Take two for taxi cards
Gauteng backs roll-out of smart cards for minibus taxis that was rejected in Pietermaritzburg
DESPITE Pietermaritzburg taxi drivers and conductors burning the first pilot of smart cards for minibus taxis in the city last year, the Gauteng province is now hoping to drag the cash-based taxi industry into the 20th century with a swipe card system.
KYLE VENKTESS reports for Fin24 that the card-based project — which is backed by the Gauteng provincial government and headed up by the TaxiChoice Association — was introduced last Tuesday at taxi ranks on the Johannesburg, Pretoria and Mabopane (JPM) route.
The system issues commuters with what looks like a regular bank card or quick-response (QR) code to pay for their taxi fare.
Jotham Msibi, TaxiChoice Association’s executive chair, said that the project is planned to allow for better control of cash in the taxi industry.
“The initiative is compliant with payment regulations and is a level-four banking standard, operating on the same platform that banks are using,” he said.
“This system is making use of a very high technology system and the same system can be used for buses and trains, to make public transport efficient, reliable and safe,” Msibi added.
Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said that the initiative is a smaller part in the greater goal of public transport commuters being able to use one card for all forms of transport.
“The standard that must be strived for is ‘One Province — One Ticket’ in line with the national electronic fare-collection regulations,” he added.
“We want there to be one electronic card with no problems. This is a disruptive technology that needs to be used to our advantage but we must take our time,” Vadi said.
Vadi added that the initiative also intends to make taxi transportation safer for commuters.
“Now that the driver does not need to collect and count taxi fares, he can be focused on driving,” he said.
But progress will take place, and in Gauteng, the taxi digital fare-collection system is owned and being implemented by FairPay.
TaxiChoice — the commercial arm of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) — is currently the sole shareholder in FairPay, with Curve Group Holdings as the technology partner.
“We believe in connecting people to opportunity and this project represents a leap ahead for the South African taxi industry.
“Through the use of digital technology, we can assist millions of hard-working people to be more connected, more informed and lead better lives,” said Fred Baumhardt, CEO of Curve Group.
When the Santaco piloted the same type of system in the city, Nhlanhla Nkomo, chair of the association, told EDWARD WEST of The Witness that the card system would “formalise the industry, result in taxi industry employees being treated as normal workers with benefits, and result in safer minibus transport”.
The system was piloted in 113 taxis belonging to the Grand Westgate Taxi Association in November last year. Witness reporter CHELSEA PIETERSE reported drivers and conductors hurled rocks and bricks at the Langalibalele Street taxi rank to protest against the “no cash in taxis” campaign, while members of the uMgungundlovu Taxi Association also protested against the new system.
uMgungundlovu Taxi Association chair Bheki Sokhela then said the passengers had turned from welcoming a card system that could be pre-loaded with fares on weekly or monthly basis, to protesting with drivers and conductors in the informal settlement of France.
Commuter Thembi Dumakude said they are against the card system because it would eventually phase out the role of taxi conductors and lots of people would lose their jobs.
“This is a poor area … and we do not want that,” Dumakude told The Witness.
Commuters who use taxis in Johannesburg and Tshwane will be able to load prepaid Fairpay cards for taxis at taxi ranks from February next year, if Gauteng’s drivers do not burn the system as did Maritzburg’s drivers.