ABU DHABI // Scores of passengers who did not have Hafilat smartcards were on Sunday asked to get off buses across the capital, leaving many queuing for cards at the bus terminal.
But they had been warned. “Coin boxes will be removed starting October 1, 2015. Use your Hafilat card to pay for transport,” said a Department of Transport notice at the entrance of the main bus station near Al Wahda Mall.
The cards have been available since May and the department said last March that passengers would eventually no longer be able to pay for trips with coins.
Glenn Esposo, 47, an airline ground support technician, was one of the passengers caught unaware after trying to get on the No 56 bus on Muroor Road, across from the terminal.
“The driver asked us to leave as the coin box has been removed,” Mr Esposo said. “I was surprised because I was able to use coins to pay for two trips on bus Nos 52 and 32 yesterday.”
The automated system has been brought in to ensure smooth, quick fare collection and reduce congestion while getting on and off the bus. Passengers scan the card when boarding and leaving the vehicle, eliminating free rides.
Shefik Ali, 31, from India, was allowed to pay coins on the No 11 bus from Salam Street to the bus station yesterday, but decided to buy a card at the terminal.
“It’s more convenient because I don’t need to carry coins every time I use the bus,” Mr Ali said.
Tabreez Khan, 33, also from India, said: “Travelling by bus is hassle-free and it’s easy to use the smartcard machines to buy or recharge our cards.”
Rap Pineda, 27, a computer design operator and regular bus rider, has been using the Hafilat card since the system was launched.
“I use the bus every day and recharge my card regularly,” Mr Pineda said. “I’ve noticed the warning note that coins will no longer be accepted from October 1, which I think is good and encourages more people to use public transport.”
Ticket offices at all major stations will sell the cards. Commuters can also use ticket- vending machines and swift reloaders found in bus stations, bus shelters, customer car centres, shopping malls and hospitals.
Yesterday department staff manned the machines to show commuters how to print out and top up the rechargeable cards.
“We started removing the coin boxes in about 30 buses starting on October 1,” said a bus inspector. “All of the coin boxes will be removed, maybe by October 10.”
Another inspector said it would be introduced gradually.
“There’s no fixed date when coin boxes would be removed from all Abu Dhabi buses,” he said. “I was on duty yesterday and people were forming long queues in front of the machines. Look at the rush for Hafilat cards today. People will soon get used to this system.”
A Department of Transport customer care officer said yesterday that coin boxes on buses would be completely removed by October 11.
Abu Dhabi operates 568 buses on 124 routes. The number of passengers has increased from 3,000 a day in 2007 to more than 100,000 this year.