Paying fares gets more complicatedToday is the first day of Seoul’s ambitious overhaul of its public transportation system, featuring new bus routes, numbers and major adjustments to bus and subway fares. The changes will result in an increase in the standard fare but significantly reduced costs for those who need to make transfers.
Perhaps as a way to make up for all the confusion that’s likely to occur, Seoul is allowing passengers to ride for free today on the blue and green buses (more on the colors later).
The standard bus fare will be raised to 800 won (70 cents) from the current 650 won for those using transit cards. The long-distance express buses that connect Seoul to satellite cities will charge 1,400 won, and the buses that circulate within a single area of Seoul will cost 500 won. Those paying in cash must pay an extra 50 to 100 won.
Subway fare is now 800 won for a trip up to 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), and every six kilometers after that will add 100 won to the fare. After 42 kilometers, however, 100 won will be added for every extra 12 kilometers.
The calculation of fares becomes a little bit complicated when transfers are involved.
After transferring from bus to subway, subway to bus or bus to bus, the cost of a journey of up to 10 kilometers will be a flat rate of 800 won, with up to four transfers.
After the first 10 kilometers, 100 won will be added to the fare, and again after every extra five kilometers traveled. For example, a total travel distance of 18 kilometers after transfers will cost 1,000 won (800 won basic fare plus 200 won).
The new transfer system, however, applies to blue, yellow and green buses, not to red ones. If you transfer to a red bus, you’ll have to pay the basic fare again.
Blue buses connect suburban areas in Seoul to central Seoul; green buses operate within suburbs; red buses are express buses between central Seoul and satellite cities, and yellow buses circulate in small areas in Seoul.
To take advantage of the new transfer fares, passengers must tap their transit cards on an electronic reader upon entering and leaving the bus to get the flat rate (the subways already require that passengers tap cards twice). Card readers in buses use a global positioning system to measure trip distances.
For example: Let’s say a passenger intending to take a 14-kilometer trip first takes a subway and then transfers to a bus. The subway turnstile will take out the 800-won basic fare from his card upon exiting.
When the passenger transfers to a bus, the card reader at the entrance will take out another 800 won from the transit card. But when the passenger leaves the bus, the card reader will calculate the fare for the 14 kilometers, which is 900 won, and restore 700 won to the card.
Failing to tap the card reader upon exiting means the passenger will end up paying the full fare for each ride, for a total of 1,600 won.
If you take only one bus and don’t transfer to another bus or subway, you don’t need to tap the card reader on your way out.
Until 9 p.m., transfers must be made within 30 minutes of getting off the last mode of transportation to get the flat fee. From 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., the time limit is more generous: up to one hour.
The city will offer new transit cards today, called the T-Money cards, which cost 1,500 won on top of the 10,000 won already on the card. There’s also a T-Money card that costs 2,500 won, which will eventually act as an electronic cash card that can be used in taxis and convenience stores.
The new card can be purchased at kiosks near bus stops, subway stations and LG25 convenience stores, where passengers can also add more fare money to cards.
Old transit cards can be used until 2008. Those living outside of Seoul should stick with the old cards for now because buses registered in Gyeonggi province can’t read the T-Money cards.
The yellow subway tickets will no longer be issued, except to students. Those ages 13 to 18 get a 20-percent discount, and primary school students get a 50-percent discount.
One drawback of the new card is that it can only be used by one person. For example, a mother accompanying her child needs a separate card for her child when they ride the bus.
In other improvements, Seoul will also implement a new bus-tracking system that will follow where the buses are, adjust dispatch times and provide arrival information through the Internet or mobile phones.
Seoul will distribute English brochures about the new fare system and bus routes at major tourist sites and foreign embassies in Seoul. You can also visit the Seoul Web site at english.seoul.go.kr, but information there is limited.
by Limb Jae-un