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29 January, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Smart card-based ticket

One card, many rides

FAISAL MAHMUD
One card, many rides

With Dhaka’s first Metro Railway expected to roll out by 2019, the Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) has revived its two-year-old plan of providing seamless travel using a common smart card-based ticket for all modes of public transport.

With a common smart card, Dhaka’s commuters will not have to wait in long queues to buy tickets or face the hassle of paying the fares in cash in crowded vehicles. Only swiping the card at the bus entrance or at the gates of the stations and platforms will do.
The smartcard—a uniform integrated circuit (IC)-based card—will be called ‘Rapid Pass’. It can be used on all Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) buses, Metro Rail, private bus services and the vessels owned by the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), said DTCA officials.
Experts in the sector said the introduction of this integrated smart card would not only give commuters a true digital experience, but also have a significant impact on economic development because of the time automation will save.
Lessons learnt
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’.
A DTCA official told The Independent that a steering committee that was formed to take the project-related decisions, including the integration of the ticketing system, was busy returning money to passengers who had bought SPASS—the first smart card that was introduced in Dhaka, but could not be run.
As a pilot project, SPASS was introduced on two bus services of BRTC in Dhaka in 2011–2012, and on commuter and DEMU (Diesel Electric Multiple Unit) services of Bangladesh Railway in 2013.
SPASS was supposed to provide uniform tickets for passengers of all modes of transport—road, rail, water, and mass transit systems. It was supposed to have facilities like recharge and reuse to ensure cashless transactions and automated transport fair deduction according to distance.
After its launch in 2013, some 5,000 passengers bought the SPASS card, but could not avail of the service. The SPASS card could not perform efficiently as it could not provide real-time information about its use.
The BRTC, however, continued with the card on one of its air-conditioned bus services on a limited scale. But there was a mismatch in the information provided by the IC card service provider and  BRTC bus operators regarding its use.
The BRTC alleged that SPASS could not provide real-time information as its server was located outside the country. 
Meanwhile, another source claimed that the failure of the SPASS was related to irregularities and mismanagement of the ticket collection system of the BRTC.
A new initiative
Zakir Hossain Majumder, acting executive director of the DTCA, however, told The Independent that the ‘Rapid Pass’ will not be like SPASS. “We have taken the time to make sure that it will work properly. And it will work properly,” he asserted.
He said the project work has not stagnated for too long. “The project’s timeline is between June 2014 and June 2018. So, we are still on schedule,” he argued.
He said that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing the major portion of the funding for the project. Of the project cost of Tk. 39 crore, JICA is providing Tk. 28.5 crore as technical assistance. The government will fund the rest.
Majumder said 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,” he added.
Majumder said the DTCA on Tuesday signed a contract with Dutch Bangla Bank Ltd (DBBL), which will work as the clearing house to operate the uniform ticketing system.
“From the six private sector banks that had submitted the EOIs in 2015, we selected DBBL, the most technologically advanced bank of the country,” he added.
AKM Shirin, managing director of DBBL, said the clearing house will collect the charges for the IC cards, maintain the records of usage, and distribute the shares of the respective transport authorities. The clearing house will earn a commission for carrying out the job, he added.
What the experts say
Dr Shamsul Haque, a professor of civil engineering, said a smart card in the urban transport system gives the commuter a true digital experience and a hassle-free commuting system.
This system reduces the costs of printing disposable tickets and their waste, as well as the cash-handling and transaction management requirements. At the same time, it improves service usability and convenience, he said.
Haque lauded the government initiative of launching the smart-card system before launching Dhaka’s first Metro Rail. “Most developed countries have a smart card system. Even our neighbouring India introduced the smart card in 2005,” he said.
Maruf Rahman, an urban transport expert from the Work for Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust, said it is very important to determine who will issue the smart cards. It could be the transport sector, the urban authority or the banking sector. Cards issued by the transport sector or the urban authorities are generally viewed as private schemes and are not subject to extensive regulation.
“This is important. In India’s Mumbai, the smart card system failed several times because of some complexity involving the card issuers. The company involved in the project failed to supply an adequate number of hand-held devices to check the card’s validity. Besides, there was a problem with machines,” he added.
Rahman said that after the pilot project, the DTCA should carefully choose the company to produce smart cards on a large scale. “Otherwise, Dhaka’s smart card project would face problems similar to Mumbai’s,” he warned.

Smart Choice

*   The technologies used for smart cards can be grouped into two categories: contact and contactless.

*    The contact systems connect to reader units by direct physical connection to the conductive module on the surface of the card. Contactless systems interact with a reader unit using a magnetic or electromagnetic field of a certain frequency, which interacts with a radio antenna embedded in the card to transfer data.

*    Contactless smart cards typically have a range of about 10 cm. Smart cards do not have their own internal power source, but derive their power from the card reader. In contactless systems, the card has an embedded wire loop that induces the current from the radio frequency field when it is within the range of the reader. This supplies energy to the card so that communication can happen.
 
*    In contact systems, energy is derived from a direct connection to the conductive pad on the card's surface.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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