ATHENS – With electronic barriers at most metro stations on the Athens public transportation system still not in place and a lack of machines to dispense electronic tickets, many riders are walking through free, frustrated at long waits at ticket vending devices that issue voice prompts as well.
The new e-ticket system was widely touted by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition as the way to end fare dodging under the previous system in which paper tickets were supposed to be validated but there were no barriers to entry.
Electronic barriers have been installed on the subway but only a few are operating and fare evasion is said to be still widespread and the long-delayed plans to make the scheme fully operational have led to the system to give away free tickets, adding to the revenue loss.
The government had been promoting the new electronic ticket but those over 65 who are entitled to discounts can’t get tickets at machines and have to find booths that are open to purchase them.
Tasos Makris, an IT consultant and a member of the Usability Observatory, told Kathimerini that just getting a ticket is one of the biggest challenges of the new electronic system.
“The process for issuing electronic tickets creates delays and leaves a lot of room for confusion,” said Makris, author of a lengthy report submitted in late January to the Athens Transport Organization (OASA) that includes recommendations for making the system more user-friendly.
A confusing feature he noted is that ticket-dispensing machines still only accept cash payments, although there’s a slot for credit and debit card use that is lit and appears to be activated but isn’t, causing more delays in purchases.
Also, when a machine has run out of change, it simply returns the cash without providing an explanation.
Makris said vocal commands, which “serve no functional purpose for the visually impaired and are just noise when they are all working at the same time,”and that the critical command to “Insert money,” does not appear in writing, overlooking people with hearing difficulties.
Last week OASA employees distributed thousands of electronic tickets for free to commuters at the capital’s busiest metro stations in an awareness-raising campaign.