Tmoney: one transportation card, nation-wide

Less than a decade or two ago, passengers taking public transport had to pay their fare in a variety of ways. They had to pay cash, purchase coin-shaped tokens or paper tickets for buses or else tickets for the subway.

However, things have changed a lot since 2004 thanks to the appearance of a "transportation card." The card allows passengers to use any means of transportation, whether it be one of the many buses or one of the subway lines. 

Starting in June this year, the city-wide limits were torn down, too, allowing people to benefit from the convenience of travelling anywhere in the nation and still use only one transportation card, with only a few smaller cities as exceptions.

The Tmoney card, made by the Korea Smart Card Corporation (KSCC), has now rolled out its Tmoney Mobile service. It enables passengers to use their smartphones equipped with a chip. Also, the adoption of use-first-pay-later services, which allow people to use their own credit cards, has relieved people of even more inconveniences. Currently, in Seoul and adjacent areas of Gyeonggi-do Province alone, the total number of Tmoney users is over 15 million, and Tmoney is used on average for more than 43 million transactions per day.

One of the card`s biggest merits is that passengers can pay their fare in only one or two seconds as they touch their card to the readers. Information and communications technologies are behind the system, including networks of high speed Internet and wireless communications as well as high-tech software. Unlike credit cards that have a magnetic strip, Tmoney is based on radio frequencies that can read a card`s signal from as far as five centimeters away. It can also process the data twice as fast as other systems.

Passengers with a Tmoney card can pay their fare within 0.5 seconds.

Launched in 2007, the Tmoney mobile phone keychain is equipped with a special chip, increasing Tmoney`s convenience even more.

In recognition of its conveniences and promptness, a number of nations across the globe have shown an interest in this fare management system. Starting from a card system and with related infrastructure, the scope of interest is being expanded to include transportation policies and management skills.

The first country besides Korea to adopt the Tmoney card system was New Zealand. It started in 2008 in Wellington, the capital, and in Auckland, the largest city. There are now more than 1,100 buses and around 200 stores that use the system in New Zealand.

Several years ago, the two cities of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand were both involved in consultations on the overall fare management system. Both capitals have requested more advice on the card`s widespread use. Mongolia`s Ulan Bator began adopting an Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system, a Bus Management System (BMS) and Bus Information Terminals (BIT), and the system will launch early next year.

The launch of an AFC system in Bogota, Colombia, is even more meaningful. When Seoul came up with its new transportation system in 2004, including the use of transportation cards and the establishment of bus-only central lanes, the city benchmarked the capital of Colombia. In less than seven years, Seoul is now providing consultations on its system back to Bogota.

A representative from the Korea Smart Card Corporation said, "Prospects for exports are quite bright, as a number of nations in Central and South America and the Middle East have requested consultations."

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