Bengaluru: Smart card rule deters bus riders from taking Namma Metro | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: The majority of BMTC buses have been off roads for the past three days, but only a small percentage of the users have migrated to Namma Metro. BMRCL’s decision to discontinue trip tokens, which could be earlier bought at ticket counters, and insist on smart cards with a minimum balance of Rs 50 is putting off bus commuters, who prefer a simple pay-asyou-go system.
Before the strike began on Wednesday, BMTC ferried around 22 lakh passengers daily. Anticipating a rush because of the stir, BMRCL started running trains at intervals of 4.5 minutes instead of the earlier 10 during peak hours and increased daily trips from about 250 to 290. It seems the measures have not succeeded in increasing the ridership drastically. On March 31, Namma Metro’s daily ridership was a little over 1.6 lakh. On Wednesday, it was close to 1.7 lakh and on Thursday, more than 1.7 lakh.
“I need a smart card and at least Rs 150 to travel in Metro. Cash is not accepted. So, I took a private bus to Banashankari. Ideally, BMRCL should have allowed paper tokens during the strike period,” said Arun S, a commuter. Some people who travel as a group said that calling a cab was cheaper than using Metro.
BMRCL increased focus on contactless and cashless travel in the wake of the pandemic, replacing tokens with smart cards. Before lockdown, around 40 per cent of Metro riders used to buy tokens by paying cash at station counters. Now, a new rider has to spend at least Rs 150: Rs 50 for the smartcard, Rs 50 for the fare and Rs 50 for the minimum balance. Station counters accept debit/credit cards or e-payments, not cash. People who are not regular Metro riders or are visiting the city for a short period don’t like to purchase smart cards.
“During a transport strike, BMRCL should come up with daily or weekly passes for passengers. The fare should be lower than what is normally charged. People who have BMTC passes should be allowed to travel for free or offered a refund,” said K Venugopal, a commuter waiting at Majestic.
Before the pandemic, Namma Metro’s daily ridership was around 5 lakh. Services were suspended on March 22, 2020, and restarted on September 7. Apart from Covid-19 concerns, remote working has also affected ridership. The hours of operation have changed from 5ammidnight to 7am-9pm.
Some other Metro operators in the country are still issuing tokens. An official of Chennai Metro Rail Limited said: “We encourage people to buy smart cards, but some don’t prefer it. If passengers insist, then tokens are issued. Tokens are sanitised on return.” BMRCL officials said the central government should decide on continuing tokens in Bengaluru.

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Sagar Biswas

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