Expressways to go cashless

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    BY NOEL TALACAY and MYLA IGLESIAS

    TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur Tugade has ordered a full transition to cashless transactions in all toll expressways in the country by November as a protective strategy against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contamination.

    Tugade has signed Department Order (DO) 2020-012 directing all concerned agencies to formulate new processes and procedures within three months to ensure the smooth implementation of the new policy.

    The order covers the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway (Coastal Road), North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), South Metro Manila Skyway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and all other road networks, including any extension of existing expressway facilities that may be constructed, established and/or operated as expressway toll facilities.

    The Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) will promulgate rules and regulations that will require concessionaires and operators of toll expressways to fully transition to an electronic toll collection system, while the Land Transportation Office (LTO) will submit a study exploring ways and means to allow for a full cashless and contactless system along expressways.

    On the other hand, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will monitor the compliance of all public utility vehicles (PUVs) on the mandatory use/installation of electronic tags or use of other cashless systems in their units.

    Tugade said the new system will limit human intervention and remove traffic queuing and congestion at the toll plazas and will complement health protocols being enforced by the government, like physical distancing.

    “We carry with us the burden of ensuring that our transport facilities will not be a transmission vector of the disease, while at the same time, providing an efficient system of public transport. With both tasks at hand, there is a need to strike a balance. Requiring contactless transactions is one of our ways of doing it,” Tugade said.

    Tugade acknowledged that it would be easy but said “if there will be initial inconveniences, let us look forward to the long-term benefit of it.”

    “This is an effort of the national government through the DOTr to further protect the public from the infectious coronavirus disease (COVID-19)” he added.

    Meanwhile, the LTFRB yesterday allowed the operation of an additional 1,333 traditional jeepneys to ply 23 routes in Metro Manila.

    The additions will increase the current authorized number of PUJs from 12,443 to 13,778 and routes from 126 routes to 149 in Metro Manila.

    The additional routes includes Napocor Village/NIA Ville – SM North EDSA, NAPOCOR/NIA Ville – Mindanao Avenue Congressional, Bagbaguin – Malinta, Katipunan – Marcos Avenue /University Avenue via UP, Libertad – PRC, Santol – Pina Avenue via Buenos Aires,  Blumentritt – Divisoria, Blumentritt – Libertad via Sta. Cruz, L. Guinto, Libertad – Retiro via Mabini, Sta. Cruz, L. Guinto, España – Rizal Avenue via Blumentritt, Blumentritt – Retiro, Arroceros – Blumentritt via Dimasalang, Ayala – P. Burgos/J.P. Rizal, Baclaran – Blumentritt via Mabini, Sta. Cruz, Baclaran – Blumentritt via Quiapo/Mabini, Dapitan – Pier South, Divisoria – Libertad via L. Guinto, Divisoria – Libertad via Mabini, Divisoria – TM Kalaw via Jones Bridge, España – Project 2 & 3 via Timog Avenue, Project 4 – TM Kalaw via Cubao, E. Rodriguez, Pier South – Retiro via Sta. Cruz  and Multinational Village – Gate along Imelda Avenue.

    Aside from PUJs, there are also 3,696 public utility bus (PUBs) operating in 31 routes; 364 Point-to-Point buses in 33 routes; 20,493 taxis, 23,776 transport network vehicles services (TNVS), 1,621 units of UV Express operating in 51 routes, and 786 units of modern public utility jeepneys in 45 routes.