Have a chat with the ticket machine

At some central stations in Frankfurt, bus and train customers can now get advice via video at ticket machines. Before doing this, you have to find a rather nondescript yellow button.

“What can I do for you?” Manfred Berg tests the video chat

DThe upper body bent forward, the ear very close to the loudspeaker: Manfred Berg is standing at the ticket machine at the Höchst bus station in the west of Frankfurt. “I’m in Höchst and want to go to Sindlingen cemetery,” he says. “One moment please,” replies a friendly voice: “In two minutes, bus line 54 will go to Sindlingen.”

Since Tuesday, passengers at the bus station in Höchst can also get video advice from employees of Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt (VGF) and the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at a ticket machine. You can also purchase your tickets this way. To explain the new function, the VGF distributed information brochures on Tuesday and tried out the video consultation together with customers.

Press the yellow button

“Talk to me!” Is written in large turquoise letters on the ticket machines. If you want to be connected to the employees who are sitting in front of their computers in Frankfurt, you have to tap with your finger on the unfortunately rather inconspicuous yellow button in the top right corner of the picture that says “start video consultation”. Next, the machine asks whether the customer agrees to the data protection regulations. Since the conversation is a video call, the employees in the Frankfurt office can see the person they are talking to standing in front of the machine. The recordings are not saved.

If the customer taps “yes”, the connection will be established. It takes a moment for the video of an employee to appear on the machine’s screen, who is sitting in front of his screen with a headset, introducing himself in a friendly manner and asking what he can do for you. They can be of particular help when choosing a ticket or looking for the fastest connection. As soon as the customer has raised his or her request, the video of the VGF employee disappears and instead the display board can be seen, which is also normally displayed on the machine. However, it is now operated by the connected employee, so that customers are not only shown how they can get the corresponding ticket in the future, but passengers can also pay immediately. The payment process is then carried out as usual at the machine – by card or cash.

Test over two years

This new function, which is already available at vending machines at Willy-Brandt-Platz and in Bornheim-Mitte and since Tuesday also at the Hauptwache and the Festhalle-Messe station, both in the B-levels, is intended to make it easier for older people in particular to find your way around the large selection of different types of tickets and means of transport. For two years it will be tested how the video consultation is accepted before a decision is made as to whether and in what form the function will find its way into other machines. The project is organized by VGF, RMV and the local transport company Traffiq.

Manfred Berg is not yet convinced after the demonstration. “I would not do that. I can’t do that, I don’t have a computer or anything, ”says the seventy-seven year old. He would find a bit of advice to be a good thing: “There are now so many functions on the machines that I can’t even find my way around.” Apart from the distrust of video calls, there are also technical difficulties: Not only that one is very loud and clear in speak to the machine so that employees can hear you on the other end of the line. At the train station, where buses are constantly parked and un parked, it is so loud that it is extremely difficult to hear the employees’ answers acoustically. But, as the VGF employees emphasize: “We are still in the test phase.”