City Matters | Chennai

Commuters still prefer tokens to Chennai Metro Rail’s Smart Cards

In the last one year, the number of people buying Smart Cards and tokens has consistently risen by significant numbers

In the last one year, the number of people buying Smart Cards and tokens has consistently risen by significant numbers   | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

Most ‘one-time users’ head for the city’s transport hubs; Smart Card’s ‘refundable deposit’ is a dampener

Four years after the opening of the first stretch of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL), as the system witnesses a steady increase in ridership, one clear trend that has emerged is that there are more one-time users of the system, especially to travel to one of the city’s transport hubs.

The CMRL mass rapid transit system was inaugurated in June 2015. Commuters can use tokens like tickets, or purchase Smart Cards that can be recharged and swiped before and after the journey. Apart from this, there are monthly passes (trip cards) and group tickets, but most passengers opt for either Smart Cards or tokens.

Data gathered by The Hindu shows that from 2015, till the end of 2019, the number of tokens sold each year has been several times higher than the number of Smart Cards sold.

‘Considered expensive’

According officials of the CMRL, the majority of commuters buying tokens head for the Chennai Central Railway Station, the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus and the Chennai International Airport.

“The buyers of tokens are not regular users and we would like to call them one-time users. We have seen that the majority of them buy tokens and head to either of these three transport hubs. They don’t want to buy Smart Cards because they don’t know if, or when, they will travel by this system again, and hence end up purchasing tokens only,” an official said.

Moreover, Smart Cards require passengers to pay ₹50 as a refundable deposit. “Though it is refundable, many think it is a waste of money. So, if the fare for a trip is ₹40 and the commuter has to pay this deposit too, the payment comes to ₹90, which is considered expensive by many. Nevertheless, we have persuaded many to buy Smart Cards and the sale of Smart Cards has gone up in the last two years,” he added.

Tremendous increase

After a small dip in 2016-17, there was a tremendous increase in the sale of Smart Cards in 2017-18 — pushing the numbers from 27,413 to 12,16,048 Smart Cards. This was when the CMRL brought in a rule that only smart cards would be available for buyers of tickets in underground stations, at the time of the opening of the first underground section between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park.

Soon after that announcement, for several months, the CMRL also waived off the refundable deposit amount of ₹50 on smart cards. It is to be noted that, because of this announcement, 2017-18 was the only year in which the number of people who bought tokens dropped.

In the last one year, the number of people buying Smart Cards and tokens has consistently risen by significant numbers, yet the margin of difference between the two options is very wide, with thousands of commuters resorting to tokens still.

Average usage high

“The number of people who bought Smart Cards may be less. But when you see the average use of Smart Cards in just the last three months of 2019, from about 50,000 in September, it has risen to nearly 59,000 [Smart Cards] a month in December. We see that Chennai Airport has had the maximum number of people buying Smart Cards, and they want to head to Anna Salai, especially Thousand Lights, Government Estate and even Guindy,” the official said.

CMRL officials said that they had been tying up with several firms to persuade more officegoers to take the Metro now, instead of opting for cabs or private vehicles.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 1:02:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/commuters-still-prefer-tokens-to-chennai-metro-rails-smart-cards/article30617433.ece

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