2020: A transformative year for PH transportation

2020 may have started just like any other year, but for our transport sector, it definitely made an unforgettable impact, an indelible mark on Filipino drivers, commuters and transport stakeholders.

Many factors — chiefly the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic — influenced various changes in the sector, initiating new policies and accelerating the implementation of new ones.

Before the year ends, let us look back at ten of the biggest news and events that transformed PH transportation within the past 12 months. Here they are, in no particular order:

Suspension of all forms of public transport

As soon as the country was placed in a state of lockdown, all forms of public transportation ground to a halt. On land, buses, jeeps, trains, UVs, TNVS and taxis all stopped. Sea-going vessels and air travel were also suspended. As the entire system stopped, businesses and industries were also forced to shutter, leaving only the most essential ones like health services, food, utilities and banking to stay open.

Social distancing (one-seat apart rule) in transportation

The IATF and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) issued a list of guidelines and protocols to be implemented for both public and private transportation, in all levels of quarantine. The seating capacity was reduced to 50 percent, and for Transportation Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) multiple bookings/ride-sharing was banned.  

Travel Pass/Permit to Travel guidelines

While the Inter Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) lifted the travel restrictions in a bid to spur more economic activities, it mandated travelers crossing land and sea borders to first seek Travel Passes/Permit to Travel from the LGU and the PNP. Application requirements include all sorts of documents, even a health clearance from a medical doctor.

Issuance of IRR for the Doble Plaka Law

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) issued the revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Republic Act 11235, or the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Law. Under the IRR, riders are required to use bigger decal number plates measuring 135 mm by 85 mm on front, and 235 mm by 135 mm on the back of motorcycles. The agency later decided to defer its implementation, pending delivery of new motor plates.

The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP)

Despite the relaxation of quarantine guidelines, PUVs had a tough time getting back on the road. Under the government’s Route RATIONALIZATION Plan, the existing franchises of public vehicles were thoroughly reviewed. Many new jeepneys took to the road for the first time. Meanwhile, traditional ones were required to undergo roadworthiness tests before being allowed to return.

Establishing protected bike lanes

To protect the public that chooses to bike to and from work, protected bike lanes were set up on EDSA on August. Similar efforts were spearheaded by Metro Manila LGUs afterwards. The DPWH also moved to incorporate bike lanes in future projects of the agency moving forward.  

Establishment of the EDSA Busway

On June 1, the EDSA Busway system began operations as a bus rapid transit (BRT) system running along the country’s busiest thoroughfare. The leftmost lane was dedicated for buses using the carousel. The BRT currently has 21 stations and utilizes existing footbridges along EDSA by constructing additional stairways to the center island. Commuters using the busway are using BEEP cards for easy and contactless collection of fares.

Mandatory use of motorcycle shields

The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 allowed backriding for motorcycles but mandated riders to use approved transparent barrier. Two designs for the plastic barriers were approved, a transparent divider between rider and passenger and a backpack-type barrier designed by Angkas. Later on, authorities allowed backriding without barriers but only for Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) living in one household.

100% cashless transactions on expressways

Under Department Order No. 2020-012 dated Aug. 13, the DOTr ordered toll operators to fully migrate to a cashless toll collection systems via radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to avoid person-to-person contact via exchange of physical cash at toll plazas. The deadline was adjusted to accommodate the surge of applicants. Still, long lines and wait times greeted the first day of implementation. Authorities are working hard to ease the transition phase.

One-stop shop roadworthiness inspections at PMVICs

The DOTr-LTO issued guidelines for the authorization of Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (PMVICs), stand-alone one-stop testing centers to ensure that only vehicles in good running condition are allowed to run on the road. Each modern center checks the various parts and points of both light vehicles (LVs) and motorcycles (MCs).

The year 2020 has been full of developments, both positive and negative, that shaped the current landscape of Philippine transportation. As we close 2020, we look forward to what’s in store for 2021 with renewed optimism that our travels would be safe, efficient and hassle-free.

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