Tickets, please

Deep, deep down I'm a trainspotter, and nothing gets me excited like a slick new public transport system to get my head around. Taipei and Hong Kong are both doing amazingly well in that department, with the MRT (Taipei) and the MTR (HK - full marks to both for originality) both doing their job admirably. What I'd really like to sing the praises of, though, are the contact-card ticketing system that both systems have taken to heart.

To generalise across the two of them, the cards work a bit like this: commuters buy a plastic card with a magnetic chip inside (forgive me for my engineering ignorance, I'm an arts student at heart) which they add credit to. To use the transport system, the card simply needs to be placed within a small distance of ticket-detectors at the entrance to train stations and the entrance to buses. The best fair is automatically calculated and the money deducted from the value remaining on the card. The indicator whenever the card is swiped shows the cost of that fare, and the remaining credit on the card. When it gets low, you can easily recharge and the system goes on. The cards don't even need to make total contact with the validators - for most regular commuters, simply lifting the handbag or wallet to within a couple of inches is the usual method for validation. It's amazingly quick at moving people through entrances, no fiddling with small change, and commuters seem very happy with it all.

The Hong Kong Octopus system (the branding the HK MTR has given to the ticketing system) is now being expanded to include payments from vending machines and payphones, whilst the Taipei system can be used to pay for parking. This is a world class, modern and efficient ticketing system to complement the transport infrastructure.

Small problems which may arise a quickly overcome with smart thinking. Short term visitors, for example, can hire a card and pay a deposit, refunded upon return. Old-style, single trip tickets are also available, although these are priced higher to encourage users to opt for the automated system. The HK system even allows the user to go into debt for a single trip, and that amount is taken back when the user next recharges the card.

I seem to recall that a similar system was being considered in Victoria, post-Metcard. Bring it on!


Anonymous said…
And we got excited becquse zhen entering the metro you cqn put your ticket in the machine any way and it will be validated - we've got a lot to learn
Anonymous said…
LOndon have a similar system which they christen the oyster card. Wonder what's inspiring everyone to brand this thing after seafood...
Anonymous said…
You can even use it at 7-11 and some supermarkets

I think the idea is though to gradually phase them out and replace them with the new 'smart hong kong id ' card.

The reasoning being that you can be traced everywhere.


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