Land transport has suffered the most from the pandemic – Manila Bulletin


End of year

On land, the lockdown has grounded more than 2 million commuters, leaving the country with prospects of losing P 520 billion per year if public transport continues to operate at limited capacity.

Fortunately, road infrastructure projects resumed as soon as quarantine restrictions relaxed.

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has lined up 122 billion peso projects to be completed by 2025 while Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) has pledged to complete 28 billion peso “stimulus projects” to aid economic recovery.

However, the pandemic has radically changed the scenario by forcing the land transport industry to finally go digital.

To reduce human contact and curb the spread of the virus, transport authorities have enforced cashless transactions.

On December 1, the first day of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) mandated implementation of fully cashless transactions, SMC reported no major traffic jams on its highways, from South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), Skyway, from the NAIA highway to the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union highway (TPLEX).

However, the glitches cannot be avoided, acknowledged the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) itself.

And when traffic became congested on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the mayor of the city of Valenzuela, Rex Gatchalian, suspended the operating license of operator NLEX Corp.

By mid-December, liquidity had returned for NLEX Corporation at the toll plazas in the city of Valenzuela.

Lawmakers also signed Senate Resolution 596 calling for a temporary halt to cashless transactions on all highways and seeking to change the DOTr rule “to improve the implementation of cashless or contactless transactions at all facilities. with limited access “.

Expecting increased traffic over the Christmas holidays, NLEX Corporation has reopened payment lanes at all toll stations on its highway network.

The operator also presented solutions to improve local traffic conditions in the city of Valenzuela to Mayor Gatchalian.

These included alleviating congestion at toll plazas, managing radio frequency identification (RFID) sticker issues, and responding to motorist recharging requests.

Some of the immediate operational traffic solutions agreed to include the transfer of RFID sticker installation and account reloading transactions outside of toll gates.

For current RFID customers, NLEX has committed to adding new RFID toll lanes at the Karuhatan and Mindanao toll plazas.

This will allow current RFID users to have better access to RFID lanes and improve their travel time.

To serve other motorists who still need RFID stickers, the Karuhatan toll station installation site will be moved to the Santolan Viaduct area inside the highway.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao toll station installation site will also be relocated about 500 meters inside the highway near the Que Grande viaduct area.

Requests to top up motorists’ accounts will be processed after the toll gates and will be processed after entry.

The local government and the toll operator have agreed that these will reduce bottlenecks at the Karuhatan and Mindanao toll plazas and allow more efficient use of limited road space, especially during peak hours.

The traffic solutions have addressed most of the concerns raised by the municipal government.

Significantly, despite the problems, by mid-December more than 90% of transactions on the country’s toll roads switched to RFID stickers, according to data from the TRB.

Based on the daily AutoSweep and Easytrip reports, as of December 8, 2020, more than 3.7 million RFID stickers have been installed, up from 1.4 million at the start of the program, announced the executive director of TRB (ED) Ing. . Abraham Sales.

The improvement in the penetration rate since December 1, 2020 has shown that the majority of motorists now use cashless transactions to pass toll highways.

“The 80 to 90% of cashless transactions means that almost 100% of motorists passing through freeways now use RFID,” he confirmed.

The TRB chief also noted that the number of motorists queuing daily for RFID installation is declining from more than 34,000 on December 1 to less than 28,000 on December 8, 2020.

The latest report to the TRB was 27,906 installations on December 8, implying that most highway users already have RFIDs.

By the end of the year, SMC aims to operate 156 radio frequency identification (RFID) installation stations on its toll roads.

More RFID stations mean more motorists can easily migrate to the government-mandated electronic toll collection system.

SMC has opened 42 new stations in the past two weeks, in addition to the 53 stations it had in November, bringing the current total to 95 stations.

“We are on track to deliver on our promise to open an additional 100 RFID stations,” SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang confirmed.

“In fact, it will be a little more than that. Our overseas RFID tag wholesale orders arrived as expected, so we were also able to open more stations — 42 new at last count. 61 more outlets, mostly off-site, are underway and we will all be opening by the end of December, ”he added.

To date, most of the active stations are located at STAR, SLEX, Skyway, NAIAx and TPLEX, while others are located at gas stations, customer service centers and transportation terminals.

However, the remaining 61 outlets to be opened will be located outside of highways to provide more convenience for more motorists, especially infrequent users of SMC’s highways, Ang explained.

These include new installation stations in more gas stations, transportation terminals, shopping malls, house building complexes, local government offices, land transportation office facilities (LTO ), churches and large arenas.

These are in addition to its Autosweep RFID caravan program, where winged vans will be deployed to barangays and villages to carry out sticker-laying activities.

However, paying the cashless toll, or “full radio frequency identification (RFID) in highways, after any refinement that will be required, is only the first step,” according to Rodrigo E. Franco, president and chief executive officer. the management of Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC).

The final step is the vision of the “open road” without barriers or tolls on the highways.

“Our common vision for the future is to bring toll technology in the country into the modern era,” he explained.

But before that, operators must have an interoperable toll system in the country.

Already, all of MPTC’s highways are prepared for cashless and cash payments.

The transition from cash to cashless transactions has been a huge effort, acknowledged the MPTC chairman.

“It was a massive and comprehensive undertaking as 1.2 million RFID stickers had to be installed in less than four months. “

MPTC’s toll network opened up 283 RFID lanes at toll plazas to customers.

“We sincerely apologize to our customers and partners for the inconvenience caused until December 1, the first day of the implementation of the contactless and cashless program,” he continued.

After the “labor pains” during the first week of implementation, Franco said, traffic at the toll stations has improved considerably. “

Further improvements to the system “are coming this month and next to make the RFID experience even more enjoyable.”

After all, MPTC is the government’s partner in building and upgrading transport infrastructure in the Philippines, having invested 180 billion pesos in highways to date.


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