Wisdom > G-Force

Here’s an idea: Reinstate tollway cash lanes (hear us out)

Because the contactless system is working ‘so well’

Expressway tollbooths could realistically still have cash lanes, but only under one condition. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

I’m a firm believer that the RFID drama we are currently experiencing can be solved by giving motorists alternate modes of toll-fee payment. There has to be at least one open cash lane at each toll plaza. But I also understand the thinking behind making everything cashless as far as our expressways are concerned. COVID-19 thrives on human contact and, obviously, none of us want that.

But I believe that balance is everything. That philosophy works on sports cars like the Mazda MX-5, and I don’t see any reason why that same line of thinking won’t alleviate our toll-fee woes. And it just so happens that I’ve got an idea on how to strike that ideal equilibrium between frustrated motorists (like myself) and the tollway operators.

How about allowing each toll plaza to have one cash lane that only accepts exact payments?

The objectives of going cashless are to speed up the flow of traffic through tollbooths and mitigate human-to-human contact. With the long queues forming at every expressway entry and exit point, the former is obviously shot to pieces. And when expressway staff have to personally assist customers experiencing problems (and there are quite a lot), that also wipes out the latter. Clearly, this whole RFID thing isn’t going too well (I’m looking at you, Easytrip).

So, how about allowing each toll plaza to have one cash lane that only accepts exact payments? Think about it. If the goal is to simply funnel vehicles through tollbooths as fast as possible, then having a lane that only takes exact payments will ideally speed up the flow of cars. A vehicle goes in, pays the toll fee, gets the ticket and/or receipt, and drives away.

And since this cash lane will not give back change, it’s now the driver’s responsibility to make sure that he or she has the exact payment ready and waiting. It probably wouldn’t hurt so much if the toll fee is just a few pesos less than what you’re paying. But if you’re handing out a P1,000 bill to settle a P167 charge, sorry. Tough shit. You should’ve prepared the correct payment.

If your entitled self tries to force your way into getting change, then expressway authorities have the power to give you a citation for obstruction. You’re obviously making those behind you wait through what is essentially a pointless argument that your sorry ass can never win.

Authorities don't openly admit that the RFID system is flawed. PHOTO BY MIGGI SOLIDUM

Initially, tollway operators can put an attendant behind the booth who can get the payments, issue the tickets, and angrily shoo arrogant motorists away so that the next one can line up. Eventually, a device similar to a vending machine can automate the system—accepting the money and issuing the tickets without giving back the change. Then it could probably activate a really audible warning horn so that drivers who choose to wait will be bullied on social media humiliated.

Admittedly, what I’m suggesting isn’t the most elegant solution to the contactless problem. But as long as lines at installation sites are agonizingly lengthy—and the tollbooth scanners continue to be unreliable and fraudulent—this may just be an effective stopgap measure until our tollway operators have truly fixed the problems surrounding RFID technology.

Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.