Commuters trying not to lose their cool and their balance while fishing in their wallets for “exact change” in crowded city buses or ending up arguing with the conductor have relief coming their way. Pre-paid smart cards will render squabbles with reluctant conductors— during the “circus” to get tickets as one passenger put it— unnecessary.
The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) is getting ready to launch prepaid smart cards in a couple of months, a move welcomed by commuters and activists alike, though the latter have a word of caution -implementation should be done carefully lest it end up as another exercise in futility.
Commuters can expect smart cards by the end of August, according to PMPML CEO Mayura Shendekar. “PMPML has floated a tender inviting companies to provide the service. The last date of submitting the tender is June 25. The service should be operational by August end,” said Shendekar. The move comes after the central government directed all public transport bodies to provide the facility to commuters.
“This will not bring transparency and help PMPML understand the travelling preferences of commuters. We will get all data… if processed we will be able to plan services better,” said a PMPML official. There are about 11 lakh passengers who use PMPML services daily.
The cards will be similar to Delhi Metro prepaid cards or a similar facility that Jaipur bus transport department provides. “The card will have to be charged by Rs 100, 200, 300, 400 or 500. The card can be recharged at all the 10 PMPML depots in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. When a card is swiped by a conductor, the ticket fare will be deducted,” said Shindekar.
Commuters welcomed the move saying it will save them from the hassle of arguing with conductors. “If your fare is Rs 5 or 15 and you pay Rs 10 or 20, it’s really difficult to get the change back. The conductor will promise you to pay before you reach the destination, but he will try to stay away from you when you are de-boarding. It has happened a number of times,” said Romit Brar, a student.
Pravin Gangarde, an officer with Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) said it will save at least Rs 50 per month. Besides, he said, it will be convenient as getting a ticket in a moving bus is quite a “circus”. “In an overcrowded bus it’s a circus buying tickets and taking change from the conductor,” said Gangarde.
Activist Jugal Rathi of PMP Pravasi Manch said the project can turn into a mess if not implemented after due planning. “The PMPML is known for botching up good ideas. There’s little planning and no monitoring most of the time. The e-ticketing service launched some years ago is in a mess. While implementing the service they should carry out a pilot project and observe lacunae and then implement it on a larger scale. Otherwise it can turn out to be another avenue for the corrupt to siphon off funds,” said Rathi.