Mandatory use of beep cards on EDSA Busway suspended

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    THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) yesterday indefinitely suspended the mandatory use of beep cards at the EDSA Busway following the refusal of the private concessionaire providing the program’s automatic fare collection system (AFCS) to waive the cost of the beep cards.

    In a statement released on Sunday night, the DOTr said: “Starting Monday, 05 October 2020, we are suspending the mandatory use (of) beep cards at the EDSA Busway until the issue is resolved.”

    “We are saddened by the refusal of AF Payments, Inc., the provider of the automatic fare collection system (AFCS) at the EDSA Busway, to waive the cost of the beep card despite consistent pleas made by the government. This would have made a big difference to the commuters, mostly daily wage earners who are the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

    It said that while the EDSA Busway consortia are looking for another AFCS provider, a dual payment system will be implemented for EDSA Busway passengers.

    Passengers who have already bought or have existing beep cards may still use them for the payment of fares. Meanwhile, off board cash payment will be accommodated for those who have no cards yet. Cash payments will be collected by personnel from the EDSA Bus consortia at the stations.

    “These personnel will be wearing appropriate face shields, face masks, and gloves to prevent the transmission of COVID-19,” the DOTr assured its riders.

    Earlier on Sunday, DOTr assistant secretary for communications and commuter affairs Goddess Hope Libiran said the government will mandate the waiving of payment for the contactless cards in all public utility vehicles (PUVs) to ease the burden of commuters.

    The government has shifted to cashless payments amid the continued spread of the new coronavirus.

    Libiran said the DOTr, through the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), will release a memorandum circular that will mandate all AFCS concessionaires to subsidize the system costs of cashless transactions.

    “Commuters should only pay for the tap up load on the contactless card,” Libiran said.

    A beep card costs P80 each on top of the fare load that cash holders also have to purchase.

    Cashless system in public transport is not limited to the use of beep cards. Some PUVs have been using other payment methods such as Globe Telecom’s GCash, PLDT’s PayMaya, Squidpay and even QR codes, among others.

    Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo has filed a resolution urging the DOTR to provide tens of thousands of commuters with free bor fare cards for the three mass transit systems in Metro Manila and the carousel buses on EDSA after hundreds of passengers protested the department’s “No Beep card, No ride” policy.

    Castelo filed House Resolution No. 1272 a few days after the situation became chaotic in bus and light rail transit (LRT) stations because of the department’s new policy.

    Aside from carousel buses, the beep card is used on LRT-1 (Monumento to Pasay via Rizal and Taft avenues), LRT-2 (Marikina to Manila via Cubao, Sta. Mesa and Claro M. Recto) and MRT 3 (Edsa, from North Avenue in Quezon City to Pasay City).

    “It is hereby suggested that the Beep cards should be given to commuters for free, and there should be no usage fee charged on top of the pre-paid load,” Castelo said in the resolution. “If expressway operators in north and south Luzon could provide radio frequency identification (RFID) cars to motorists for free, the DOTR and its LRT and bus operators should offer the same service free of charge.” – With Wendell Vigilia