More e-payment options for fare subsidy on way

Local | Erin Chan 18 May 2021

Erin Chan

Authorities will speed up studies to offer e-payment options other than Octopus cards for collecting the public transport fare subsidy.

This came following the increased availability of e-payment platforms in the SAR and an expected change in public transport fare payment habits, the Transport and Housing Bureau said.

The subsidy scheme, launched in 2019, offers a monthly subsidy based on the public transport expenses recorded on each Octopus card.

As of last month, the scheme's total subsidy amount was over HK$5 billion, with an average of 2.15 million people benefiting each month.

The bureau said it had approached various e-payment operators to iron out details on incorporating other platforms into the scheme.

"They include the threshold for incorporating e-payment systems into the scheme, arrangements for the uploading and verification of transaction records, arrangements and modes for subsidy calculation and collection, corresponding monitoring mechanisms, lead time and cost estimates," it said.

The bureau would liaise with the operators after working out a detailed implementation proposal.

However, the most common transport payment method used by commuters continues to be Octopus cards, it said.

Asked if all commuters should be required to use a personalized Octopus card to collect the subsidy, respondents who agreed and disagreed accounted for 40 percent each, according to a Transport Department survey conducted between July and August.

"Respondents who objected to such measures pointed out that it would cause inconvenience and that they were also concerned about privacy issues," the bureau said.

On the subsidy level of the scheme, the bureau said nearly 60 percent of the respondents considered the subsidy level to be appropriate.

In the first year of the subsidy scheme's implementation, commuters who spent more than HK$400 a month on public transport received a 25 percent subsidy on the amount beyond that, capped at a maximum rebate of HK$300.

Since last January, the government has increased the scheme's subsidy rate from 25 percent to one third of the monthly public expenses in excess of HK$400, in addition to raising the cap from HK$300 to HK$400 per month.

Since July, the government temporarily lowered the scheme's monthly public transport expenses threshold from HK$400 to HK$200 to allow more passengers to benefit from the subsidy scheme amid the pandemic.

In March, the government said the measure's end date would be extended from June to December and the subsidy cap was also increased from HK$400 to HK$500 between April 1 and the end of December..

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