ICYMI: Dec. 1 start for cashless tollway scheme, health-protocol violations on EDSA bus

Looks like RFID issues won’t be going away anytime soon
by TopGear.com.ph | Nov 1, 2020
PHOTO: NLEX Corporation, Bong Nebrija, Mylene Grecia

December 1st is the new implementation date for fully-cashless tollway payments

“The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has announced that it is extending the deadline for 100% cashless transactions on tollways to December 1, 2020. The move comes following numerous inconveniences in the implementation of the mandatory use of RFID tollway stickers leading up to the original November 2 deadline.

“According to the agency, this is the last time this deadline will be moved.

“‘Secretary [Arthur] Tugade allowed the extension in order to give motorists, especially infrequent toll road users, more time to comply with the department order and to prevent the long queues currently being experienced at toll roads in the rush to get the RFID stickers,’ Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) executive director Abraham Sales said in a statement.

“‘But, mind you, this will be the last time that we will be extending. No more extension beyond December 1.’

“The DOTr added that motorists must move quickly and not take this extension for granted, and that those who ‘fail to conform to the government mandate will be apprehended and issued a citation ticket.’”

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Starting December 1st, what happens if you try to enter tollways without an RFID sticker?

“The DOTr has announced that beginning December 1, motorists who try to enter an expressway’s RFID lanes without an RFID sticker will be refused entry and issued a citation. The agency says the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is currently looking at two possible violations: disregarding traffic sign or obstruction.

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“According to the DOTr, the disregarding of traffic signs can be applied if a car without an RFID sticker attempts to pass through lanes marked RFID only. Obstruction, meanwhile, can come into play if a car without an RFID sticker enters an RFID-only lane and causes a buildup of traffic.

“‘They cannot enter as the barrier will not rise. They will also be cited for disregarding traffic signs or/and obstruction,’ DOTr assistant secretary for communications and commuter affairs Goddes Hope Libiran explained.

“Prior to this, the agency had announced that the installation of RFID stickers will continue past the deadline. We asked if motorists who show up on December 1 onwards hoping to have an RFID installed will be fined if the tollway happens to have no supply of stickers available. ‘Four months na ang ibinigay natin for them to comply,’ Libiran responded. ‘Iniiwasan nga natin na last minute sila kukuha, that’s why we extended for another month.

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“‘Whatever the reason, kung wala silang RFID by December 1, a citation ticket will be issued.’

“We reached out to Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Tollways for further clarification.

“‘Yes, we will have permanent installation lanes at the main toll plazas to install RFIDs to those who still don’t have any RFIDs. Rest assured that the distribution is continuous even beyond December 1 (new deadline). Motorists need not worry about this matter,’ MPTC told Top Gear Philippines, adding that it is still waiting for word from the LTO regarding specific fines and violations.

“We are still awaiting a response from SMC.”

Here’s a potentially easier way for you to get an Easytrip RFID

“MPTC through the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) is rolling out its Easytrip RFID Sticker Caravan. With this initiative, MPTC subsidiary MPT South Corporation will be bringing its Easytrip installation services to different barangays and subdivisions in the area.

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“To book an appointment, you first need to secure 100 applicants in your location. Then, you can send a message via the CALAX Facebook page or an email to inquiry@mptsouth.com. The announcement didn’t say which particular areas are covered, though.

“Take note that only Easytrip tags are available via this RFID Sticker Caravan. Easytrip is usable along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Cavite-Manila Expressway (Cavitex), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), CALAX, and C5 South Link.”

Note, too, that Easytrip RFID application will soon require an appointment

“MPTC has devised a way to effectively decongest the RFID installation sites, and Top Bikes Philippines was able to get a bit of information about this new system ahead of its scheduled launch on November 1.

“According to Arlette Capistrano, MPT South vice president for communications and stakeholder management, Easytrip RFID applicants will be required to use a QR code that will lead them to an online registration form and allow them to choose their preferred date and venue for RFID installation. After the online form is completed and submitted, the booking system will then generate a reservation QR code and send it to the applicant via email. This proof of reservation must then be presented to personnel at the chosen RFID installation site on the confirmed date of installation.

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“‘It starts on November 15 and you can book the date you want, even on the exact date you will use the expressway,’ said Capistrano. “For example, [they will] go to Tagaytay—of course they will use CALAX (Cavite-Laguna Expressway) exiting Santa Rosa near Silang. They can choose the date they want to go, [and] if that’s available, good and well. If not, they can choose other days, time, and customer service center most convenient for them ahead of their trip.”

“What about walk-in applicants? Capistrano said that Easytrip installation venues will only entertain applicants with appointments.”

Moving on to other not-so-pleasant news...

“The past week, a bus operator was caught red-handed by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) personnel faking COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Under the new normal, buses are required to check passengers’ temperatures prior to boarding. If footage uploaded by MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija is to believed, though, this particular bus was using a malfunctioning thermal scanner. The conductor was essentially just trying to appear as if he was scanning passengers with it. Watch:

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“‘So now we know why we are having a spike in Covid cases in our mass public transport. Protocols are taken for granted by bus operators. Good luck to all our commuters,’ Nebrija shared on Facebook.

“‘Di ka ba naman mapikon talaga! Lolohin nyo lelong nyo!’

“Judging by the footage, the scanner being used didn’t have a charged battery. A clearly livid Nebrija was recorded berating the conductor for his actions, saying it’s buses like his that are the reason for the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.”

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...but we’ve got some good news as well

“SMC has pulled out all the stops over the past several months in order to partially open the northbound portion of the Skyway Extension Project by December. Fortunately for us motorists, the company has now announced that it will be able to meet that 2020 deadline.

“According to SMC’s recent press release, this new segment that will connect the Susana Heights portion of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) all the way to the elevated section of the Skyway near Alabang is on track to open in December. 

“‘Work had to stop when the lockdown was implemented. We resumed work in mid-June and because of health protocols, we had to limit the number of workers at the site,’ said SMC president Ramon S. Ang. ‘Apart from limitations on the workforce, we have also had to contend with delays in the shipment of materials, due to restrictions and limitations brought on by the pandemic.

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“‘But despite these challenges, our engineers and our contractors have come through. They work double-time, so we can deliver the northbound section as scheduled, by December. The southbound section will follow July next year.’

“Once complete, the Skyway Extension will add three northbound lanes and two southbound lanes to ease the traffic buildup around the Alabang area along SLEX. This will significantly reduce travel time for motorists heading into Metro Manila from cities and provinces down south. Once the Skyway Extension and Skyway Stage 3 are fully operational, SMC expects travel time from SLEX all the way to the NLEX to be reduced to just 30 minutes.”

‘Build, build, build’ is also going strong in Cagayan...

“According to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Pamplona Bypass Road in Cagayan is expected to help local farmers by improving their access to major markets in the area, allowing them to move goods with less cost. This is on top of making travel to and from Pamplona safer and faster than it is currently for all motorists.

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“This two-lane infrastructure project also includes a 60.80-meter bridge in Barangay Gattu. A total of P86.98 million has been allocated for paved road sections in Barangays Capalalian, Gattu, and Centro since 2018, and an additional P49 million was allocated from the 2020 General Appropriations Act for the aforementioned bridge component.

“Phase 2 of the Pamplona Bypass Road has just been completed, and phase 3 is expected to be finished by February 2021.”

...and in Quezon

“According to the DPWH, the new four-lane Tayabas Bypass Road Project is now 78% complete. Once finished, this new piece of infrastructure located at the Tayabas-Lucban Road junction will decongest Tayabas and make travel to the surrounding areas—including the capital of Quezon Province, Lucena City—a whole lot faster and safer.

“In a statement, DPWH head Mark Villar shared that the agency hopes to have the 6.05km road project completed next year, and that motorists may be able to use it before the end of 2020.

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“In a report submitted to the DPWH, regional director Samsom Hebra claimed that the bypass road will shorten travel time from Lucena City and Tayabas to places like Sariaya, Candelaria, and San Juan, Batangas, by 20 to 30 minutes. ‘With this road, we hope to encourage more investments for the Tayabas town, most especially in underdeveloped areas that will be traversed by the bypass road,’ Hebra said.”

The shift to cashless applies to public-transport payments as well, of course

Grab is launching a new method of payment that will help people get used to not shelling out cash every time they take GrabCar. Cash-in with Driver allows cash-paying commuters to activate their GrabPay wallets during the ride.

“The rider simply has to choose the Cash-in with Driver option in the Grab app and follow the prompts to create a GrabPay wallet profile. The rider will then deposit cash to the driver through a cash box inside the vehicle, minimizing physical contact. The driver will credit the amount to the rider’s GrabPay wallet, which will then be used to pay for the ride.

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“The rider can then top off his GrabPay account through a number of channels (Instapay, over-the-counter at 7-Eleven, direct bank transfers, and so on), so it will be funded for the next GrabCar trip. 

“Previously, commuters were unable to book rides if they did not have a credit card linked to their Grab app or if their GrabPay wallet did not have enough funds to cover the cost of the ride. They could also only top-up their GrabPay wallets with the drivers. This new service will allow commuters who had only ever previously paid for their rides with cash to book rides and transition to purely cashless payment methods moving forward.

“The Cash-in via Driver was first announced to GrabCar drivers in July for supposed implementation on October 26. But Grab Philippines officials said this feature will be fully rolled out to riders by November 2020 through an updated version of the Grab app. It will initially be available on GrabCar two-seater and four-seater in Metro Manila, GrabBayanihan Car, GrabCar two-seater in Cebu and Pampanga, and soon on GrabTaxi.”

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For the cyclists out there, here’s something for you

“The Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) is giving people more reason to hop on a bike instead of inside a car.

“The transport terminal has announced that it now features a bike parking station for cyclists looking to take a trip using public transportation. In a statement, PITX management said the decision to better cater to bicycle users came after it observed an increase in bike traffic following the facility’s resumption of operations in June.

“Considering the size of the PITX, a 38-bike parking station doesn’t seem like that big a deal. PITX management hopes, however, that the new amenity will encourage more commuters to use a bike for a part of their daily journey and help save the environment in the process.”

And for train riders, your MRT-3 ride could soon be faster

“On October 29, the MRT-3 test-ran new light rail trains and faster speeds to improve services for passengers during the extended quarantine, according to the DOTr.

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“The simulation run tested the new general overhauled light rail vehicles, which consist of three carriages in one train set, to ensure it is safe for passengers. Once it passes the test, it will be added to the operational trains already deployed on the line.

“Aside from the new trains, the simulation also tested increasing the overall running speed of the MRT-3 to 50kph from the current 40kph. If all goes well, the trains can run faster at 50kph in November, with 60kph targeted for December.

“Earlier in October, the line’s trains increased speed to 40kph from 30kph after rail construction and rehabilitation was finished with the help of Japan’s Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Bumping speeds up to 50kph will cut waiting time from 8.5-9 minutes to just 5.5-6 minutes for all the 20 trains on the mainline.

“The MRT-3 currently operates with 22 train sets, with each train set ferrying 372 passengers, or 124 individuals per train car.”

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PHOTO: NLEX Corporation, Bong Nebrija, Mylene Grecia
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