Smarter taxis on the cards

2012-06-28 00:00

TAXI commuters in the capital will be the first in KwaZulu-Natal to be able to use smart cards to pay their fares.

In addition, tracking technology will be installed in taxis to keep an eye on drivers’ behaviour.

This is part of the Taxi Improvement Project to be launched this weekend by the uMgungundlovu Regional Taxi Council in conjunction with Absa Bank and technology company Translog Management.

It will be launched as a pilot project in the Grange, Westgate, France and Napierville. And once refined, it will be spread across the uMgungundlovu district.

The council has around 40 taxi associations operating in its jurisdiction that collectively own around 3 700 taxis and transport thousands of people daily.

Boy Zondi, chairperson of the uMgungundlovu Regional Taxi Council, said the project was part of the government’s plan to develop an efficient, affordable public transport system.

“The current system is purely cash-based and makes it difficult to monitor taxis, especially drivers’ behaviour and safety.”

Zondi said commuters would be able to buy smart cards for the amount they need for travel.

“The commuters will only buy the smart cards once and they will be able to top them [up] after that,” said Zondi.

He said Absa would be the depository.

“As the taxi industry, we cannot hold such large amounts of money ourselves, so the bank will hold the money until it is given to the taxi owners.”

Arrie Rautenbach, head of Absa retail markets, said: “Commuters will now be able to buy their travel time at the beginning of the month and not have to worry about carrying cash and the risks associated with that.”

The smart card can also be used as a debit card, in which case PIN numbers will be required.

However, no PIN will be needed when swiping the card in a taxi.

The card will not be linked to an individual’s identity so if it is misplaced, only the money in it will be lost.

Zondi said tracking devices would be installed on the vehicles to ensure the safety of commuters.

“The fleet management system will mean that poor driving by the drivers will be monitored at a central control room and taxi owners will be notified by SMS of any violations by their drivers, allowing for good behaviour to be rewarded.”

Paulo Caldeira, of Translog Management, said the project would fulfill the desire of taxi owners to offer a professional service to their customers.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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