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Cape Town - Commuters may soon be able to travel on the MyCiTi bus service without having to pay the once-off smart card fee of R25. The City of Cape Town hopes that dropping the fee will encourage poorer commuters to make greater use of the service.
But as it will be difficult to selectively issue the free cards to only “poor” commuters, the myconnect fee would be waived for all users for a specific period.
“As we extend to areas with poorer users we are seeing that the fee of the myconnect card could be a barrier,” said mayoral committee member for transport Brett Herron.
According to a report submitted to the city’s Transport for Cape Town portfolio committee, the once-off R25 fee is to prevent passengers from riding without paying.
“There are no gates on feeder buses which means passengers can physically leave the bus without having to tap their card. Thus, if free cards are easily available, the risk of fare evasion… is substantial,” said Leigh Stolworthy of Transport for Cape Town.
The city will therefore test the merits of issuing free myconnect cards in targeted areas for a limited period, probably shortly before and after the launch of a new service.
Several new routes are to be launched in October and November, including along the West Coast and in the city including Vredehoek, Oranjezicht and Sea Point.
Each myconnect card costs the city R35, so the supply of 100 000 cards for the first year would mean an additional spend of R3.5 million. Equipment and marketing costs would push this up to about R5.2m.
Stolworthy said: “This is relatively inexpensive if it serves to address barriers to entry to the system by a significant number of users.”
The city has issued 100 000 cards since 2011, although Stolworthy said many of these may have been issued to passengers who had lost their first cards or forgotten their pin numbers.
Transport for Cape Town said that as it would be difficult to gauge whether a commuter would qualify for a free card based on income or financial means, it would be best to offer the free card to all commuters.
However, the grace period will come with certain conditions.
Commuters’ names and ID numbers will be recorded to ensure that only one free card is issued per person, and cardholders will also have to load a minimum value on to their smart cards. This will ensure they don’t throw away the free card once it has been used. Cardholders cannot sell their free card back to the city.
Transport for Cape Town said there were also plans to distribute myconnect cards to schools so pupils could be taught how to use the service.