From April 1, Beijing started to issue palm-sized smart cards (IC cards) for public transport to replace paper monthly passes that have been in use for 50 years. All monthly pass-holders will be required to use the new IC cards on public transport in Beijing from next month, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communication (BMCC).
On the first day of their sale to the public last Saturday, more than 66,350 IC cards were issued with 70 percent for the metro and the rest for buses.
The cards are available from 710 service stations across the city.
However, public support for the new IC cards is not as high as anticipated with many commuters still putting off the purchase until the deadline of April 16.
"I still have time to choose whether to use the IC card or not because I'm really not sure about its quality, and the price is a little higher," said Cao Guiyou, a 40-year-old Beijing resident.
The new card is designed to be used 140 times per month and costs 10 yuan (US$1.25) more than the paper ticket. A 20-yuan (US$2.5) deposit is required for each IC card in case of damage or loss.
According to a source from the Beijing Bus Group Co, the card is a high-end product made from environmentally friendly materials that can read electronically 100,000 times.
According to local media reports, the cost of the card is now far less than the deposit charge after complaints from the public were received.
Yu De, a local lawyer from Beijing Hetong Law Firm, was quoted as saying the deposit charge was just a means of filling the public coffers.
Currently, 1.5 million public transport users hold monthly bus passes and nearly 200,000 residents have monthly metro passes.
New users are being encouraged to join the bus IC card system. However, no new applicants will be accepted for metro IC card scheme as the number is being limited as part of the city's efforts to reduce congestion on the system during peak hours.
Yao Zhenping from the Beijing Bus Group predicts many people will purchase the new cards in two weeks' time.
Beijing has lagged behind many cities in adopting IC ticketing technology for its public transport systems.
(China Daily April 4, 2006)