Are Czech cities smarter than Hungarian ones?
Bank cards play an increasingly bigger role in every aspect of our lives and passengers in CEE countries are becoming increasingly open towards using electronic payment solutions to pay for public transport services. Frantisek Jungr, Senior Business Development Manager for the CEE Region at Visa Europe talks to Property Forum about the experiences he gained during the implementation of electronic ticket systems in the Czech Republic, and while learning about the Czech examples, we also examine the shortcomings of Budapest’s current and future ticket system.
A truly smart public transport system is flexible, which means that a contactless bank card can be used to buy and use all types of tickets and passes. But, to successfully implement a system, you don’t necessarily need to replace all paper tickets right away. Different cities all over the world – including in the Czech Republic – started their journey of implementing their electronic ticket systems in different ways.
During its 9 months of operation the system has surpassed expectations as 2 or 3 months following its launch the number of people who used bank card for their travel exceeded the number of those who bought tickets using mobile phones. The next step will be the extension of the electronic system to passengers who buy their passes at the sales points and online.
A couple of months ago a new electronic system was introduced in Děčín, a much smaller city with a population of just 50,000. According the Frantisek Jungr, the system is a complex solution even in a global comparison. The card readers installed at the front doors of all 57 buses of the city were renewed, and passengers can use bank cards, newly introduced prepaid cards and smart bracelets to pay for the journey – be it a single ticket or pass. Previously only passes were available electronically and they had to be stored on dedicated special cards. In addition, the system in Děčín has a solution for buses that crosses the city border: passengers can use their electronic wallet upon getting on, but, as the system has not been implemented in the urban agglomeration yet, the terminal prints a paper ticket for them.
While in a city where a smart system will be built from scratch the introduction of a bank card based open system may seem a logical decision, the Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK) focuses on personalized closed system cards, but truth be told, according to plans presented so far, contactless cards will also be part of the system called RIGO. Visa has consulted multiple times with BKK on the introduction of the new system where integration of bank cards is a key goal. While a system combining both elements fully meets the requirements of the era, it is more expensive to build than a simple open or closed system, Frantisek Jungr adds. He believes that a good e-ticket system does not limit the use of bank cards, meaning that the system enables storage of all types of tickets and passes on the cards.
Although the focus above was on locals who use public transport on a regular basis, electronic ticket systems are also very helpful for tourists and occasional users of public transport as in most cities of the Czech Republic (just like in Budapest a few years ago) one can buy single tickets only from not very user friendly ticket vending machines installed in major stops which only accept coins. (On this basis, Budapest has already taken its zeroth step towards the 21st century as passengers can use their bank cards in many stops to pay for their travel.)
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