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Saigon Needs Smart Cards for Public Transport Instead of Single-Use Tickets: Experts

Could a single contactless card allow riders access to bus, water taxi, tram, monorail and metro routes?

At a conference organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport last Friday, experts spoke about the benefits of adopting a single card that would allow passengers to access all current bus routes and other transport systems currently in development, according to Vietnam News. Currently, 86% of riders pay in cumbersome cash, while 14% use monthly tickets, both of which waste resources while making accurate record-keeping impossible

The proposal imagines a world in which far more Saigoneers take advantage of public transportation than today. According to Le Hoan of the HCMC Management Centre of Public Transport, buses satisfy only 4.7% of the city’s travel needs despite there being some 20,000 daily bus journeys.

Tran Quang Lam, deputy director of the municipal Department of Transportation, is more optimistic, according to the news source. Thanks to the proposed development of eight metro lines, three tramways, monorail lines and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, he expects 1.5-2 million, or 15-20% of local residents, will use public transport services at some point in the future. However, all these systems might take decades to become a reality, judging by the progress of work on Saigon's first metro line.

A single card compatible with all the different services faces several challenges. Issues related to data formats, server connections and fee collection methods would need to be solved, and the entire system would require cooperation from the various companies, contractors and agencies currently operating the different transportation lines. 

If Saigon were to implement such a system, it would be following in the footsteps of many western nations, including England where 2.5 million, or 50%, of all journeys are made by bus, subway, and train via a single contactless card. In Asia-Pacific, Singapore and Hong Kong are two examples of cities with great success in implementing contactless cards, called EZ-Link and Octopus, respectively. Apart from transportation, Hong Kong residents can also use their card to pay for other public services like parking, petrol, vending machines, swimming pools, etc.

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