By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Jitney drivers have held-off on introducing cashless payment mechanisms into the bus system due to the costs associated with maintaining them.
Frederick Farrington, president of the Bahamas Unified Bus Drivers Union (BUBDU), said such expenses undermined the feasibility of proposals such as the implementation of electronic tickets as a replacement for cash.
Mr Farrington told Tribune Business: "We found that the only way at that time it could work is with a few pennies coming out of every bus fee collected. You have to consider the constant updating of the software and maintaining the hardware, all this coming at the driver's expense. We decided to hold off as we are trying to take a different approach."
Mr Farrington suggested drivers were not opposed to electronic and cashless payment systems, but their own efforts had not met with much success. The union had planned to introduce a smart card reader that uses WiFi, with the aim to run a pilot programme of the system on six buses starting in February of this year.
His comments came after the government was urged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to prioritise introducing electronic bus tickets as a means to encourage Bahamians to switch to digital payments.
The fund, in a recently-released assessment of the Bahamian payments system, said this was "a great opportunity" for generating confidence and trust in electronic payments among Bahamians given that bus fares were among the highest-volume forms of cash transactions.
"Given that payments for bus tickets constitute one of the large use cases of retail payments (in terms of volume) in the country, the introduction of a digital ticket presents a great opportunity for advancing the usage of electronic payment instruments," the IMF argued.
"This could also help users of the public transportation system gain trust in the electronic payment means, and also potentially start using them for other purposes in their daily transactions. The fact that the Ministry of Transport is already considering this option constitutes a first step in the direction of a digital transportation system."