Dubbed an “Oystercard for Edinburgh”, the ID imitates the electronic ticketing used across nearly all public transport links in Greater London.
The new “citysmart” card for Capital commuters can be used on Lothian Buses and the Edinburgh Trams after topping up the pass with 20 journeys for £30 – equivalent to £1.50 per journey.
The card can then be topped up with five, ten, 15, 20 or 50 additional journeys from participating shops and kiosks.
But critics have argued that a £3.50 day ticket – which permits unlimited journeys on bus and tram for 24 hours – would be a cheaper option than the citysmart card for commuters taking more than two journeys a day.
However, Ian Craig, chief executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said improving the range of fare options means commuters can “buy and board in a way that suits them best”.
He said: “Everyone has their own preferences for getting around the city and how they like to pay.
“Innovation is at the forefront of our business and along with the introduction of citysmart, we will see our whole fleet fitted with free wi-fi and a further delivery of hybrid vehicles before the end of 2014.”
The new citysmart system differs from the existing Ridacard scheme which provides unlimited travel across Edinburgh’s public transport network but works on a subscription costing £51 a month per adult.
However, the pre-paid citysmart card can be charged with 50 single journeys that will last indefinitely – provided the card is topped up every 180 days.
Passengers will only need to hold the card against the bus ticket machine or tram stop card validator to use it.
Citysmart will be accepted on all Lothian Buses except the Airlink, night buses, service 98 and in Lothian Country Bus zone C; and on the tram except journeys beginning or ending at the airport.
Transport leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said the new integrated ticketing option was a “welcome addition to our joined-up transport system”.
Her deputy, Cllr Adam McVey said the card would help to integrate the tram line with the Lothian Bus service and encourage “as many people as possible to use public transport”.
“This will make public transport more user-friendly and encourage more locals and visitors to opt for tram or bus as their preferred method of travelling around the city.”
Tram expert Lewis Lesley hailed the success of London’s Oystercard and welcomed the introduction of the payment system in Edinburgh.
He said: “In London, the Oystercard has resulted in a huge increase in journeys. This will certainly make things more convenient.”
But transport consultant Robert Drysdale insisted that until the new card offers a discount it will always be a poor relation to the Oystercard in London
He said: “One of the beauties of the Oystercard is that it works out how many journeys you have done in a day, and it only charges you the absolute maximum that you would pay if you had bought a day ticket.
“I think what is needed is something that is both convenient and a bargain. If you’ve got to have 20 journeys on it to start with that’s £30, and you’re not getting any discount at all, so I’m not enthused.”