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Of stored value cards and other ways for paying fares

October 2012
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I was in Thailand for at least once a year during a certain stretch in the last decade as part of my university work. Whenever I was in Bangkok, I bought a one-day pass for me to have practically unlimited use of the BTS Skytrain for a day. Other times, I bought a 3-day pass in order for me to also see and experience the system. Those times in the past, there were no IC or stored value cards for use in commuting in the Thai capital like those in Singapore, Hongkong or Japan. And so I was quite happy to see the availability of a stored value card when I familiarized myself with the Skytrain last week.

The Rabbit card, as it was called, is a stored value card that still has limited use for commuting and other purposes. At present, it can only be used for the BTS Skytrain and a few shops. It cannot be used for buses, taxis or the MRT (Bangkok’s subway). There are three variants for the Rabbit card – one for students, one for senior citizens, and another for adults (all other people).

IMG04395-20120927-2057Front of the Rabbit Card

IMG04396-20120927-2057Back of the card where simple instructions for use of the card are indicated in both Thai and English.

The Rabbit card is not yet as useful, versatile or convenient as Singapore’s EZ-Link or Japan’s Suica and Pasmo commuter cards. Still, it is an improvement that will surely and steadily have more uses in the future. And so I look forward to the next trip to Bangkok when perhaps my Rabbit card will be useful for other modes of transport as well.

I am posting this article about the Rabbit Card as I listen to news about problems currently being experienced by the EDSA-MRT 3 in Metro Manila. It seems they had run out of stored value cards (maximum load of 100 PhP) and single journey cards that the administration had to resort to issuing paper tickets to accommodate the many commuters using the system.

There used to be RFID cards issued by the two giant telecommunications companies in the Philippines that could have been the solution to the current problems for the MRT3. Unfortunately, these have been phased out a few years ago. And so perhaps for the sake of the thousands of commuters using the MRT3 and other rail lines (and later even buses, jeepneys and taxis) in Metro Manila, transport officials finally invest in a card and/or pass that can be used by commuters and tourists alike. One would think that many who are with the DOTC, MRTC and the LRTA would have already experienced the systems in other countries and so they could have an idea of what could be so beneficial to public transport users here.


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