I really like YouTuber kenzy201’s latest post regarding the mysterious disappearance of the ¥170 paper ticket button at JR Kyushu Kokura station kiosks. Kenzy’s simple no frills talk style might look boring on the surface but his analysis is keen and enlightening, the kind of analysis we used to get with good journalists who don’t have the time for it anymore. I highly recommend listening to what he has to say here.
When JR Kyushu revealed the reasons behind their elimination of the ¥170 paper ticket option from JR Kokura station kiosks, it shined an uncomfortable light on their operations. Because of poor management decisions over the past decade that continued JR Kyushu’s reliance on paper tickets at the expense of leveraging SUGOCA, the result was 90% of ¥170 tickets sold at Kokura station were being used for fare evasion. Cheap passage to any paper ticket unmanned station on their system. This is because JR Kyushu has a continued reliance on legacy paper tickets instead of increasing SUGOCA transit card coverage and promoting its use, and because of cost cutting there are an increasing number of staff-less stations that are an invitation to paper ticket fare evasion.
As Kenzy points out, JR East Suica and Tokyu led PASMO revolutionized transit in the Tokyo region to the point where legacy paper tickets are hardly used, over 90% of fares are Suica • PASMO, with the old style transit operator interchange paper tickets already eliminated. There are station entrance/exit areas that only accept transit IC. JR Kyushu on the other hand, and despite having their own card and system, have not done much with SUGOCA. It’s a me too transit card without innovation or marketing muscle. The usage area is limited but more than that, JR Kyushu offers almost zero incentive to use it over paper tickets. No JRE POINT or WESTER-like reward point retail/service platform effort to encourage SUGOCA use and sell services, no mobile roadmap.
It’s a huge wasted opportunity that, unfortunately, has resulted in an embarrassing fare evasion problem that won’t be solved by eliminating a few paper ticket fare options. JR Kyushu management, and certainly SMBC group stera transit, may think that open loop will fix the problems, but it will not fix them. A bolt-on thin client like stera transit needs an existing hardware base to work. JR Kyushu has to fix and enhance the SUGOCA infrastructure they already have first.