Alas! a high-profile lawmaker has bothered to take the cudgels for hapless motorists who suffer daily -- or sometimes even several times a day -- from the inefficient tollgate operations of those behind the proliferation of RFID (radio-frequency identification) stickers.
In doing so, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza has also warned that the country’s primary tollways -- the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway -- are bound to become oversized parking lots just like EDSA during the holidays because of their inferior tollgate systems.
With the expected influx of motorists going in and out of Metro Manila before and after All Saints’ Day, Atienza said that people are again expected to bear the brunt of being trapped in monstrous traffic jams due to the slow movement of vehicles passing through the tollgates.
He noted that despite the tollgate upgrades that now allow motorists to use the so-called beep cards and RFID stickers, the flow of vehicles is frequently being snagged by the slow lifting response of their barriers.
Citing his experiences in other countries like Singapore, he said there are no barriers at entry and exit points in their expressways which definitely allow faster and smoother flow of traffic.
‘The RFID system should ensure the smooth flow of traffic along our expressways. These expressways are run by big private corporations and we are paying premium rates with the expectation that we will have a more comfortable and hassle-free travel. But as it is now, it looks like our expressways are becoming our new EDSA because we have inferior tollgate systems’, a visibly exasperated Atienza said.
Atienza pointed out that motorists are encountering many problems with the current system, among them instances where the barriers do not automatically open because of the failure of the scanners to detect the vehicles’ RFID.
At times, he notes, the poor motorists would have to move their vehicles back and forth for the RFID sticker to be finally read by the system.
Having experienced this myself, indeed, such inefficiency on the part of those behind the RFID operations causes great inconvenience and annoyance on the part of motorists who spent money to buy such stickers, thinking it would save them a lot of time since they no longer have to queue to pay tolls.
Instead, however, here’s what happens -- usually and at least to me. Since the barrier would not go up and moving back and forth would not work, one would have to honk his horn to get help. The nearest toll staff would get out of the booth he or she is manning, get the motorist’s card and then manually operate the system, until the card is finally recognized and the barrier opens.
The amount of time taken renders the purchase of such stickers totally useless, not to mention the embarrassment of causing a traffic slowdown and at worse, a gridlock.
RFID operators need to answer, satisfactorily, the queries and complaints now being raised by Atienza and which I’m sure are also in the minds of so many RFID customers who are now regretting having bothered to buy such stickers. “Hindi ba nila naki-kita ang problemang ito? Bakit wala silang ginagawa? Dapat ayusin nila ang sistema para sa mas mabilis na pagpasok at labas ng mga motorista. Kelangan mabilis ang mga barriers. Papasok ka pa lang dapat tumataas na lalo na kapag RFID ang gamit mo,” Atienza added, saying this early, toll operators should start upgrading their system since after the ‘Undas’, we will have the Christmas holidays and we expect traffic in these expressways to worsen.
In addition, I note with much dismay and wonder, why the ‘balance’ is not shown. Instead, the sign would at times read ‘low balance’ and once you check, the money left is not actually ‘low’ as it is enough to get you through the toll several times.
The balance must be shown at all times in order to duly inform the RFID patrons concerned how much is being deducted each time they pass through a tollgate, give them the chance to check if they have been charged properly, monitor their balance and reload should they feel that it’s time to do so. It’s called ‘transparency.’
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