Electronic machines dysfunctional, paper tickets flimsy, say MTC conductors

The Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has gone back to its old method of issuing paper tickets, as the handheld Electronic Ticket Machines (ETM) introduced nearly six years ago have become dysfunctional. The new ETMs, fitted with GPS, have also not been working properly.

Officials said that about six years ago, around 1,500 handheld machines were introduced on MTC buses, but they have now been shelved due to poor maintenance.

“GPS-fitted ETM machines are currently being used in over 200 buses on a trial basis. But they too, are a failure, due to the time it takes to dispense a ticket,” said K. Natarajan, general secretary of the MTC Employees Progressive Union.

On the GPS-fitted machines, the conductor has to punch in codes for the boarding and destination stops for it to generate an electronic ticket. This takes about eight seconds. On the old ETMs however, it just took four seconds to generate a ticket.

“Due to the time lag many passengers alight before the conductor reaches them to give them a ticket. Besides, the machine’s battery lasts only for three hours. So the conductor has to carry two machines as well as the ticket book. This is inconvenient. So conductors are switching back to manual tickets, as these take only two seconds to dispense,” said a representative of the MTC’s conductors’ union.

Conductors also said maintenance of the GPS-fitted machines could be problematic. “Generally, MTC buses are very crowded. Due to constant use, the buttons on the machine wear out, and sometimes the wrong fare is generated on the ticker. The machines are only useful when they are maintained properly,” said an MTC conductor.

But the conventional method of issuing tickets is not hassle-free either. “Sometimes, three to four tickets get torn in one go, as they are really flimsy. This can land us in trouble when ticket checkers conduct an inspection. They could claim that we are trying to resell the extra tickets,” a conductor said.

J. Sivaprakasam, a commuter who travels on route 21 daily, said the quality of the ticket’s paper was poor. “I prefer the tickets from the machine. It would be even better if MTC adopts the smartcard system,” he said.

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