A new smart card tracking and fare collection system introduced by Gauteng bus operator Putco is aimed at achieving greater operation efficiencies and enabling a process of monitoring customer behaviour, says Putco MD Franco Pisapia.

The smart card is set to meet the needs of the bus operator, in providing secure auditable data and enhancing efficiency in fare collection.

The system replaces the bus operator’s manual system of operation with a secure automated system.
“The system works on smart card technology that reduces the use of cash on buses, which, in a South African environment, immediately increases commuter safety. “The system also reduces fraud as the system’s data is auditable and reliable.”

The smart card system is user-friendly and cannot be manipulated, says Pisapia.
“It can be recharged and used multiple times. It is small, can fit into a pocket or purse and is very secure,” he adds.

Putco awarded the multi-million-rand contract to install the automatic fare collection (AFC) system in all its bus operations to Questek Transit Technologies (QTT), which is a wholly South African-owned company.

QTT has over 85% market share in the installation of its AFC systems, of which 5 000 units have been installed in the local transport industry, handling approximately 350 000 transactions a day. The system has the capability to link to different modes of transport in buses, taxis, and railway systems.

The transit technology com- pany first introduced the smart card in 1999 and applied the technology to the City of Johannesburg public commuter, Metrobus, in 2001, says QTT MD Ronald Salis.

Salis says that the smart card system has also been installed in other public commuter operators, including Gauteng Coaches, Golden Arrow, Interstate Bus Lines, Buffalo City and the Lowveldt, besides others.

“Our critical success has been due to our understanding through the years of the South African commuter and operators, and in being able to provide a system that meets their specific needs,” he states.

The smart card technology is able to identify whether a commuter is at the right place at the right time, and whether the card has sufficient credit for the trip.
“A commuter can, at selected sites purchase prepaid daily, weekly, monthly credit for seasonal trips using smart card technology, and use these trips in a seamless bus operation,” states Salis.

The system was developed by UK transit technology company Wayfarer Transit System, which has an 80% share in the UK transport market.
Salis says, however, that the product has been modified to suit the South African commuter environment.
“The product is imported and modified to suit South African conditions. Depending on which model has been ordered, this can vary from an international content of 25% to 80%,” explains Salis.

The software developed for the system has been developed by QTT and enables an integration mechanism to provide an inter- modal system for the fragmented public transport system in South Africa.
“The smart card will be integral in achieving the intermodal environ- ment operating on the different modes between bus, taxis and rail modes,” says Salis.

Pisapia says that the bus operator has consulted with government on means to improve the transport system in the country.
He called the media unveiling of the smart card system an important day in the long-standing transport company’s aims to enhance efficiency in its fare collection and fleet tracking system.

“This is a system we piloted in our operations, namely in the Soweto business unit. The pilot was aimed at testing the systems efficacy in providing an on-bus smart card and cash-based revenue management system for the company,” says Pisapia.

Putco, in introducing the smart card system, and as a member of the Southern African Bus Operators Association (Saboa), has complied with the investigations and recommendations made by the city of Johannesburg in improving the efficiency of public transport ticketing systems.
“Saboa has been actively involved in previous fare investigations by the city, which has promoted integrated electronic fare systems for all public transport operators in the city,” says executive director of transportation of the City of Johannesburg Bob Stanway.

Stanway compliments Putco on the launch of the smart card system, and believes that it will add value to the public transport system in Gauteng. “From an operator and government point of view, the smart card offers much better control and information, enabling improved management of the public transport system,” he says.

The smart card system will enable Putco to monitor the type of tickets bought and the popular routes in its daily commute.
Other benefits of the system to the bus operator and to public commuters include the efficient management of revenue through less cash handling on buses and reducing fraud, ensuring that drivers stick to predetermined routes.

Putco is also looking to integrate a global positioning system fleet tracking system in its smart card technology system to keep track of its operations in real time.