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Published: 2002-10-22 00:00:00

Hamilton’s buses launch into state-of-the-art electronic ticketing from next month – and it will save passengers money and time.

Environment Waikato, which manages passenger transport, is switching to an electronic stored value, re-chargeable card. The new electronic card will be cheaper than current cash fares - the same price as concession fares - and save time for drivers who don’t have to deal with as much cash.

Travellers who only occasionally take a bus can still use loose change for the fare – but a bus ride will cost them more than paying by electronic Busit card fare. Card carrying passengers just swipe a card and ride.

Passengers can buy an electronic card for $10 with $5 of travel already stored. All they need to do is swipe their card across a scanner, even if the card is inside a wallet or handbag, and the deduction is made instantly and electronically.

A single fare will cost $1.40 per trip – less than the current $1.80. A the same time cash fares will increase from $1.80 to $2, or from $3.50 to $4 for a Day Saver ticket. Ten trip tickets used by regular commuters and school students will be phased out.

Cards can be re-charged up to $100 on machines on the buses or at the Transport Centre, and paid by cash, EFTPOS or credit card. Environment Waikato Policy Group Manager Jeanette Black said eventually the cards will be able to be charged on the Internet or on an 0800 number.

The new system is being introduced in stages to give time to have the equipment installed in buses, and to allow passengers to get used the new card. Three bus companies operate city routes – Hamilton City Buses, Bayline and the University Wintech route. Bayline and the University Wintech routes will start on November 4 and Hamilton City Buses change on December 2.

Ms Black said the new system is likely to encourage more people to use buses for regular travel, as they discover the advantages of the electronic fare system.

“Electronic ticketing will make things faster on the bus as drivers won’t often have to give change, and eventually the cards will be able to be used for other purchases and services. It’s also going to cost passengers less to use it and make bus travel an easy, economic option.”

Information about the new system will be provided on posters and leaflets so travellers get familiar with the system. Electronic fares are already in use in Auckland and Wellington and extensively overseas, and are about to be introduced in Christchurch.

Other changes to improve bus services are also in the planning stages, including real time information which will make it easier still for people to travel within their neighbourhood.