With authorities exploring the potential of contactless ticketing and payments solution for urban mobility, Covid-19 may change the way citizens use public transport.
In a meeting held on Tuesday, chaired by the Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) approved a revised proposal to create a “journey planner”, which is a mobile application under MMRDA’s integrated ticketing services (ITS) project. The authority is likely to invite bids to develop the application so that it can be rolled out by December.
Once operational, Mumbaikars can use the application to plan their journey by making a payment on the app, which will create a QR code that can be used for the journey. The app will work across the Metro, the monorail, buses operated by the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, aggregator-managed cabs and suburban railways.
RA Rajeev, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA, said, “It is an innovative product that we have been working on during the lockdown. Contactless ticketing is the future of transit, especially after a pandemic when we do not want to take any risks by making use of single-use tokens or tickets.”
Currently, each mode of public transport in Mumbai i.e. suburban trains, the Metro One, the monorail, BEST buses, autorickshaws and taxis, have their own ticketing and payment system and some of these payments must be done with cash.
A commuter who wants to travel by a BEST bus, local train or app-managed cab can purchase tickets by generating three QR codes which can be shown at the start of the journey, making it completely contactless.
The app would be similar to Finland’s Whim application, started in 2016, which allows commuters to plan and pay for trips across multiple modes of transport. Across the world, metropolitan cities have single or common mobility cards, London has the Oyster Card; Hong Kong, the Octopus card; Sydney, the Opal card; Toronto has Presto; and Manila has the Beep card.
Amit Bhatt, director of transport, World Resources Institute, said, “Digital payment is a significant reform in public transport as it plugs the revenue loss in addition to providing much needed data for transit availability and demand. This coupled with paperless tickets will greatly mitigate the Covid risk.”
Along with railways, the authority had been debating on either introducing an account-based system, in which a user’s account balance is on the server or a store-value card-based system, in which the balance will be stored on cards. The project also hit a stumbling block when the Central government stressed on the one nation, one card system.
Under the revised proposal, MMRDA officials said, that commuters can also get a card, which will be made compatible with the National Common Mobility Card, and the RuPay card launched by the National Payment Corporation of India. Last year, MMRDA had also finalised the designs for the card.