The thought of bringing out an integrated circuit (IC) card from the wallet and swipe or press it against a card scanner to get into a public transport seems like a far-fetched dream in a city like Dhaka.
Especially, considering the current sorry state of crowd-filled, dilapidated public vehicles, the idea still sounds a bit illusory. Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) however begs to defer.
The state-owned transport planning authority recently takes its ambitious plan of introducing smart card in the public transports. Though the plan is mainly taken with the idea of getting the capital’s first mass rapid transit (MRT) or popularly known as metro rail within then next two years, the DTCA wants to take the platform to the next level by integrating all the public transport with the smart card system.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN?
As per the plan, DTCA will introduce a uniform integrated circuit (IC) based card named ‘Rapid Pass’. That pass can be used in Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) buses, Metro rails, bus services owned by private entrepreneurs and in the water vessels owned by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), informed the DTCA officials.
To introduce smart card for all modes of vehicles, choosing clearing house bank is an important mechanism because through it, the electronic financial transaction is being processed. The clearing house bank will get commission in exchange for carrying out the job.
Clearing House is a mechanism that integrates multiple transport operators into a common fare ticket system, which is called “One Card for All Public Transport”. For Dhaka’s transport system, the DTCA will work as the clearing house.
DTCA on January 24, this year signed a contract with Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) through which the bank will work as a clearing house bank for operating uniform ticketing system of public transports in the city.
DBBL, the most technologically advanced bank of the country has been selected out of six private sector banks, which submitted the expression of interest (EoI) earlier in 2015.
THE EXPERIMENTAL PLAN ON THE PLATE
Zakir Hossain Majumder, the acting Executive Director of DTCA said that they have taken the plan of introducing the integrated smart card system for public vehicles properly.
“Most of the mega-cities have this smart card system. This not only eases the commuting but also provides valuable data to conduct research on public transport and people are commuting habit which further enriches the public transport infrastructure.”
Majumder said that the Rapid Pass that we are going to introduce will be a success because we are taking cautious steps in introducing this.” The service will be introduced from May this year on a pilot basis. “It will be introduced in a BRTC bus service from Motijheel to Abdullahpur. We will closely monitor the pilot project and collect data from this. After the pilot project, we will introduce it in other bus services and routes in larger scales.”
Finally before the tentative launching of metro rail in 2019, the smart card system will take a proper shape and the DTCA will be able to achieve the capacity to coordinate the combined system of all public transport.
“That’s not all. Since we have DBBL as our clearing house bank, we plan to include the provision of purchasing goods through that smart card. Since it’s an IC card that can work like a debit /credit card, it is possible.”
PREVIOUS PLAN THAT FAILED
Earlier, at the beginning of 2015, the DTCA had undertaken the project titled ‘Establishment of clearing house for integrating transport ticketing system in Dhaka city area’ to introduce the smart IC-based cards.
By June 2015, the DTCA had received expressions of interest (EOIs) from six commercial banks for working as the clearing house for the project. From then, the project work hardly moved until November 2016 when the process of selecting the clearing house gained momentum.
To introduce the smart card for all modes of transport, choosing the clearing house is an important mechanism. That is because the electronic financial transaction is processed through it. The clearing house integrates many transport operators into a common-fare ticket system, which is called ‘One Card for All Public Transport’.
An official of DTCA said that, a steering committee formed to take the project-related decisions, including the integration of the ticketing system with all the vehicles, remained busy with returning money to the passengers, who bought SPASS-the first ever smart card in Dhaka- but were not able to avail its service.
It is to be noted that under a pilot project, SPASS was introduced in two bus services of BRTC in the capital in 2011 and 2012 and in commuter and DEMU (Diesel Electric Multiple Unit) service of Bangladesh Railway in 2013.
SPASS was supposed to provide uniform tickets for passengers of all modes of transport- road, rail, waterand mass transit systems. It was supposed to have facilities like recharge and reuse of the card to ensure cashless transaction and automated transport fair deduction according to distance.
After its launching in 2013, some 5,000 passengers bought SPASS pass but could not avail the service. SPASS could not perform efficiently for its inability to provide real-time information of the IC card use as well as its outside-the-country server.
BRTC, however, maintained the IC cards in one of its air-conditioned bus services on a limited scale. But there was mismatch in information provided by the IC card service providers and the BRTC bus operators regarding use of the card.
BRTC alleged that SPASS could not provide real-time information, as its server was outside the country. Meanwhile, another source said failure of the SPASS was totally related to irregularities and mismanagement in ticket collection system of BRTC.
THE POSSIBLE TECHNICAL DETAILING OF THE PLAN
The information available from the DTCA office said that the proposed smart card can be used in the vehicles in two ways. It can be swiped in a smart card reader by the conductor (or by the person at the entry of the vehicles or the platform) and after the entry of passenger travelling details, the Electronic Ticketing Machine (ETM) will generate the tickets.
The money will be directly transferred to DTCA account using the Global Pocket Radio Service (GPRS). In another way, there will be no ticket, after the swiping of the card in the card reader, a green light or sound of acceptance will buzz if there are enough credits available in the card for the desired destination.
This technology is processed by the microcontroller in which the fare calculations are programmed. With this methodology, the service provider can able to make their transactions easier. Additionally number of passengers accessing the bus can also be monitored and that information utilized to improve their services.
Each card holder will be provided with a personal profile with the DTCA database, so they can monitor their statistics such as their expenditure in bus/metro travel per month and transaction statement etc.
The DTCA also can use that information to improve the service by employing more buses during peak hour. In the area of accounts the amount is directly transferred to their bank account so no need for checking the cash collection from each bus conductors.
The smart card will be a rechargeable one. The passenger can recharge with their convenience like the mobile recharge.