‘System failure’: RFID users refute NLEX official’s remark on toll traffic attributed to low balance

December 7, 2020 - 6:17 PM
RFID sticker installation
Motorists line up at North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) for free installation of RFID stickers in October 2020. (The STAR/Boy Santos via Facebook)

Filipinos opposed the remarks of a traffic operations manager who attributed the traffic congestion on the toll gates at the North Luzon Expressway to users’ unloaded radio frequency identification (RFID) accounts.

Robin Ignacio of the NLEX Traffic Operations Center said that the build-up of vehicular lines is caused by motorists installing RFID stickers on their cars, as well as those lining up with no load.

“Naobserbahan po natin na mula po noong December 1, buti nga po hindi tayo natuloy ng November 2, so December 1, ‘yun na po ‘yung full implementation ng RFID pero unfortunately, that day, marami pa rin po nagpapakabit ng RFID,” he said in an interview with GMA’s “Unang Hirit” on Monday.

“At ganoon din po, kung gaano karami ‘yung nagpapakabit ng RFID, mas marami po ‘yung wala pong load na dadaan po dito sa expressway so nakalagay po dun sa aming sensor na wala po silang load or insufficient load,” Ignacio added.

Ignacio said that they have already advised motorists passing NLEX to load their respective RFID accounts before going through the expressway to avoid encountering problems.

“Inoobserhan po natin ‘yung toll lanes, ‘yung mga RFID lanes, pagka naman sufficient po ‘yung balance, tuloy-tuloy pa rin po talaga ‘yung daan eh,” Ignacio said.

He added that those with “low balance” on their RFID accounts can still pass through the toll gate.

“Unfair po talaga na sabihing walang load pero ‘yun po talaga no-obserbahan po natin ‘yung mga toll plaza natin… sa tala po namin, mas marami po talaga ‘yung walang load at sana po, kung nakinig po ‘yung ating mga motorista na naka-experience po ng ganoon at ie-ensure na po nila ‘yung load, eh sana po tuloy-tuloy ang (daloy),” Ignacio further said.

RFID system woes

Filipinos were not satisfied with Ignacio’s comments and continued to air their grievances against the controversial RFID system, claiming that the build-up of traffic is not caused by the lack of balance in their accounts.

“May load ka nga, may time naman na ayaw basahin ‘yung RFID tapos wala ka pang makikitang balance ‘pag dumaan ka, paano malalaman kung ilan nalang natitira,” a Facebook user commented in response to Ignacio’s interview.

“Walang load, e kaka-load nga lang nmin (sasabihin) low balance.. pa-load na namin… ganoon pa din, low balance…” another online user said.

“Huwag din kalimutan ang hirap mag-reload via BPI App or GCash. Either invalid account, or system unavailable. Kapag pumila ka naman sa toll plaza to reload (it took me 45 minutes Sunday night), merong cap na P1k (1,000) only. So, kapag naubos, pila again. Pinahihirapan nila mga motorista,” lamented a different Filipino.

“Wala kasi monitoring sa load, karamihan sa exit, no show balance. Aminin niyo na palpak ‘yans RFID system niyo, lalo na diyan sa Valenzuela toll plaza,” commented another Facebook user.

In a bid to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus disease, the Department of Transporation has sought cashless payments in transactions on public transport, including in expressways.

Instead of handing cash at toll gates, motorists will only have their electromagnetic stickers (the RFID) be automatically read by a sensor for a supposed swift passage.

Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, whose city thoroughfares are affected by the vehicular traffic at NLEX, has previously threatened to suspend the business permit of NLEX Corporation following the fiasco over its cashless transaction system.

Gatchalian said that he has similarly raised the problem of “primitive sensors” with the tollway seven years ago.

“Until you get your act together and perfect your existing tollway system, the city government may withdraw as your partner in your future planned expansions in our jurisdiction,” Gatchalian said in a letter to NLEX chief operating officer Raul Ignacio before.

NLEX Corporation was given until 5:01 p.m. today to comply with the city government’s demands.

If unfulfilled, an executive order will be issued for the business to “cease and desist” from its operation in Valenzuela which includes lifting all of its barriers or gates within the city’s jurisdiction.

As of 5:13 p.m., Gatchalian was already reported to implement the suspension order concerning transactions on NLEX’s toll gates.

“Kapag na-serve ko na ang suspension order sa kanila, ma-i-implement na ang suspensyon ng paniningil sa toll plaza ng NLEX sa Valenzuela,” the mayor told DZRH News.

“Nakakainsulto na pitong taon akong daing nang daing, hindi nila inaksyunan,” Gatchalian added.

An automobile magazine earlier reported the “carmageddon” that greeted motorists on December 1, the initial deadline of the RFID installation on vehicles. It compiled some tweets of Filipinos who shared their experiences about the heavy traffic on the toll gates.

The DOTr said that the RFID installation was extended up to Jan. 11, 2021.

Toll operators SMC TPLEX Corp., the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., and NLEX Corp. on Monday have inked an agreement to jointly test the use of the AutoSweep and EasyTrip RFID tags.

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