MANILA – As the country braces for the ‘new normal’ due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is preparing for the opportunity to modernize the country’s transportation systems.
In a news release on Thursday, the DOTr said this will involve technology-driven, integrated, and sustainable initiatives that will not only address disease transmission but will also revolutionize road transport to become efficient, reliable, environment-friendly and safe.
Some of the projects, policies, and measures undertaken and will be undertaken, for the new normal include the following:
-Consolidation of Operators and Rationalization of Routes
Most of the routes in the metropolis are either too long, overlapping, and results in inefficient travels. Operators with a few units and drivers without formal employment are badly hit by the transport stoppage, as a result of the pandemic. With the reduction of capacity in public transportation, it is high time to improve the public transportation system. Operators need to consolidate for economies of scale. Drivers need to be employed into the formal society so that employment benefits will be provided. Routes should be optimized for operators to gain more load factor per trip.
-Dedicated lanes for public transport
With the new normal and community quarantine reducing transportation requirements, it is an opportunity to showcase the efficiency of public transport, through the provision of dedicated lanes for buses. People should not stay long in traffic. What we need is a system where public transportation can do a quick turn-around, and with reliable travel.
-Online transactions and online payments
The Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC), and Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) will be pushing for continued innovations on their transactions.
Payment of permits and fees that require no appearance, such as renewal of driver’s licenses, will be done online. Part of the process for motor vehicle registration will also be done online. OTC required seminars to coops can also be done via telecon/ webinars. Aside from these, licenses and permits will also be delivered at the client’s doorsteps.
All of these efforts reduce face-to-face transactions, not only reducing physical contact but ultimately improving the delivery of public service of the Road Sector agencies. It will also decrease opportunities for corrupt practices.
⁃ GNSS/GPS monitoring of fleet
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for fleet monitoring systems in public transportation. The buses being used by the DOTr for the free ride service were installed with GPS devices to monitor the bus whereabouts in real-time.
This technology enabled the front-liner commuter to track the location of the buses and plan their travel ahead of time. The commuter can monitor the time of arrival of the bus to his location making his commute more hassle-free. To the operator and government regulator, it will enable us to track driver behavior and trips made, and kilometer run of the buses, monitor how many are running, and minimize waste of resources such as engine idling.
-Automatic Fare Collection Systems in public transport
Cash payments in public transport have been a burden to commuters and public transport operators. You have experienced being short-changed by the driver, or the commuter having a big bill for his commute. Pilferage is also common within public transport operators and drivers. Sudden and unregulated increases in fares were also being done by drivers. All of these will be a thing of the past once automatic fare collection systems (AFCS) become a standard in all public transportation. With cashless transactions, there will be less transmission of the virus, and accounting of revenues in public transportation will be faster. Further, “big-data” collected through the AFCS can help operators and policymakers improve the efficiency of public transport services.
-Online seat booking
Coupled with AFCS and GPS Technology, commuters may be able to book their rides in advance, reducing the need to fall in-line in terminals. This also ensures the availability of commuters’ ride home, unlike in the current system where commuters have to wait for a ride for several hours at terminals or on the road. This will not only cut down on exposure risks but can also help trace possible contacts and quickly disseminate information if a passenger is diagnosed with any infectious disease.
-E-toll collection technology
In the metropolis, a lot of motorists are already switching to RFID stickers for toll payment. People have seen its vast benefits of faster queuing time at tollbooths, rather than cash transactions. Further, imagine the cash being handled by toll booth operators, aggravated by the tight and cramped conditions inside the small toll booth. That is a health and safety hazard no person should endure. Thousands of people handing out the cash to them is a hyper virus-spreader. Thus, we are calling on all motorists to take advantage of the opportunity being given by the toll operators for free RFID stickers.
-Requirement of shuttle services and school bus for employees and schools
All government agencies will be asked to provide shuttle services for their respective employees, to which the agencies agreed. This requirement is seen now as a new normal. For companies, instead of providing car plans to executives, why not also provide employee shuttles to the more needy, as part of their benefits? Companies will be assured that their employees will be able to come to work on time and safely. Schools will also be required to provide school service for their students, thus reducing the chance of students catching sickness from mixing with public transport. This can be seen as a benefit to the establishment, as students and staff will become less prone to tardiness because of the more reliable transport.
-Use of bicycles, non-motorized transport
The DOTr’s Road Sector shall also promote non-motorized transport such as the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation that would be useful in maintaining physical distancing, at same time will deliver substantial environmental and health benefits and achieving efficient use of road space. The integration of the non-motorized transport to the road space and development of necessary infrastructures shall be prioritized. The DOTr is pushing for the LGUs to develop more facilities to make biking much safer, and for them to craft ordinances to encourage biking, requiring bike racks, lockers, among others.
A Joint Administrative Order is being drafted by the DOTr, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, and the Department of Public Works and Highways that will identify the guidelines on the use and promotion of public transport during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. (ia/DOTR)