A digital fare card for mobile phones; for Mumbai auto-rickshawsUpdate: I’ve released the updated version of this for 2012 here. I’ve been noticing continued downloads of the old fare cards over the past few days, even after the new release. Please use only the updated version, you’d probably end up in a fist fight with your rickshaw driver if you use the outdated ones now.

Sometime in the middle of last year, public transport fares were hiked across buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws. The new conversion involved a sort of complicated math that I haven’t yet attempted deciphering.

I’ve mostly relied on memory (I usually always end up travelling within the 1.7-2.4 meter reading range, so had eight sums to remember) or the driver’s conversion card to figure the rates out. The card they carry is usually a printout of the list issued by the traffic police or some sort of local DTP-shop-enhanced excel file print which has been fit into a little half A4 or less. Usually the columns are stacked side by side with no gap, making it really hard to figure the tariff if your meter readings are somewhere in the 5.0s, since the number is lost in the jumble of numerals somewhere smack in the middle of the list.

I initially thought up a printed version of the rate sheet, but I decided against it because it’d entail a lot of wastage of paper, even if I laid it out to fit in an A5 size or perhaps four lists per A4. Everyone carries a mobile phone these days, most of which have colour displays of a decent resolution enough to view an image file. So I finally came up with this; I’ve made it in three sizes depending on your device’s screen size.

I’ve only tested it out with a few devices, so do come back with feedback in the comments section if you find it hard to read on your display (also include your phone’s display resolution or exact brand and model). So far, the PDF file seems to work best for large display phones. If you’re a possessor of a “smarter-than-the-average” phone, I’ve also included a QR code which you can scan right off the screen you’re reading this on; it should bring you to this page, from where you can select your download of choice.

Yes, you’d need to be connected to the internet via WiFi or some sort of a data plan to download these. Else you could download it onto your computer and bluetooth or cable transfer it to your phone.

Do spread it around, phone to phone bluetooth transfers should be a breeze and shouldn’t take any time at all.

Size a (320pixels wide) for small display phones.

Download here.

Size b (480pixels wide) for medium display phones (works for most Blackberries, Symbian OS phones).

Download here.

Size c (640pixels wide) for large display phones like the iPhone 4 and other assorted Andriod devices.

Download here.

And finally, if you prefer crystal clear vector goodness, you can download the PDF version of it from here (right click and “save target/file as” to save yourself the trouble of having your browser open Acrobat).

You’ll need to have Acrobat reader installed on your mobile to make this version work. I’d recommend the Acrobat file above all others because I’m sure it’ll be the clearest.

Scan in the following QR code with your phone; it’ll get you to this page, from where you can select whichever version works for you:


Since I’m sure a lot of you might be brimming with questions regarding this entire endeavour, I prepared this:

Possible FAQs:

How do I get this on my phone?

This depends on the type of phone you have. You can either browse (from your phone, if it will let you) to this page from the home page of thenewvitruvianman.com, where this page will stay for a few weeks, and download the image directly. You can do this over WiFi or a data plan. If you don’t have a data plan, you’ll have to either download it onto a PC and then transfer it to your phone, or ask someone with a data-capable phone to download it for you and beam it over to you via bluetooth.

Why? (Since there’s an app for that already)

I’m sure there is. This is meant for those folks who don’t have a phone that can run fancy apps and hook onto the interweb to download said apps. I know there are a bunch of online services where you can enter the meter reading and have it calculate the fare for you. Again, this isn’t possible if you don’t have a data plan or are in an area where your coverage is iffy (or if your data service decides to be petulant and misbehave spontaneously; who hasn’t been there?).

Is there such a fare card for taxis?

Not yet. I might be inclined to make one though, sometime in the near-distant future. I mostly travel by buses, trains and auto rickshaws, hence such prioritising.

Why does the image show up as a long vertical band on my phone?

Your phone is probably trying to fit the entire image onto your screen. That’s normal behaviour. Zoom into the image to fit the width in your screen and then scroll up and down the list.

Is the data accurate; where was it sourced?

The tariffs have been put up on the Mumbai Traffic Police Website. The data is off their PDF file.

How do I know what size my phone’s display is?

You could look it up here.

My phone’s display doesn’t match the three versions here, what now?

Choose the version closest to your display resolution. If the image does not fit precisely, you can easily resize the width of the image using Paint, Gimp, Photoshop or iPhoto.

Why not a printed version?

Practically everyone has a mobile phone capable of carrying image files on it these days. It’s just more environmentally friendly to have it on your phone than as a printout in your wallet or pocket.

Just another small step towards keeping the city litter-free.

Are there versions for other cities? Why Mumbai?

Not yet, no. Mumbai, because I live there.

Is this an act of shameless self promotion?

Why, of course. However, The New Vitruvian Man is all about better living through design, this being a prime example of the same. If you find this endeavour interesting or useful in the smallest way, you might also find the rest of the content on this site worth a quick look-see. Or you might not, but I’m not insisting you stay and read/look.

You could always give the site’s Facebook Page a “like” to keep abreast of updates or add the site to your RSS aggregator. You can also follow along on Twitter.

Can I distribute this around?

Please feel free to spread it across to all your friends and family who live in Bombay. Don’t make them pay for it though.

Is money being made from this?

Nope. Just the satisfaction of having people across the city use something created by me to better the way they get things done through their day.

Can we have advertising on these images?


And if you’re also a designer:

Why on earth was Helvetica picked for this?

I think Helvetica is ideal for this. This is a simple list after all, there’s no need for soulful typographic expression or fancy font-work. This is meant to inform you, rather than inflict thrill or pleasure.

Issues like high x-height and things don’t really matter because the bulk of the data is numeric. Helvetica is plan, it is simple. This list needed to be plain, yet simple. I rest my case.

Couldn’t the type have been a little larger?

It could. Larger type size also means it’d be a longer list, which in turn would entail a lot more heavy duty scrolling.

Why the morose grey colour palette?

I originally wanted the overall image to be as white as possible, but since black text on white can look exceedingly dull, I made it grey. Colours behave differently on different qualities of display, so I thought it best to leave colour out of it for the most of it.

73% of the graphic is light because its always nice to have a light, bright mobile phone screen while reading the meter in the dark.

The column on the left is condensed because the meter usually has numbers in a condensed format too (and is set against black). Half the times I read the lists the drivers have I end up losing track of which column I’m supposed to be looking up the meter reading in. This should make that connection slightly clearer.

What next?

I wouldn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep. If I make time for it, I’d love to work on an improved local train map. Its next to impossible for someone new to the city to figure out how the trains work, or which platform arrives on which side of the train.

Ah, but I dream.