THE Lusaka City Council should be commended for matching with the times by embracing technology. The way of doing business is changing and the local authority is attesting to this development.
For any transport operator who wants to ensure safety, comfort and convenience for his customers, e-ticketing is the way to go.
The council is putting behind its back the era when it was thought that e-ticketing is only a preserve of the airline industry. Technology is pervading the grassroots and improving the service delivery system.
Currently, the situation at Lusaka Inter-city Bus Terminus on Dedan Kimathi road is pathetic, to say the least. The travelling public is exposed to all sorts of inconveniences. Take for example, a person who wants to buy a ticket and book a seat on a bus. Upon reaching the bus station, one is â€˜greetedâ€™ by the call boys in their characteristic style of luring passengers.
For those who are walking, the â€˜greetingsâ€™ begin from as far as the Independence Avenue where some tactful call boys position themselves to hook some passengers to fill up their mastersâ€™ buses.
Any passenger who is embarking on a trip makes up their mind about which bus to use. This decision is made before one steps out of the house to begin their journey of a thousand miles.
Frequent travellers who traverse the roadways between Lusaka and Copperbelt, Nakonde or Livingstone have their preferences for which they would have settled during the time they have been travelling. It is discourteous for a desperate call boy to try and persuade a passenger who is resolved over which bus to use.
But the call boys are determined to do their business and they care less whether an intending passenger is happy with the intrusion or not.
This intrusion aside, cast your eyes and the congestion that meets it is unpleasant to say the least. Passengers and their goods are assigned the same place. As long as they can find space, whether in a shelter or in the open, one is bound to give no thought about any comfort as they wait for a bus.
And talk about waiting for a bus at inter-city terminus. It is a sorry sight to see passengers who are seemingly stranded, waiting to board a bus which is still being repaired at a garage! But the patient and hopeful passengers will continue waiting until the bus appears. As the bus pulls to the boarding bay, there can be some commotion as passengers try to get on to the bus they had been waiting for. This partly contributes to the congestion that has become characteristic of the inter-city bus station which is now a centre for all those intending to travel within or without.
The Lusaka City Council should move immediately to implement the e-ticketing system to make the bus station a more conducive environment for travellers. One of the benefits of e-ticketing is the convenience which will be accorded to passengers. With e-ticketing, it may mean that an intending passenger is able to book a bus from wherever they are, as long as they have access to the internet. It can be done from the comfort of oneâ€™s office, home or a nearby internet cafÃ©, without having to cover a long distance to access a makeshift shelter that serves as a booth for some bus company at the inter-city bus station.
One can be excused for thinking that e-ticketing was only the preserve of the airline industry whose exposure to the international travelling passengers demands that airlines adjust to the latest trends, including technology. The airline companies have been using the system for a long time now and there is no excuse for the bus companies, which are also in the passenger service industry, to choose not to embrace change. Since e-ticketing involves cutting down the use of paper in the provision of service, bus companies are bound to reap the benefits of saving on this resource on which they are bound to spend huge sums of money.
Efficiency is another benefit in favour of the bus companies. The current system of buying tickets at the makeshift booths at the inter-city terminus reminds one of the days when the country was plagued by shortages of essential commodities. The shoving and jostling for a space to get to the counter to buy a ticket does not match the modern times. Convenience should be the word.
Sometimes passengers run into last minute hitches and misplacing a ticket is one of the commonest dilemmas. With e-ticketing, passengers will be spared such losses that often send passengers into a panic mode.
While the Lusaka municipality is embracing technology, it should see how it can cater for those who pick and drop passengers by providing a secure parking area.
The inter-city bus station has become a central area for passengers, thus the congestion. The council, through its powers, can designate some places as bus stations to ease the congestion. Then the e-ticketing will make more sense.