• Cashless program bypasses commuters and exempts unbanked residents
The Lagos Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) electronic payment platform has more problems than operators are prepared to solve.
At least for the past two weeks, the complaints are the same – payment machines are either inaccessible or commuters are shorting out. More so, the “rushed” deployment ignores residents of Lagos who do not have active bank accounts.
However, experts said start-up issues could be addressed by introducing more convenient payment methods and rolling out innovations to encourage public acceptance of electronic payment systems.
The state government, in August 2020, launched the Cowry Card, an extensive electronic ticketing system that automates the payment of tickets for the BRT.
The innovation aims to create smart mobility through a cashless prepaid card, as passengers can travel to different parts of the state using the cowry card on any BRT vehicle.
But as more Lagos residents embrace the cashless initiative, its operations have faced one challenge or another. A commuter, Salau Adegbenro, said the BRT is a noble idea; it carries around 40 percent of passengers on the Lagos network. However, the system is far from perfect; “The service is still very poor, especially the digital payment technology.
“It is still faulty and robs many passengers of their balance. This is fraudulent because the pay-at-entry machine always takes money but sometimes exceeds the fees.
“Exit payment machines that should return the balance to passengers on short trips are always defective and charge those passengers more than normal charges. It’s unfortunate because the drivers can’t do anything to save the situation, ”Adegbenro said.
Another passenger, Victoria Areo, said her latest experience was excellent, especially with the application of cashless cards. She further observed that some BRTs were not yet optimized “to let you go out on the descent”.
For Adaku Lilian, initially using the BRT bus was the best, but now “a nightmare”.
“Loading the map was easy. There was order, but now it’s rowdy. Even service providers are more determined to frustrate customers.
She said the electronic device will sometimes charge passengers twice and when you complain, bus operators and drivers would say the reversal cannot be done.
“I met a man who almost fought the driver saying it happened to him without a rollover. I think these drivers are doing it on purpose to get their own share of the money, ”she said.
Like Adegbenro, Lillian also experienced the outage payment machine failure, where she was charged 300N instead of 200N for a short trip. She said the operators were aware of the situation but would not fix it.
“Sometimes when the machine is malfunctioning, it’s in the passenger’s best interest because we end up paying less than we were supposed to pay. When you board and it charges N300, you get off at tap-out; you find out that it returns N200, which means you only spent N100. Sometimes it’s N150 that you end up paying. Thus, their faulty machine is sometimes to our advantage and sometimes to our disadvantage. But if you don’t have this card, you won’t get on the bus.
“There are people who want to buy the card, but these operators will always say there is no card. You will have to wait three weeks or a month to get a card which should be readily available, ”she said.
A station manager at the Ikorodu terminal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most are unusable, so the handling company has brought in replacements that were initially not scheduled for the hallway. Ikorodu, while Primero buses were deployed to operate the Island-Oshodi route.
He felt that this is the genesis of the problem. “Because these buses were programmed for the island at a price of N500, when brought on the Oshodi route, commuters must have N500 to use on entry and exit; they type for the bus to automatically reimburse N200 to their Cowry card.
“This plug-in machine that is installed in buses works with the Internet. Sometimes commuters are not able to pull out. At this point, you are asked to go to customer service, which is at Terminal 2 while the Ikorodu bus is at Terminal 3, ”he added.
Many commuters can never get redress given the inefficient system and the popular alibi of “no network now, come back later”.
Unlike the global practice where BRT fare payments are piloted electronically with a discount compared to cash payment. Passengers are allowed to use cash, but are encouraged not to use cash.
However, there are few people who could not afford the cowrie card. For this category of people, The Guardian observed that bus station officers use personal cards to help them gain access in exchange for payment in cash.
In response, Primero Transport Services Limited, which manages the transport program, apologized for the logistical problems encountered by commuters.
Company general manager Fola Tinubu said his company is working with the state government to eliminate and resolve any issues.
He said: “Primero does not support cowry cards. It is the innovation of Lagos State for transport transactions. A commuter can use this statewide card on all regulated buses in Lagos State. So those who are having problems with the change should support us as we work with Lagos State to make it better, ”he said.
Efforts to reach Lagos Bus Services Ltd (LBSL) Managing Director Idowu Oguntona by phone, SMS and WhatsApp messages have failed.
Regardless, experts believe there is an urgent need for technology providers to effectively educate BRT commuters on the use, accessibility and benefits of the e-card payment system to encourage increased adoption. of the payment system.
They believe that policies should be redesigned to include features / services that will increase footfall for commuters, especially the older population.
They called for the adoption of a tariff structure policy that will accommodate more low-income people. Experts said operators should ensure price transparency and make electronic payment cards more accessible, thereby improving commuters’ confidence in fees and card availability, while ensuring price transparency through text messages that can alert commuters of fee deductions after paying for a ride.
Road safety expert Patrick Adenusi said in other parts of the world commuters are allowed to use both cash and cards, adding that Lagos is ripe for an electronic ticket payment system. He said that with the electronic payment system, commuters can plan their trips.
Adenusi, who is also the founder of Safety Beyond Borders, said not accepting cash on automated routes was not global best practice, adding that these operators would lose their business.
Adenusi said that instead of the operator completely disconnecting unbanked people, it is imperative that the operator gives sufficient time for commuters to align with electronic payment with sufficient notice at bus stops and ‘inscription on the bus to indicate the process.
He advised the operator not to remove the electronic payment system but to make room for cash payment to accommodate unbanked people.
The dean of the School of Transport at Lagos State University (LASU), Professor Samuel Odewumi, said there were two sides to the issue. The first is that most innovations always have their challenges up front.
Odewumi felt the important thing was to have a team to deal with issues as they arise until they are perfect.
“This is why we always recommend a trial period or pilot phase. This will allow corrections and modifications without heavy financial implications.
The second problem, according to him, is that such innovation requires a period of transition in which the old and the new can coexist before the old is abandoned.
West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited Managing Director Henrii Nwanguma said Lagos was ripe for the electronic payment system, but continuous improvement was the only way forward.
“If the operator, a private entity, refuses to improve, maybe the injured party can take a class action lawsuit to force the improvement. The system is not there for the banked and literate only, ”he said.
Nwanguma said that one of the reasons the electronic payment system was instituted would have been for the transparent conduct of financial transactions for accountability to stakeholders.
In his words: “If a major player complains, I think the owners of the service should inquire to identify the source of the problems. I will not advocate throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
COO, Automedics Limited, Gbola Oba, said the fintech payment methodology or automated electronic payment mechanism is the inevitable next phase in mass fundraising (whether in the form of freight charges). , stadium entrance fees, etc.) pure theft that money encourages.
Oba said this may seem the case to a commuter who is not a regular user (and services like Uber, Bolt, Danfo, etc. should suffice) but a regular commuter of the route will be happy and the direction of the transport company can use the data generated from the pre-reservations to adequately plan the well-being of commuters, save staff and other wasted resources.