Responsive Ad Slot

eSCAPE Book
Latest

Sports

Relationship Matters

Opinion

BRT: The Joy And Pain Of Going Cashless

BRT attendant selling tickets at Obalende
BRT attendant selling tickets at Obalende


Tobi Aworinde of The Punch writes about Lagos Connect, the newly introduced electronic payment card for the Bus Rapid Transit, and the hitches associated with the initiative.



The cashless revolution in Lagos State has found its way into the state-run transport system, with the introduction of Lagos Connect, an electronic payment card.

The card, introduced by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority for passengers of the Bus Rapid Transit and its sister bus service, the Bus Franchise Scheme, in July 2013, was designed to be an alternative to tickets.

The card costs N200 and can be topped up as the holder desires. Fares are charged when the holders tap the cards on two machines at the entry and exit points of a bus.

Laudable as the initiative looks, it has some drawbacks, which passengers are displeased about.

Our correspondent, who was at the BRT station in Ojota at about 10am on Tuesday, observed that despite the new payment initiative, there has been little improvement in the transport system. Passengers stood in the queue for hours and those who could not bear the stress of waiting dejectedly left to board commercial buses, which cost a bit more.

A student of the University of Lagos, who identified herself as Olayinka, was one of the passengers. She told Sunday Punch she came to the bus station with the hope that she would not wait too long for a bus.

“I would rather bear the extra cost and discomfort of taking a danfo (commercial bus). But today, I can’t afford to. My monthly budget for transportation is loaded on my Lagos Connect card,” she told our correspondent.

Olayinka explained that she bought the card September last year, but that most of the BRT buses that stopped at the station did not have the tap-to-pay machines.

Out of 19 buses that stopped at the station under one hour, only nine (47 per cent) had the machines, while the remaining 10 (53 per cent) did not. Out of those nine buses, only five had functioning machines. This showed that only 26 per cent of all the buses during that hour were available for holders of the e-cards.

Like Olayinka, Luqman Adisa, a small-scale technician, described himself as a dedicated holder of the e-card.

“My business takes me all around Lagos. I have customers in many places in Lagos, so I come from Iyana-Ipaja through Alimosho almost every day, using BFS. That is why I bought the card. It’s cheaper for me to use it; I won’t spend as much as if I buy the ticket,” he said.

He said the e-payment solution was a more convenient and affordable way to use the bus, but he was unhappy with the maintenance and customer service.

He said, “The biggest problem I have with the card is that some of the (tap-to-pay) machines in the vehicles are not working. Some work, but not properly.”

He recounted how, three weeks before, he had boarded a bus to Iyana-Ipaja and was charged extra.

“The deduction from the card was supposed to be N50 but N100 was charged. Immediately after I alighted, I called the customer care centre and I was told it would be resolved within 24 hours. I was assured that I would be called after it was rectified. Since then, I haven’t got any reply. But I remember that the number of the bus was 43,” he said.

He said it happened again the day he spoke with our correspondent. He claimed that 100 per cent extra was deducted from his card.

“I want to complain now. I want to find out where their office is, so I can get my money back,” he added.

A brand executive, who identified himself as Michael, also complained about technical problems.

“The driver didn’t know (that the payment machine had stopped) until we (the passengers) pointed his attention to it. He fixed the battery head, and then, the machine responded. It can be quite annoying. For instance, I couldn’t use my card on the last bus I boarded, even though I had my card. I had to buy a ticket,” he said.

It was also gathered that sometimes, drivers are oblivious to the problems.

Another BRT passenger, Emeka Kanu, who is a trader, said, “Most of the time, we have to force drivers to put on the machine. They don’t switch it on. I don’t know why. I asked a driver why and he told me that it was because they don’t make enough money from the e-tickets. But some of them just don’t like picking up passengers who use this card.”

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of LAMATA, Mr. Kola Ojelabi, said he could not verify the claims.

He said, “I am sorry, I cannot answer your questions at this time.”

At the beginning of 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria initiated a policy meant to transform Lagos State into a cashless economy. But economics expert, Dr. Ayo Teriba, explained that a cashless economy is not as easy as it sounds.

He said, “When you say an economy is cashless, it should not be taken literally. In actuality, we cannot have a cashless economy. In a country that still makes use of the United States dollar and other countries’ currencies, nothing can be cashless. What they mean is they are just trying to reduce the reliance on cash. We can learn from the examples of others. In other countries, most commuters can use cards to pay bus fares; but a minority will still pay cash when they board.

“If BRT is utilising the travel card, we shouldn’t make it sound like the card will replace the cash. The card can only become one of the options with which a passenger can pay,” he said.

He noted that even though automated teller machine cards can be used at points of sale, it doesn’t mean cash would not be accepted at those points of sale.

According to him, it will take time before people embrace the initiative.

He said, “You also have to realise that you cannot buy a card for just one trip. So, the card is mostly for those who want to use it for a long period. For instance, there are people, who have just travelled into Lagos, and they have to commute. There are market women, who didn’t plan to board the BRT. They just get there, see the bus, and they take it. You can’t close the door on them.”

Earlier, the Managing Director of LAMATA, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, in a statement issued when the Lagos Connect was introduced, said, “Commuters in Lagos will pay as low as N20 per trip, instead of N70 (for the ticket). They would not need to struggle for change or lose their money, and the system is safe and convenient.”

However, for passengers like Adisa, Olayinka, and Kanu, more needs to be done to make the scheme more user-friendly.





Share this post with your friends and also feel free to add your comments below.

If you like what we post here, and you want more... Add us to your Circles, like our Facebook Page, Follow us on Twitter, follow us on google friend connect, or Subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest posts. Download our Toolbar and get all the latest posts from your browser.


No comments

Post a Comment