Private bus commuters from the city to Aluva won’t have to bother about carrying ‘change’ for their journey if all goes well with a smart-card-based payment system.

Apart from boosting the cause of public transport, this would lessen squabbles between commuters and bus crew over change and the balance amount from the fare paid. Despite reservations expressed by a few bus operators’ associations, owners of around 150 city permit buses that are members of Kerala Bus Transport Association (KBTA) are readying themselves to shift to this mode of ticketing.

“Not that it is a must for all commuters to purchase these pre-paid cards. Those who prefer to pay cash can still do so,” said K P Valsalan, KBTA president.

Bus operators embarked on the initiative because conductors are finding it tough to repay balance to over 1,000 passengers who travel in each bus daily. “Apart from frequent fare hikes, difficulty in tendering the exact change and the subsequent arguments with bus crew saw a fall in number of passengers. We thought of something innovative to enhance passenger patronage and the services of Technovia Info Solutions Private Limited, which introduced the concept WheelzCard, came in handy,” he said.

The smart card system introduced by the Kakkanad-based start-up information technology firm would also enable conductors to issue tickets fast, saving time and resources.

“In the long run, we might be able to reduce the number of conductors per bus from two to one, lessening expenses per bus by over Rs 550 per day.,” Mr. Valsalan said.

The technology firm’s MD and CEO Nishanth Ravindran said officials of the Motor Vehicles’ Department and District Administration had been taken into confidence. “The smart cards with unlimited validity can be recharged at the press of a button. Steps will be taken to make available recharge facilities in offices and shops near bus stops.”

The card reader for conductors will resemble ticketing machines that are being used in KSRTC buses. The smart-card reader is a value addition that is proposed to be introduced in the city’s private buses in a phased manner. Bus owners can know of their collection by afternoon if they send an SMS. At the end of the day, the owner can get a split up of the total collection from smart cards and from cash. The total amount will be credited in the owner’s bank account through internet.

While welcoming such people-friendly innovations, a senior Motor Vehicles Department official said the State Government may have to pass a special order to accommodate the new system. “Or else, an amendment would have to be made to Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules,” he said.

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