ICYMI: Skyway Stage 3 completion, ‘one seat apart’ policy, RFID sticker shortage

Some changes are taking effect this coming week
by TopGear.com.ph | 3 days ago
PHOTO: Mark Villar on Facebook, Jerome Ascaño, Leandre Grecia

PSA: Turn off recirculate mode in cars with multiple passengers

“The Department of Health (DOH) has released a Department Memorandum 2020-0429, which discusses how to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, and motorists should take note: The agency has now advised that recirculating air inside vehicles must be avoided.

“According to the memo, improving ventilation within enclosed spaces is essential ‘when an activity cannot be moved into an open air setting.’ This includes the opening of doors and windows to enable better airflow.

“The same concept applies when it comes to cars, which is why motorists should utilize the car’s vents and slightly open the windows when moving from point A to B, especially when there are multiple passengers aboard.

“As for public transport vehicles, this is easier said than done. We have no word yet from neither the DOH nor the Department of Transportation on what changes should be made with regards to public transport moving forward.

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“The DOH added that while there is still no conclusive evidence that confirms the possibility of airborne transmissions, it’s best we all exercise a bit of extra caution.”

A new automatic fare-collection system in the works?

“At the end of September, the DOTr announced that the EDSA Busway would be going completely cashless effective October 1. However, on the first day of implementation, the situation at bus stations got a bit chaotic. Plus, there was also the issue about the initial charges that the Beep card service provider AF Payments Inc. (AFPI) was requiring from commuters, which ultimately forced the DOTr to suspend its new cashless policy.

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“The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) followed this up with an order to remove card fees for all tap-to-pay systems, just after AFPI handed out 125,000 Beep cards for free. That’s why as of this writing, the EDSA Busway has officially gone back to accepting both tap-to-pay cards and cash payments.

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“Now, it appears that the DOTr is already exploring other ways to implement its cashless payment system. It recently inked a partnership with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), through which the two will work together on several transport modernization projects, one of them relating to the automatic fare collection systems (AFCS).

“The DOTr and the LBP will conduct pilot testing of an automated system that will use Mastercard EMVCo-compliant cards as payment instruments across different modes of public transport. The agency estimates at least 130 PUVs will participate in the pilot run that’s expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.”

Skyway Stage 3 has been completed

“The San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has announced that the Skyway Stage 3 project, which will play an integral role in further linking Northern and Southern Luzon, is now complete.

“SMC concluded construction on the 17.93km stretch of elevated expressway well before the project’s October 31 deadline. It managed to do this despite a devastating fire that destroyed a portion of the expressway in February and construction delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The structure, though, will not be open to the public until the weather lets up and its asphalt can be cured.

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“Once motorists are allowed to enter, Skyway Stage 3 will cut travel time between the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) from three hours to just 20 minutes, Magallanes and Balintawak to just 15 minutes, Balintawak and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to just 15 minutes, and Valenzuela and Makati to just 10 minutes.”

Here are the new jeepney routes reactivated the past week

“The DOTr has opened 44 new public utility jeepney routes and authorized 4,820 more PUJs in the metro. This comes after the LTFRB signed Memorandum Circular 2020-058.

“As of this writing, there are already 27,016 authorized traditional PUJs and 302 operational routes across the capital. For the full list of newly opened routes, click here.”

From one meter apart to one seat apart

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved imposing a ‘one seat apart’ rule in public transport, as the economy gradually and carefully restarts seven months into the COVID-19 quarantine, his spokesman said today, October 13.

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“Previously, commuters were required to be spaced one meter apart on board buses, trains, and jeeps. This is the minimum distance required to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to research.

“Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the economic cluster in the Cabinet recommended the ‘one seat apart’ arrangement, and it was approved during a meeting on Monday, October 12.”

Another cause of delay for the resumption of motorcycle-taxi operations?

“Here’s good news and bad news with regard to the proposed extension of the motorcycle-taxi pilot run.

“First, the good news: Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) expressed his support for the continuation of the scheme. ‘The DOTr recognizes the role of motorcycle taxis in transporting our commuters to their destinations,’ he said in a statement.

“On Sunday, October 11, Angkas riders staged a ‘thanksgiving’ motorcade on EDSA, anticipating the government’s go-signal for the resumption of the pilot run for accredited motorcycle-taxi companies. Based on our interview, many of these riders thought the final approval from Malacañang would be released on Monday, October 12.

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“The bad news: It turns out they might have to wait a little longer because Tugade wants Congress to first issue a resolution allowing the motorcycle-taxi companies to resume operations.

“‘Kaya nga ho ba, as long as there is a Congress resolution, which will be our legal basis to allow the operation of [motorcycle taxis], we will fully support this,’ Tugade said. ‘We will abide by the directive of Congress and the [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] on the health and safety protocols.’

“The House panel led by Representative Edgar Mary Sarmiento has expressed full support for this endeavor, but based on Tugade’s latest statement, the legislators will need to formalize their stand on the issue by coming up with a resolution.”

The TRB wants to get to the bottom of the RFID sticker shortage...

“We’ve been told by a reliable source from the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) that as of this writing, the implementation of the ‘no RFID, no access on tollways’ policy is still set to begin on November 2, 2020. Also, the TRB is already finalizing the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the said policy under Department Order No. 2020-012, which still needs the approval of the DOTr for its implementation.

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“The more pressing issue for the TRB is the reported shortage of RFID stickers, particularly for the Easytrip system under the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC).

Easytrip gives motorists access to North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), Cavite-Manila Expressway (Cavitex), and Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX). Autosweep, meanwhile, is used on all tollways under the San Miguel Corporation (SMC): South Luzon Expressway, Skyway, Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEX), NAIA Expressway, and STAR Tollway.

“Most reports of RFID sticker shortage concerns Easytrip, our source claimed: ‘We were told that the shortage was felt in certain special installation sites where the demand for RFID went over the allocated stocks.’ Being pop-up locations, these sites get limited supplies of RFID stickers compared with the permanent RFID sticker-installation stations.

“Just the same, the TRB is set to hold a meeting with the two tollway management companies in the coming days to iron out the installation process—particularly at specially designated venues like malls, villages, and other terminals—so as not to cause inconvenience to RFID subscribers. ‘Based on their statements, [the MPTC] has more than enough supply of RFID stickers at the stockroom. There are also replenishment stocks currently being processed by the Bureau of Customs,’ our source disclosed. ‘Probably the problem here is the distribution and allocation process. We have yet to find a solution to this.’

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“Also, MPTC has placed an order for more Easytrip RFID stickers. These are set to arrive in the country by the first quarter of next year.”

...well, this could be one reason for the shortage

“It has come to our knowledge that Easytrip tags are now being resold across the Facebook Marketplace, and they don’t come cheap.

“One tag can cost as much as P900, which is pretty absurd considering the regular tag from an authorized installation site should be free of charge. You’d only need to pay for the initial P200 to P500 load that comes along with it. So, we decided to reach out to the MPTC regarding the matter.

“According to MPT South assistant vice president Arlette Capistrano, the company’s investigation shows that these resellers apparently availed of the express and stick-it-yourself Easytrip RFIDs that were made available a while back.: ‘We cannot blame these enterprising individuals especially now that every peso counts in these hard times, with the pandemic limiting the capacity to earn. They are, however, not accredited and selling for a higher price.’

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“No further course of action was mentioned by the company, but it is reminding RFID applicants that the initial cost should be the only amount that they pay for. It is also encouraging motorists to secure their RFID tags via the authorized Easytrip customer service stations.”

Yes to faster travel times through Tagaytay, please

Traffic-weary residents of Tagaytay might soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief. According to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), a new bypass road will help decongest the city, as well as cut travel time to and from nearby Alonso.

“The Tagaytay Bypass Road Project is four lanes wide and spans 8.59km through the Luksuhin, Sikat, Zambal, Guinhawa, Patutong Malaki, Balagbag, Salaban, Kaybagal, and Maitim road sections. Two sections of the project, Maitim, and Kaybagal, are scheduled to open later this month.

“‘The opening of these two sections this October is only the beginning as we have been prioritizing the inclusion of Tagaytay Bypass Road Project in the national budget since 2018,’ DPWH head Mark Villar said in a recent statement, adding that once completed, travel time to and from Alonso will be cut down to just 20 minutes.

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“So far, over P466 million has been released by the DPWH for the upcoming bypass road. The agency says that an additional P1.08 billion will be needed for the concreting and right-of-way acquisitions of its remaining sections.”

Finally, future road projects will now incorporate bicycle lanes

“Over the past few months, government agencies and local government units have been putting in the effort to open up bike lanes across the metro. And now, the DPWH has just revealed that all national roads and bridges, as well as upcoming expansion projects, shall incorporate a dedicated bicycle lane in their designs. This is in accordance with Department Order No. 88 series of 2020, which was signed back in September.

“There will be no standard measurements for these lanes, as the specifications will vary depending on the current road and traffic conditions in the area, including factors like motor vehicle volume, operating speed, available road, and shoulder and sidewalk space. That said, the DPWH emphasized that the width of the bike paths shall be no less than 2.44 meters

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“The future projects will also be categorized into three different classes: Classes 1 and 2 for roads operating with moderate to high speeds and high traffic volume, and Class 3 for roads operating with the lowest speed and the least number of vehicles.

Class 1 projects include a shared use path or bike path that is completely separated from the road used by motor vehicles. The open space for the sidewalk will divide the bike and car lanes. Class 2 projects, meanwhile, entail that a portion of the motor vehicle roadway shall contain the dedicated bike lanes. These lanes, however, will be separated by pavement markings or physical dividers.

“Lastly, Class 3 projects will see designated bike lanes marked along a portion of the road similar to Class 2 designs, but these will not be physically separated from the road. This will allow motor vehicles to use the bike paths as needed due to the road’s limited carriageway width.”

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Travel in the time of COVID just got less restricted

“Just in time for Christmas, shopping malls can hold sales and other activities that spur economic activity, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday, October 16.

“Persons in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) can also now cross borders under ‘reasonable regulations’ from local authorities. This includes those who are not classified as authorized persons outside of residence or APOR. The inter-zonal movements in GCQ and MGCQ can be ‘for any purpose,’ Roque said.

“Roque added that foreign leisure travel will be allowed starting October 21, provided health protocols are followed. Of course, receiving countries have their own rules for visitors.

“The IATF also widened the age bracket of those who can leave their houses—it’s now 15 to 65 from 21 to 60. This means teens and seniors can now run errands.”

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PHOTO: Mark Villar on Facebook, Jerome Ascaño, Leandre Grecia
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