In an ideal transportation network, buses, trains and other forms of public conveyance can be accessed using only one payment system. You buy a reloadable electronic card and use it to pay for almost all forms of public transport. This is already in place in First World countries like Japan.
We just experienced the crucial first step in a system like this. Megaworld let us try its cashless Beep card that is now being used with its Citylink bus network.
Regular Metro Rail Transit commuters should be familiar with Beep. It is a card that can be reloaded and used to pay for fare. Megaworld signed a partnership with AF Payments Incorporated, the company behind Beep, and this made the system available to its buses. It is the only system by the way; cash is not an option anymore.
"The primary objective of this cashless payment is to provide Filipino commuters a seamless and convenient traveling experience around Metro Manila," said Arnie Batac, Megaworld's head of estate management. "With one Beep card, you can now embark on all Citylink buses and light rail transit routes. Citylink has 19 units that operate 24/7. It caters to around 200,000 BPO workers, residents and visitors of Megaworld townships."
The buses ply the Megaworld properties of Eastwood City in Quezon City, Uptown Bonifacio and McKinley Hill in Taguig, and Newport City in Pasay, with fare prices ranging from P12 to P39.
We were given a special tour of a Citylink route, and we were able to try the Beep card as well. From the new McKinley West development, we hopped on-board an empty bus and witnessed it pick up and drop off passengers along the way. The final stop was the San Lorenzo Place condominium in Makati.
Immediately, we saw the advantage of the Citylink network. The stops are predetermined, and the buses don’t sow chaos by stopping at every rider’s whim--or hang around to wait for passengers. Our ride actually happened during a slow period in which only a handful of people used the Citylink service. Still, the driver didn’t wait for the bus to fill up, leaving as soon as everyone in the waiting shed had embarked.
The Beep card is fast and seamless. It can be purchased and reloaded via vending machines and booths near the bus stops. Commuters just tap the credit-card-sized plastic on the receptacle next to the driver, and the amount is immediately debited from the rider. It even shows the value left in the Beep card. It worked perfectly when we tried it ourselves.
We still have a long way to go before we have a cashless, efficient transport system that will convince us to leave our cars at home. We still don’t have subways, for one. But Megaworld’s Citylink and Beep partnership is indeed a good step toward that ultimate goal.