More than three years after it was implemented under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, the national government’s goal of 'cashless toll payment' for major toll roads is now becoming a reality in Laguna province.
On August 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued Department Order No. 2020-012 ordering full implementation of cashless toll collections at major toll roads in Luzon.
The move was meant not only to contain the spread of the coronavirus but also to reduce the problem of traffic congestion in toll plazas.
Unfortunately, the first months of implementation of the radio frequency identification (RFID) only system was marred by technical glitches and long lines of motorists applying for RFID stickers.
Not for long
Mamplasan Toll Plaza in Biñan City in Laguna in particular became a chokepoint due to the hundreds of motorists who rushed to install RFID stickers in their vehicles before the December 1, 2020 deadline imposed by the DOTr and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).
The situation at the time was such that at one point, OpinYon Media Advocacies stepped in and aided the TRB in helping motorists install RFID stickers without having to endure the long lines.
As a result, the DOTr later issued an addendum in January 2021 allowing vehicles with no RFID stickers and requiring cash lanes in all toll plazas.
That system is still in effect, but not for long.
Three years forward, and the TRB said it is now gearing up for the full implementation of the cashless toll system in major expressways not only in Laguna province but in the entire Luzon as well.
Two major expressways in Laguna province – the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) – were among those included in the TRB’s dry run for the implementation of the cashless toll systems which started last month.
According to the TRB, the dry run is a "necessary procedure" to ensure the readiness of tollway concessionaires and operators of expressways for the smooth and efficient reimplementation of the program.
Under the dry run, motorists without an active RFID sticker will still be allowed to pass, but toll personnel will install an RFID sticker on their vehicle so they can exit at the electronic toll collection (ETC) lane towards their destination.
As of press time, SLEX has included 17 entry and exit points in the dry run from Alabang, Muntinlupa City to Calamba City in Laguna.
“We support the DOTr's and the TRB's move to make toll collection purely cashless. We believe this move will significantly reduce traffic congestion and waiting times at toll plazas and contribute to a smoother and safer travel experience,” SMC President and CEO Ramon Ang was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, CALAX has implemented the RFID-only system at four of its toll plazas, including Laguna Boulevard A and B; Laguna Technopark; and Silang East.
Giving motorists a chance
Both SLEX and CALAX have emphasized that motorists who have yet to install RFID stickers on their vehicles are given every opportunity to have one installed, especially on RFID-only toll plazas.
Motorists without RFID stickers passing through SLEX will still be allowed to pass, but toll personnel will install an RFID sticker on their vehicle so they can exit at the electronic toll collection (ETC) lane towards their destination.
Toll personnel will only take a photo of the vehicle license plate and secure the motorist’s mobile phone number. Motorists will then need to complete the registration process by supplying other essential information at the Autosweep RFID website.
“Karaniwan pong nangyayari ngayong dry-run ay mayroon pa rin pong mga motorist ana dumadaan na walang RFID. Kaya mayroon na kaming mga nakadeploy na mga ‘installer’ sa mga toll plaza na 100-percent RFID only upang sila ay mapakabitan [ng sticker] at magamit sa susunod nilang pagdaan,” CALAX officials, on the other hand, said in a message to OpinYon Laguna.
“Gayundin ay patuloy ang aming pag papaalala sa mga motorista na may RFID ngunit kulang ang kanilang balanse, na magpareload bago dumaan sa toll plaza para mas mabilis ang kanilang pagdaan at iwas abala sa mga kapwa motorista,” they added.
Despite this, however, there were still some concerns raised by motorists, particularly the continuing issue of some RFID scanners on toll plazas not reading motorists’ stickers, particularly along SLEX.
Others are concerned that the push for the cashless toll payment system may leave some motorists, especially those coming from the provinces, behind.
“Paano na lang kaming mga taga-Visayas at Mindanao na gagala lang saglit sa Manila? Bibili talaga kami ng RFID tapos one time lang magagamit?” netizen Vince Rodriguez asked on social media.
#OpinYonLaguna #CoverStory #CashlessTollSystem #SLEX #CALAX #RFID #ETC #Laguna #SMC #DOTr #TRB #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand