LATRA E-ticketing should ease travellers’ hassle

19Sep 2019
The Guardian
LATRA E-ticketing should ease travellers’ hassle

AUTHORITIES in the Land Transport Regulatory Authority (LATRA) are finalizing an integrated electronic ticketing system to be used by upcountry buses as a whole, either those from Dar es Salaam to other regional centers or intra- regional travel as well.

The main focus of that arrangement all the same looks like it is placing an orderly arrangement at the Ubungo upcountry bus terminal in the city, as most of what has been said of its intentions and effect focuses on what happens there. Other regional centres tend to be a bit timid.

The director of road transport regulation in the authority was explaining lately that e-ticketing would provide passengers with a wide range of choice of vehicles. It means that this can’t be gained by mere visibility if one visits the terminal, and physical pressures inhibit actual ability to choose, but this side of things might be a bit rosy. In the final analysis all buses are supposed to find passengers, while regulators, when they have the upper hand, tend to wish to put flat rates for instance in ticket prices, thus shifting competition elsewhere.

When some buses leave early in the morning and some other leave later, and of those which leave early their air conditioning facilities for instance are not quite the same, is it the bus operator or the authority that decides ticket prices? When two buses with different apparent qualities or facilities have the same ticket price, who shall determine which passenger gets a ticket, and why so?

The director said that there are some buses currently using e-ticketing systems, but they are few and have limited choice of vehicles operated by those firms. The idea is thus to spread e-ticketing far and wide but this brings up new issues of coordinating the ticketing, if this becomes centralized as in purchasing petrol or supermarket chains with electronic registers. The fact that all major shops have electronic fiscal devices hasn’t eliminated competition between them, as the goods they sell don’t have prices fixed by using electronic devices.

 At the same time there is excessive emphasis on the notion of booking, whereas not all travelers bother to book, only arrive at the terminal at the hour or time they wish, or they can afford on the basis of their previous day work. It means that they will simply board a bus which has space, and the ticket ought to be connected with electronic device the way police fines these days carry a connected gadget which tracks revenue sums collected that way, different from payment slips with carbon copies.  E-ticketing ought to be that connection, not the mode of ‘booking’ or the fare that one is offered, basically.

There is a problem of hassles that passengers get at the terminal which is supposed to be sorted out by e-ticketing and indeed this can be done on condition that it doesn’t interfere with fare variations as an aspect of competition. At the same time it should be remembered that hassles are a failure of law and order in the premises, part of the problem being that it tends to be a cooperative sort of arrangement, or a district authority facility. There is no strict regulation of who enters and what they are doing there, like arresting touts who aren’ t uniformed bus conductors registered with a specific bus.