Not RaFID enough

Published December 9, 2020, 11:53 PM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

If the Toll Regulatory Board’s RFID system – cashless but equally brainless – was meant to speed up the flow of traffic if not the cash flow, how did they explain the 5km traffic jams that got Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian’s goat?

Likewise, how was it that as soon as NLEX’s business permit was suspended and it effectively put a stop to all toll collections pronto in Valenzuela, Bulacan, traffic flowed as freely as the tired masses deserved it to?

The RFID experience had run into a roadblock of its own making, implying that the toll gates were not ready for the motorists, the motorists were not ready for the system, the system was not ready with the technology.

Still, a large part of the blame may be traced to our notorious, catch-all “resiliency” – the ability to rise above life’s petty and monumental challenges, in this case the talent to stop the clock at the last minute and stretch the deadline to eternity. To be fair to the Board, motorists had months – many months – to apply for their AutoSweep and EasyTrip stickers. A multitasking mother driving her kids home from out of town chafed, “It’s not fair for them laggards to crowd us out of our RFID lanes!”

Mayor Gatchalian was incensed by NLEX’s request for 15 days to solve the problem. “I have been mayor for seven years and that’s how old RFID is, and they still need 15 days to answer our complaints?” he fumed.

Among other problems, sensors could not read the stickers, there were not enough RFID lanes, cars were wrongly stopped for zero balance. On the other hand, the crush of car owners who rushed out to get their stickers outnumbered those duly registered – a case of the latecomers overwhelming the system, aggravating traffic, and causing unnecessary stress (for some, being parked on a tollway for three hours was stressful, all right – let TRB try it if our complaints are beginning to bore them).

After the hue and cry, the usual spokesperson vowed to fix things. Transportation Secretary Tugade, for his part, promised “interoperability” between AutoSweep and EasyTrip. In other words, another experiment is on its way, a test to be “conducted for 14 days.” Brace yourselves.