THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) will soon make it mandatory for toll road operators to implement cashless and contactless transactions at all toll plazas, in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade signed a department order on Aug. 13 directing all concerned agencies to “formulate new processes and procedures within three months to ensure the smooth implementation of the new policy.”

Under the order, the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) was directed to come up with rules and regulations requiring concessionaires and operators of toll expressways to transition to an electronic toll collection system.

The Land Transportation Office was also ordered to submit a study on how to implement a cashless and contactless system along toll roads.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board was tasked to check if all public utility vehicle operators will use and install cashless systems in their vehicles.

The DoTr said the contactless payment policy will be implemented on South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway, North Luzon Expressway, South Metro Manila Skyway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and Cavite-Laguna Expressway.

Mr. Tugade acknowledged there may be “initial inconveniences” caused by the new policy, but stressed there will be long-term benefits.

SMC Tollways announced in June it will implement cashless payments in all of its toll roads. The first phase will cover the elevated section of the Skyway, NAIAX and SLEx starting October, while the second phase will cover at-grade sections of the three tollways, STAR Tollways and  Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway in January 2021. To boost compliance among motorists, the company is offering free installation of RFID stickers to all vehicles that use these expressways.

Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. is also offering free Easytrip RFID (radio frequency identification) stickers for motorists who use the toll roads it operates.

In its “Guidance Note on COVID-19 and Transport in Asia and the Pacific” published July 24, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said public transport has played a central role in the spread of the virus.

The ADB said the government can also promote a “more sustainable transport mode balance” by making sure public vehicles are clean, providing quality travel alternatives and encouraging walking and cycling to enhance overall health and well-being.

It added the resilience of public transport systems can be improved by making better use of advanced technology and promoting digital inclusion. — A.L.Balinbin