The pilot phase of ‘CityonWheelz,’ a smart card-based payment mode in private buses, is about to be rolled out by next month.

The smart card will help passengers do without the constant arguments with bus conductor over ‘change’.

District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed will release the wheelzcard at a function to be held at Vytilla Mobility Hub in connection with the observation of Bus Day on Thursday. The occasion will also mark the beginning of registration for smart cards.

Ticket fare will be automatically debited from the card once the conductor flashes the chip-laden smart card against the vending machine after he has chosen the destination. The vending machines have been configured to accept both cash and the card for payment. They can also be updated over the internet.

The project conceived by a Kakkanad-based start-up IT firm Technovia Info Solutions Private Limited will be initially introduced in 150 private buses plying in the Aluva-Fort Kochi route. “We are expecting an initial customer base of 25,000. We plan to expand it to cover the entire fleet of about 600 buses operating in the city within another two months, taking the customer base to about three lakh,” Nishanth Raveendran, CEO, of the firm said.

“We are ready to roll out the project across the city. But we opted for a pilot phase to identify the shortcomings, if any,” Mr. Raveendran said.

Initially, recharge facilities will be arranged in the buses. Gradually, it will be made available in other public places and offices.

Constant travellers will gain credit points, which they can either use for fare or making purchases. Mr. Raveendran said they were tying up with shoppers to facilitate top-up.

A trial run of the Wheelzcard system, including training to conductors, will be held in the first week of September. Registration for smart cards will progress simultaneously. Registration forms will made available in all 150 buses to be covered in the first phase and passengers can submit filled-up applications with the bus employees.

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