Kenya’s passenger transit industry has seen a change in the fare payment system following a move by several Nairobi based bus companies to launch a smart card called Beba card.
The electronic cards are compatible with Citi Hoppa and Citi Metro buses, Nairobi’s major transport service providers, with the companies saying the move is intended to increase their proceeds as well as make it easy for passengers to pay the fares.
According to the bus companies, the system is set to help the transport service providers reduce the cost of operation.
The prohibitive cost of operation has been a consistent hindrance to investment by bus owners. Studies by Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) show the cost of operating passenger transit business has been high as the conductors swindle the cash collected, or pay police bribes.
IPAR statistics indicate the cost of operating bus business per day for the 18-seater Matatu (shared taxis) is Ksh3,361, while that of the 25-seater Matatu is Ksh3,882 and buses even higher with a larger share going to bribes, fuel, wages and the rest lost on conductor swindles.
Considerable benefits in the industry can however only be realized if the costs lost in police bribes and swindles are low, states IPAR.
The new system will also save passengers the burden of having to pay hike fares; conductors have often increased the fares at their own will.
“We are working to make the Beba card acceptable on more buses and other areas,” says the company.
The cards, already in use in major city highways including Ngong Road, are issued free of charge by the company. They can be topped up from Beba agents at Kencom towers. Currently there are 18 agents distributed in Nairobi’s major bus stops. There is no minimum balance and the maximum amount is Sh10, 000 with an individual allowed to keep up to 5 cards.
The system is the first of its kind in East and Central Africa. South Africa based Peninsula Taxi Association (PTA) in the Western Cape launched the system in February this year.