Litter bins around Prague will be filled with paper public transport passes at the end of the year. It has been definitely decided that as of 1 January 2010 people in the capital will be allowed to use only Opencard electronic cards for public transport.

Until now, only those who wanted to buy the yearly public transport passes were required to get an Opencard. In less than a year those who use monthly or quarterly passes will also have to switch to the Opencard. The electronic card will be free for two more weeks, but as of April it will cost CZK 200.

The Opencard project has cost the Prague Public Transit Company about CZK 250 million. Prague City Hall, which subsidizes public transport, has earmarked another CZK 77 million in this year’s budget.

Besides investments in computer systems and terminals, quite a significant amount of money was spent also on the promotion of the Opencard. According to Deloitte, the marketing and communication campaign has cost more than CZK 30 million. That is more than has been spent on Opencard terminals so far.

The broad impact of the advertising campaign is evident even today. For example, trains on the route between Mladá Boleslav and Mělník still have advertisements promoting the electronic card posted on their walls.

Probably also thanks to the massive advertising campaign more than 250,000 passengers have obtained their Opencards, though some of them involuntarily. Some 136,000 people who use yearly passes had no other choice: The yearly passes for 2009 were not sold in the paper form.

Most Opencard owners have a card with their name on it. The “anonymous” version started selling only in the middle of December last year. Those who prefer not to make their personal data public now have to pay CZK 200, and they must pay extra for passes. The monthly “anonymous” pass costs CZK 670 instead of the usual CZK 550, the quarterly pass costs CZK 1,890 instead of CZK 1,480.

And yet concerns for one’s privacy were one of the reasons why many people hesitated with obtaining an Opencard, which serves also as a library and parking card.

Applicants for the Opencard have to fill in a form where they put most of their personal data. These are then stored by the operator of the cards, the private company Haguess.

Since last year the project has been under investigation by the Office for Personal Data Protection; however, until now, the office has not reached any conclusion. “The inspection is extensive. It’s still in progress,” the office’s spokeswoman Hana Štěpánková said.

The Opencard has been raising doubts not only because of possible imperfect data security, but also in connection with another new feature that the Prague Transit Company has decided to introduce: turnstiles in the metro. According to information available to HN, turnstiles could start working in two years. Every passenger would leave an electronic “footprint” in their everyday use of the metro.

The Prague Public Transit Company wants to introduce turnstiles in order to reduce the number of non-paying passengers. It is estimated that about 100 million free rides take place in the capital every year.

The turnstiles would cost almost CZK 2 billion, quite a significant amount of money for the transit company, which is struggling with insufficient funds. “The investment would return in two to four years,” said the company’s director Martin Dvořák.

Turnstiles were blocking the entrances of the Prague metro from 1974 and passengers had to pay CZK 1 to get on the metro. In the middle of the 1980s turnstiles were replaced by ticket validators, a system that has been in place until now.

The new turnstiles would be “smarter” and they would probably work in a similar way as the ones in Paris: They would open after the insertion of a ticket or a chip card.