transportation options. This proved to be an enormous improvement as it allowed the transporters to act more efficiently and effectiveness. Also, by introducing gates at railway stations which only allow OV-chipkaart holders to pass, more control over who enters and passes through railway stations is introduced.

In terms of social change, this sectoral change strives towards increasing accessibility and safety of public transportation for passengers. Also, the introduction of the OV-chipkaart opened up the possibility to provide a uniform public transportation travel card throughout the nation to passengers.

These fundamental changes, allowing for more analyses and management opportunities over passenger streams, improving safety and restricting accessibility of railway stations to OV-chipkaart holders, are described as a dynamic sociotechnical transition as it affects the elementary way of travel with public transportation for both providers and passengers (Loorbach & Rotmans, 2009).

- Who's goals? + reasoning for how this transition is implemented

While public transportation providers appeared to be the proactive actors in the OVCP-project, the Dutch government initiated the nationwide transition. The government's main motivations were ensuring socially safe and integrated public transportation and enable a system fitted to the demands of providers and the market.

The main goal of Translink, which represents the combined goals of the Dutch public transportation providers, is to analyse and manage passenger streams across all public transportation options improving efficiency and effectiveness of their services. It allowed transporters to predict travel patterns and redesign their schedules, making them more efficient and convenient for the public. Also, especially for the Dutch railway provider this includes maintenance and deployment of extra train wagons when necessary (OVPro, 2017).

- Highlight goals (privacy and PT management according to big data possibilities)

While checking in and -out with the OV-chipkaart does result in some irritation and distrust regarding the use of their travel data and related privacy concerns from the passenger's point of view, it does serve the primary interests of each passenger. Real-time information on collective travel behaviour aids the transporters to fit their services to the passenger's needs (Van Oort, 2013). A misconception can be made that the goals of the OVCP-project are to aid the government and transporters and provide them with more data on its citizens and passengers, but the Dutch government and transportation authorities have been very explicit in the fact that they are equally concerned about the privacy impact big data might have and have strict regulations in place to protect the public.

As the popularity of big data is growing because it is considered to be an immensely powerful technology that can resolve many customer-centred problems (Raginsky, 2014), the public transportation in the Netherlands also had to dive into it. The real-time data generated by passengers allows smart mobility prediction algorithms to analyse the usage of public transportation options, predict the future and adapt its services accordingly. The Dutch public transportation is pretty good compared to other national public transportation services across the world but it is clear that there is room for improvement. Big data analyses and adjustments made accordingly, can result in concrete improvements (Van Oort, 2013; Van Oort, Drost, & Yap, n.d.). Big data helps to indicate where improvements can be made concerning performance, managing streams of travellers and overall happiness of public transportation users.

- Impact on privacy, safety and travelling of passengers and PT industry

According to Translink, the distributer of the OV-chipkaart, the privacy of the cardholders is their most important concern. So, to be allowed by the government and public to analyse the data generated by the cardholders, the transporters came up with a solution; anonymising the data records. This is in line with the Dutch legislation which considers the protection of personal information (Van Heerde et al., 2014). Anonymization makes sure that OV-chipkaart data cannot be connected to the actual person by whom the data is generated. This results in data which does not contain personal information and subsequently cannot be seen as privacy-sensitive data. It is important to note that big data analytics are not concerned with the actions of an individual. Instead it focusses on the travels made by all passengers as these large datasets are useful to predict travel patterns and steer and improve logistics of public transportation providers (Van Heerde et al., 2014).

Transition management

Transition management is a governance strategy approach that aims to incorporate relevant stakeholders in order to broaden participation and interconnect multiple perspectives and goals of these stakeholders. By structuring their shared problems with the current situation, actors can develop shared visions, strategize a long-term plan and define short-term objectives. This system approach focusses on multi-actor interaction in complex networks (Loorbach, 2004).

Applying the transition management approach to the dynamic sociotechnical transition undertaken by the OVCP-project, this paper structurally assesses whether this transition was managed according to the main elements of transition management theory. The four main elements of transition management used in the Netherlands are multi-actor governance (strategic), envisioning and agenda building (tactical), experimentation (operational) and monitoring the transition process (Loorbach, 2004; Loorbach & Rotmans, 2009; Rotmans, Kemp, & van Asselt, 2001). Respectively, These main elements can be described in short as respectively, problem assessment and establishment and organisation of a transition-arena, development of sustainability visions and transition-agendas, initiation and execution of transition-experiments and monitoring and evaluating the transition process.

Further, it describes which aspects, if any, deviated from the application of transition management. According to Loorbach, most governance approaches fail because of lack of methodology. Therefore, special attention is payed to the way the transition was conceptually structured according to the main elements of transition management.

Success factors

In order to accomplish a successful transition, defined by Voncken, director of the OVCP-project, as a transition without loss of customers, decrease of company image and good cooperation with public transportation actors, there has been spent a lot of attention towards aiding travellers to make the transition towards an OV-chipkaart (Voncken, 2017). Several factors which have been crucial are depicted and elaborated on in the next paragraphs of this chapter. Also, these are compared to and tested against the four main elements of transition management: multi-actor governance, envisioning and agenda building, experimentation and monitoring the transition process.

Multi-actor governance

The OVCP-project proved to have a complex agenda and was a historical change for both the Dutch transporters and the public. The introduction of the OV-chipkaart across the whole public transportation sector and placement of gates at railway stations, was pushed to the front of the agenda by the government, especially the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, and the public transportation companies. These main stakeholders started consulting each other and their discussions included various essential stakeholders like consultancy, marketing and ICT companies, political parties, operational employees of transportation companies and travellers. Eventually, it was decided to set up a multidisciplinary core team existing out of team leaders from the various disciplines in order to keep all teams facing in the right direction by governing the transition and keep the needs of the travellers in mind across all disciplines.

This core team agreed to set objectives which are considered to be from the strategic nature; Develop a long-term vision with clear goals and boundary conditions on the OV-chipkaart and gates within public transportation in the Netherlands, set targets and milestones, keep all stakeholders actively engaged during the transition process, set out various transition ways, identify hurdles and determine a clear programme for continuous development of the organisation and communication with stakeholders while keeping the passengers central in the process.

The ambitions of this core team, as mentioned before in the chapter describing the goals of the OVCP-project, are threefold; Make travelling across the country with public transportation more approachable for the public, provide more social safety and make the transition cost-neutral for Translink (Van Der Zwan, 2011; Voncken, 2017). This means that it is necessary to fully implement the use of the OV-chipkaart across the Netherlands including all transportation providers and make passengers feel comfortable using it in a safe environment without invading their privacy.

Envisioning and agenda building

In this part, the core team set the sustainability visions and transition-agendas in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders for the OVCP-project, which is considered to be from a tactical nature. The OVCP-project envisioned a sustainable transition towards the OV-chipkaart and gates by setting a proper agenda which considers the sociotechnical aspects and maintains a client-based approach. This involved including relevant stakeholders in the decision-making and transition process by dividing concrete tasks and setting targets. The OV-chipkaart was intended to be a very simple product in theory but it turned out to be rather complex and dynamic system with many dependencies (Voncken, 2017).

First, the client-application processes at Translink, the distributor and administrator of the OV-chipkaart, had to be improved. Communication and administration processes within Translink had to be redesigned and the cooperation between Translink and public transporters had to be strengthened. Also, a clear agenda was determined to efficiently introduce the OV-chipkaart across all regions and transporters in order to assure that all passengers can travel all over the Netherlands with the travel card. Further, the core team spent a lot of attention on how to approach and convince travellers to adapt the OV-chipkaart with a clear and simple storyline which should be known and used by the communication, ICT and transportation teams to propagate this storyline unambiguously.

As the transition initiated by the project had a large impact on operational employees of transportation companies like conductors, client services and machinists (Voncken, 2017) it was crucial for the transition to organise special instructions and roadshows throughout the country before the start of and during the transition period of four years.

Finally, the system transition was tested in live settings with real passengers in different regions and times in order to filter out errors in the distribution, communication and usage so the transition from paper tickets towards the travel card is of a high quality.


In order to operationalise the transition and reach the goals they set out, the project's core team actively set up and managed over 50 innovation- and improvement projects. Specific targets for improvement were identified and governed by the core team and realised by multiple relevant actors. These smaller projects reached from the introduction of the OV-chipkaart using multimedia, resolving double check-in tariffs until the improvement of the online web application and travel planner.

During this transition-experimentation and -improvement period, a big rise in customer satisfaction was reached (Voncken, 2017). Both the loss of customers and decrease of company image, feared by the entire transition team, did not occur but some travellers were still reserved about the novelties which resulted out of the dynamic sociotechnical transition.

Monitoring the transition process

The transition management approach with active governance proved to be an approach which is very dependent on full integration of various activities by relevant stakeholders across the sociotechnical spectrum. Evaluation of the transition showed that organisation of many different stakeholders, keeping them engaged and ensure they communicate properly throughout the process. The success of the program is due to great cooperation with all stakeholders and clear priority management gave to the three main goals set in the strategic part of the transition. Also, an even balance between customer oriented and project-based handling contributed to this success. Finally, giving separate stakeholders room to act on their tasks and resolve problems while maintaining clear structure and goals aided the transition.

Governing the actor network

The transition towards a novel payment and access method for public transportation in the Netherlands concerns a large scale technological and socio-economic development. This transition is characterized as a long-term process during which multi-actor interaction is necessary.

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