The Intelligent Transport Society South Africa (ITSSA) CEO Dr Paul Voster says it is important that South Africa provide its commuters with an integrated ticketing system to facilitate an attractive public transport network as an alternative to using private transport.

He says that the congestion experienced on the country’s roads has a negative effect on productivity, the running costs of vehicles, the amount of time people spend with their families, and the environment.

Merely providing additional road capacity within the metropolitan areas is not an ideal or always appropriate solution, and alternative solutions must therefore be explored in conjunction with infrastructure expansions, in order to manage congestion, he comments.

A number of criteria’s to encourage people to use public transport are being considered. Voster says public transports needs to be convenient, available, frequent, affordable, and safe.

One of the factors that will contribute to meeting the different criteria for an effective transport network is the implementation of an integrated ticketing system for all modes of public transport. “With an integrated ticketing system the same ticket can be used whether commuters use a bus, taxi, or rail,” says Voster.

He adds that a smart-card ticketing system will offer commuters a timesaving and convenient way to manage their transport costs. It will also reduce the risk factor for commuters and operators by removing cash out of the system. He explains that the ticketing system will work on a smart-card basis.

Commuters will be able to add a value on their cards at multiple points of sale, similar to the way South Africans buy pre-paid airtime. The commuter will then be able to travel on any mode of public transport, using the same card. Another advantage is that the commuter will be able to cancel the card if it is stolen.

Furthermore, the smart-card ticketing system enables operators to profile commuter behaviour and patterns, which leads to increased management efficiency and a flexible system. There are a number of ways in which an operator can use the capability of a smart-card system to reward its users, and accommodate different category users. This provides the operator with a tool to better serve the commuter and increases the efficiency of the transport network.

The allocation of funds to the different operators will be conducted by a back office electronic calculation.

Voster reports that the Department of Transport is undertaking a project to define the parameters of an appropriate and convenient design and to establish what technology will be used for a smart-card system. He adds that South Africa can benchmark from international experience, and possibly avoid repeating some of the mistakes made by other countries that implemented similar systems.

Voster concludes that the country cannot implement an efficient public transport network without an integrated ticketing system.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Loni Prinsloo
DATED: 12th September 2008