In recent days, the Government redoubled the adjustment in the items that it was already planning to cut and transportation is one of them. On February 5, he announced a sharp increase in AMBA bus and train fares, after the public hearing, and after the fall of the Omnibus Law, he decided to dismantle the transportation compensation fund for the provinces. In addition, the ruling party resolved that starting in April it will be necessary to have the SUBE card registered to continue paying the current fare and that those who have not done so will suffer an increase in the value of the ticket.
That announcement generated congestion on the website and long lines at in-person registration points. At the same time, many users began to wonder why it is not possible to pay for transportation with the same debit or credit card that they already use or even with their cell phone through a virtual wallet, as happens in other places in the world.
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The truth is that there are several initiatives to try to speed up transportation payment. None of them is headed by the Ministry of Transportation. Those who know about the subject explain that today the SUBE Network is only available in 60 locations in the country, beyond the AMBA, and that it is “a closed and monopolistic system” managed by Nación Servicios, a company dependent on Banco Nación. This was considered by the founder of the fintech Ualá, Pierpaolo Barbieri, who usually requests the opening of the system through his X account.
According to the Central Bank registry, more than 425 million trips were paid for with the SUBE card in December alone. (Photo: BCRA).
“Open SUBE – you can pay with any card. Local or foreign. Easy. Open. Competitive. Let each one choose freely! “She wrote in recent days. In another publication, he detailed: “Our SUBE system is a closed monopoly that does not allow other cards. It is not used in any modern system. The open and interoperable system with any NFC card or cell phone that I propose is the one used by New York, Boston, London, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Mexico City, Madrid, Milan, Rome, and many other cities.”
For now, the closest thing to that proposal is a pilot test that Banco Nación carries out in the city of Paraná, where SUBE associated a debit card from the entity. However, the practice did not spread and the system does not allow the use of plastics from other suppliers.
According to data from the Central Bank, in December of last year, 425.3 million trips were made using the SUBE card, for a total of $19.9 billion.
Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder of the Ualá virtual wallet, promotes the opening of the public transport payment system. (Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters).
The proposal of private banks: contactless payment methods
Already in 2023, the Association of Argentine Banks (Adeba, which brings together entities of local origin) published a technical note in which it requested that the public sector and actors in the payment methods industry draw up a roadmap that aims to “all (or the vast majority) of public transport in the country having the possibility of paying with all available contactless payment methods and other technologies that may arise.”
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“It is not about replacing the SUBE, but rather complementing it with the options that technology currently allows, building on what has already been achieved,” stated the work published by the banking chamber. Among the main problems of the SUBE network, Adeba pointed out that it is a closed system, which requires prior funding and that there is low availability of plastics.
A bill in Deputies seeks to “open the monopoly”
Deputy Damián Arabia (PRO) announced through his X account that he is also working on a bill to expand the possibilities of paying for transportation. In dialogue with TN, the legislator explained that he will simultaneously present the initiative to the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Transportation and Congress, once the ordinary sessions begin. “I would like it to be law, but if the Executive takes it, surely it can be implemented faster and solve the difficulties of users,” he said.
Its project contemplates the coexistence of the SUBE network with the “Universal Public Transport Payment System”, which will incorporate contactless or NFC technology (which allows payment by proximity) to means of transport of all types, as well as to systems of public bicycles.
The PRO deputy, Damián Arabia, will present an initiative to facilitate the payment of transportation. (Photo: Deputies Press).
“SUBE is a monopolistic system, on which Nación Servicios charges approximately 7% of each ticket,” said Arabia. “When you open the monopoly, two things happen. On the one hand, a competition of commissions. To give you an idea, today cards charge between 1% and 3%, but even if they charged 4% or 5%, it would be less than the current amount. On the other hand, a system of promotions and discounts can be generated, like in the supermarket,” she added.
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Regarding the subsidy policy, the deputy indicated that there is no specific measure in his bill because the Government is facing a change in that regard. However, he acknowledged that it would be much easier to cross-reference data and direct state assistance directly to the person who needs it if consumption data from cards or virtual wallets were compared to transportation data.
In relation to the terminals, Arabia explained that a reader like the one used in London or Milan costs US$30 and could be added to the same totem where the SUBE device is already located. “This cost would not be covered by the State, but by the purchasing companies that want to provide the transportation payment service,” she assured.