Vargas bill to make universal 'beep cards' a reality

A true-blue universal "beep card" will come to fruition for Filipino commuters if and when this measure from Quezon City 5th district Rep. PM Vargas gets enacted.

Quezon City 5th district Rep. PM Vargas (Facebook)

House Bill (HB) 4913, also known as the “Universal Beep Card Bill”, aims to provide a one-card-fits-all system for public transportation in Metro Manila to address the inconvenience and unnecessary costs of paying for multiple contactless smart cards or beep cards.

“By centralizing stored-value payments and transactions into a 'universal beep card', we remove barriers of expensive and unnecessary costs of public transportation,” said Vargas, a member of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development.

Beep cards are reloadable contactless smart cards introduced in 2015 for the payment the fare for rail-based rapid transit transportation through Metro Manila railway lines such as the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1, LRT Line 2, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, and select bus lines, among others.

The beep card was created, implemented, and operated by AF Payments Incorporated, and is also used in lieu of cash in some convenience stores and other businesses.

However, in 2016, a different contactless smart card was issued for yet another public transportation project called the Bagong Jeep (BEEP) program, which was launched in Metro Manila coinciding with the implementation of the national government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).

The BEEP Program utilizes the “BeepRides” card, a different contactless smart card from the “Beep” card used by rail-based rapid transportation systems.

This unnecessary delineation has confused the riding public to the point that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) had to release a statement on the difference of the two smart cards in 2020.

It noted that PUV operators are the ones who choose which automatic fare collection system (AFCS) they will tap for their operations, as long as it is in line with the DOTr’s directive to utilize contactless transactions in public transport.

“As the country faces a looming shortage of beep cards, technological advancement must be coupled with ergonomic solutions. These circumstances pose an opportunity to further develop our policies especially commuter transactions in public transportation,” Vargas said.

Amid the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic, cashless transaction systems have become mainstream in the Philippines, Vargas said.

Foreign cities like London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Seoul are among those that have adopted the use of universal beep cards to centralize fares for their respective multiple public transportation systems.