In the last few years, there has been an increased focus on expediting the adoption of integrated ticketing for Bangkok’s transit system, with the launch of the Mangmoom Card first being announced in 2015. The aim is to cover the entire public transportation system in the capital, including rail transport, buses, passenger boats, and motorways, as well as non-transportation systems. After initial deployment, the common ticket is expected to replace around a million BTS tickets and 200,000 Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) cards.
Existing fare collection system
At present, each public transport operator in Bangkok has its own ticketing and closed-loop cash management system which accepts smart cards or tokens.
Fares on the BTS Skytrain are calculated according to distance. Passengers can use a stored-value ticket called the Rabbit Card to pay fares on this line as well as the bus rapid transit (BRT) network in Bangkok. The Rabbit Card can also be used to pay for other services and at restaurants that are associated with BTS. It can be recharged at all BTS and BRT ticket offices. However, the card cannot be used on the MRT subway or the Airport Rail Link (ARL) trains. Plans to increase the card’s coverage on more bus routes are being considered.
The ticketing system on the Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT Bangkok) uses RFID contactless technology with round tokens issued for single trips and a contactless stored-value card, the MRT Plus card, for frequent travellers.
The ARL uses single-trip tokens and pre-paid smart passes.
Figure 1 depicts the existing fare collection system deployed on the public transport system in Bangkok.
Figure 1: Existing closed-loop fare collection system
Currently, 16.2 million cards are being used on Bangkok’s rail network, with 14.2 million Rabbit Cards in circulation, 2 million MRT Plus cards in use, and 200,000 Mangmoom cards in use, as depicted in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Current distribution of payment cards on Bangkok’s rail network
Upgrading the existing ticketing system
The Ministry of Transport (MoT) has announced plans to overhaul the current payment system on Bangkok’s transport network through the implementation of a common ticketing system in a bid to reduce rail fare by 30 per cent.
In line with this goal, the ministry has partnered with the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) to launch a short-term plan to speed up the adoption of interoperability between the Purple Line, operated by the Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand (MRTA), the Blue Line, operated by the Bangkok Expressway and Metro Public Company Limited (BEM), and the Green Line, operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limited (BTSC).
Box 1 provides details about the Central Clearing House (CCH) Project by MoT and OTP.
Current efforts to implement integrated ticketing
As of 2022, a common ticketing system exists between a few modes, including the BTS Skytrain and the Bangkok BRT which uses the Rabbit Card while the Mangmoom Card can be used on both the MRT Purple and Blue lines.
Further, as a part of the MoT’s short-term plan, an automated fare collection (AFC) system will be rolled out covering the BTS Skytrain and the MRT Blue and Purple lines. Once the system is in place, holders of the Rabbit, MRT Plus, and Mangmoom cards will be able to travel on the train routes without having to purchase separate tickets for each journey. In the future, the ticketing system will be expanded to cover the MRT Red Line, ARL, public buses, and passenger boat services. The AFC system was expected to be deployed at the end of 2021 but was delayed to 2022 due to COVID-19 restrictions on transport.
Figure 3 depicts the proposed open-loop fare collection system.
Figure 3: Proposed open-loop fare collection system
When the ticketing system in Bangkok transitions towards an open-loop system, it will substantially lower procurement, ticketing, and transaction costs for transit operators in the city. Additionally, passengers will get more value out of a single card in an open payment system by being able to purchase non-transit products and services.
Expanding the coverage of Mangmoom Card
The Mangmoom Card is planned to be deployed on all rapid transit and bus systems in Bangkok. Once implemented, it will integrate all of the payment systems on the three rail networks and passengers will only require a single card to transfer to other networks. The common card was initially scheduled to be launched in August 2016 but has been plagued with multiple delays. Figure 4 shows the timeline of the deployment of the Mangmoon card in Bangkok.
Figure 4: Planned timeline of deployment of the Mangmoon card in Bangkok
Source: Global Mass Transit Research
As of 2022, there have been no recent updates on expanding the coverage of the Mangmoom card of other transit systems in Bangkok and the agencies involved are still working on developing the integrated system.
Trials of the cEMV payment system
In January 2022, the MRTA launched a pilot test for the EMV open-loop payment system on the Blue and Purple lines. Passengers can just tap their Visa and Mastercard cards to pay the fare.
The MRTA has deployed EMV card readers at 53 stations on the lines. It expects approximately 237,000 riders to avail the service.
In the long run, the account-based ticketing (ABT) system based on EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) technology will cover all modes of public transportation in Bangkok. It will also be used to pay toll fares on the Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT)-operated highways, including Si Rat, Udonratthaya, Kanchanaphisek, and Chalermmahanakorn.
One of the main aspects of Bangkok’s public transport system that contributes to passenger inconvenience is its ticketing system. The lack of an integrated ticketing system means that passengers need to carry multiple cards or purchase separate tokens for every transfer in their journey.
Plans to transition to an integrated ticketing system have been long underway in the city, although progress has been slow due to technical and infrastructural difficulties as well as the cost and complexity of the scheme. Till date, fare integration is available on just four transit networks in the city and travellers are continued to be charged for multiple flag-fall.
Further, according to a study conducted by Visa, almost 64 per cent of passengers in Bangkok prefer paying directly with their own bank cards for public transportation while 67 per cent prefer to pay using contactless cards and mobile payments. With the adoption of appropriate measures for integration and interoperability, ABT has the potential to significantly increase public transit ridership in Bangkok. The integrated fare collection system will allow passengers to plan and schedule their journey through a variety of sales and distribution channels, moving away from a station-centric system.