BMTC is currently piloting an open loop card payments system in Bangalore through a collaboration with Axis Bank, reports Economic Times. The state transport organization is currently testing the system with 100 select commuters and only on route number 335E, which runs between Majestic bus station and Adugodi. The Axis Bank-BMTC partnership was originally signed in June last year; the aim was to build a Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV)-based contactless smart card that can be used to paying bus fares, and possibly for Bangalore Metro as well.

Each transaction will attract a “transaction fee” of 0.69% of the overall fare ticket. This has already created a backlash among BMTC commuters, the report added. It is not clear if the state plans to absorb this charge, since a transaction fee for paying a bus fare is certainly not desirable.

Axis Bank’s MD and CEO Shikha Sharma had written to customers in January promising a full-fledged of the EMV smart card system in BMTC and Kochi Metro. Note that Kochi Metro already seems to have launched the same smart card system in partnership with Axis Bank, while BMTC is still on test-mode. Axis Bank had partnered with National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for the contactless smartcard project. The entire project was built to be used by any state/central transit operator (Metro/Cabs/Auto) by incorporating EMV readers with their existing fare collection systems.

BMTC smartcard usage

Once launched, the BMTC smartcard can be purchased at various counters across bus stations, Traffic and Transit Management Centres (TTMC) and various other touch points across Bangalore. Recharges and top-ups can be done via cash and debit/credit card at BMTC touch points, ATMs, online, via conductors on bus or Axis Bank Merchant terminals. BMTC smartcards will be issued on the basis of maximum prepaid usage:
-Cards with maximum balances below Rs 10,000 will be issued immediately to commuters.
-Cards above maximum balance of Rs 10,000 will only be used after complete KYC is done.

Need for a mass transit system in India

However, the operability of such open standard systems is limited in India. MediaNama had pointed this out in several instances before. The RBI has a semi-closed prepaid license for mass transit systems, but this is yet to be deployed or used publicly. For e.g. the Delhi Metro has a mass transit license, but this has not been put to use. Delhi Metro is instead using BharatQR to simplify payments because not all banks support Visa/MasterCard/Euro; most Indian banks still use NPCI’s RuPay card network.

A great example of a mass transit system: The Dubai government’s Road Transport Authority (RTA) has ‘Nol Cards’ which can be used across all state-owned transportations system including waterways, subways, metro rail, buses and monorails. It is available as a prepaid card while commuters can choose the card’s validity: 1/7/30/90/365 Days. There is also a luxury pass and other cashback/benefits. More on this here.