ECan to charge for Metrocards

Posted on February 10, 2011 by


I didn't have a $10ECan decided this morning to begin charging for new Metrocards from April 4th. Previously, a Metrocard was free, but replacement cards cost $10. ECan justifies the changes in a couple of ways:

  • People would register a new card rather than replace and pay a fee
  • Large numbers of Metrocards registered to uncontactable customers
  • Users don’t value their Metrocards
  • Metrocard savings mean that a regular cash-fare bus user would recover cost in a fortnight
  • Cost to ECan is high (~$241,000 budgeted for Metrocard provision for 2010/11)

The cost for a new Metrocard will be $10. This is in line with similar cards – Wellington’s Snapper, Melbourne’s myki, Perth’s smartrider, and Brisbane’s gocard are all (NZ/AU)$10+credit. Secondly, the perception is probably a lot worse than the actual cost impact. Since 2003, some 321,000 Metrocards have been issued. I assume that most elderly would be using their goldcards since they came out, and that there can’t be that many people who currently want a Metrocard who haven’t already got one. High school Cando cards will be merged with the Metrocards, and cost $6.

The second major change is that there will no longer be a need to register for a card.

And the third major change is the technology upgrade. Currently Metrocards use mifare 1K classic cards, for which mifare’s support is ending. They will be replaced with the mifare 4k DESfire cards, which give much greater information capacity, better security, and better usability, being able to be read from greater distances (and probably through thicker wallets!) The new technology also complies with ISO standards, which mean that other cities’ cards which used the same ISO standard would be able to be used on reader machines, even though the cards and readers themselves were different technology. The new cards also support multiple applications, so we could see the kind of things that the Snapper cards have – being able to use it for small retail purchases, self-service top-ups, and online topups.

So the new Metrocards offer a lot of opportunity, and if some of those were going to be rolled out, then there wouldn’t be any negatives to this. However, nothing like that is planned yet, and so people will have to pay $10 for the old technology which will be replaced soon (probably at the cost of another card). When it’s put that way, it looks to me like ECan want to cut more funding to public transport (this will make it around $500,000 since the commissioners came in) on the grounds that it’s not a “core” public transport issue. But Metro have been hit with some bad publicity over the past few months, and its public image is suffering a lot. Now’s not a good time to be making this kind of change with no public benefit.

Posted in: Fares, Metrocard