The Department of Transportation (DOTr) welcomed the decision of AF Payments Inc., (AFPI) the operator of the “Beep” card meant to be used on EDSA buses, to provide 125,000 free cards to commuters in need.
“We thank AFPI for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and for considering the plight of our commuters who have just started to rebuild back their lives after a series of strict quarantine measures that put pressure both on their social lives and livelihoods. For them, every centavo counts,” the DOTr said in a statement.
The AFPI announced that it will issue free Beep cards a day after the DOTr decided to halt the mandatory cashless payment system for passenger buses at the EDSA Busway following the firm’s refusal to waive the cost of its cards despite consistent pleas made by the government.
According to the AFPI, a consortium of Ayala Group and First Pacific Group, it is now coordinating with the DOTr regarding the distribution of the free Beep cards which it said were donated by shareholders and business groups.
The company targets to distribute the free cards for commuters who are really in need and cannot afford to purchase Beep cards.
Use of QR code eyed
To alleviate the burden of commuters in purchasing new Beep cards, the AFPI also offered bus operators a system upgrade that would allow passengers of the EDSA Carousel bus route to use a QR ticket instead of the tap-to-pay cards.
The electronic payment provider said QR paper tickets will “not cost anything in addition to the regular fare for the desired trip.”
“At this time passengers who do not want a Beep card can instead avail of a QR ticket, with no additional cost attached and will only require the payment of exact fare between the desired stops,” it added.
However, the company said that it will no longer issue free Beep cards once the QR code ticket system is in place.
Meanwhile, the DOTr emphasized that implementing a QR code-based electronic ticketing system on the EDSA Busway “will not be as tedious as the facilities and the know-how for it is readily available.”
The DOTr added that the use of QR codes has always been one of its options for cashless transactions even before the pandemic and remains one viable option for commuters who mostly have smartphones.
After the suspension of its “No Beep Card, No Ride” policy on Monday, the DOTr began to enforce a dual payment system that allows commuters to pay fares in cash at bus stations.
The policy was fully implemented by the DOTr on October 1 to avoid or at least minimize physical interaction in public transport to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure.
However, this had been rejected by many commuters who are still reeling with the economic effects of the pandemic.
A Beep card being offered at bus stations costs P180 — P80 for the card and P100 for the load. On top of this, a P5 convenience is also being charged for third-party service providers for reloads, while there is a P65 maintaining balance.
The DOTr earlier said that it is planning to have one card which is interoperable for different transport systems to be implemented by yearend.
“The government welcomes proposals from other automatic fare collection system providers, as long as their systems are ready for integration, and will not place additional charge or burden to commuters,” the DOTr added.