Delhi government’s common mobility card, supposed to replicate London’s Oyster Card, has seen a penetration of less than 3% at its best on cluster bus routes and the proportion of people using it has fallen further over the past six months.
Launched by the Delhi government two years ago, the One Delhi card can be used in Delhi Metro and several buses. According to official data, electronic ticket machines (ETM) are functional in 1,300 out of almost 1,700 cluster non-AC buses. While the exact number of DTC buses where the machines are functional is not available, senior transport department officials said very few buses have functional ETMs at present. With contactless ticketing through QR codes under trial in many buses at present, officials said the popularity of the common mobility cards could dip further.
Data shows that when it was launched in August 2018, only 0.07% of all bus journeys were paid for using the One Delhi card. This share went up slowly over the next few months and by July 2019 it touched 2.28% of all journeys — over 5.78 lakh out of 2.5 crore tickets sold during the month.
Since then, the numbers have dipped with a large chunk of users dropping off in October last year, when free bus rides for women were introduced. According to Transport Department officials, around 30% of those who used buses in Delhi are women.
The continued dip in the usage of these cards even after October, however, is not explained by the free bus ride scheme. Since January this year, the usage of the card has been on a constant decline, and with bus services being affected severely during the pandemic, the usage reached 0.38% of all paid tickets in August.
The common mobility card was supposed to work along the lines of similar cards in the developed world to help make seamless transition between different modes of transport, without the hassle of cash transactions. An official said they were hopeful because of the success of the Delhi Metro card.
“In Delhi, the public transport system is such that the demography using buses and that using the Metro is rarely the same. When the Metro was designed, it was not done in conjunction with the existing bus routes because the city’s bus service was crumbling under issues such as overcrowding and poor maintenance. Those who use the Metro will use autos and e-rickshaws more than they would use buses,” a senior department official said.
The plan to extend the usage of these cards to autos and cabs by installing ETMs was also announced last year. It has not taken off so far.
A look at the performance of Oyster Cards in London shows that around 80% of public transport journeys are paid for using these cards. They can be used seamlessly in all buses, trams, trains and even ferries.
In Delhi, however, not all cluster buses have a working system. In most DTC buses, sources said, the software had developed glitches and the problem has not gone away entirely.
“People accept a system if it works. If ETMs will not work, people have no incentive to use them. If similar machines in the Delhi Metro would stop working, would people trust the card and rely on it?” an official said.
Over the past year, the government has also been in the process of introducing the contactless QR Code enabled ticketing system. A passenger can scan the QR code pasted on the back of each seat and buy a ticket. The project gained impetus because of the pandemic, and transport minister Kailash Gahlot had said it could be introduced in all buses by November.
Gahlot did not respond to queries despite repeated attempts.
Data from Transport for London, the body that manages public transport in the city, show that as contactless ticketing was introduced in late 2014, the share of Oyster card transactions dipped and contactless transactions overtook them by October 2018.
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