The messy public transportation system has been the bane of Filipinos’ existence for as long as we can remember. Every week we see photos of commuter lines spilling over the streets and read horror stories of those who lined up for hours just to get home or get to work. But amid cries for help to improve the transportation system, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) proposed something else: an automated fare collection system.
What’s in this proposed automated fare collection system?
News outlets recently reported that the DOTr is working on a P4.5 billion automated fare collection system (AFCS) for public transport. This will allow Filipinos to use credit and debit cards to pay for their fares. While DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez did say that a feasibility study is yet to be submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for review, they’re already targeting to launch AFCS by 2023.
Chavez confirmed that once the plan is in action, passengers can pay with cards such as Mastercard and Visa. The program will cover most public transportation: buses, jeepneys, trains, and even “air services.”
What about the BEEP Cards everyone uses? Chavez said that the AFCS will still include the blue stored value card. The goal is to also be able to use it for other modes of public transportation.
Pinoys: Why not improve BEEP card instead?
“Let’s fix something else instead of the actual transportation problem we have,” read one comment on Facebook reacting to the news. It seems as if Filipinos are not standing behind DOTr’s AFCS proposal.
“You mean to tell me na nakita mo yung picture ng mahabang pila sa Edsa Carousel, sa PITX, at sa mga terminal at ang naisip mong problema is mabagal sila magbayad? At worth it gastusan yun ng 4.5 BILLION PESOS kahit na may BEEP card infrastructure na?” questioned one netizen on Facebook.
Many are also arguing that integrating credit and debit cards wouldn’t do the marginalized sector, a.k.a. the majority of the commuters, any favors.
“Maintaining a credit/debit card adds up to the financial burden of Filipinos, due to fees that the banks require,” read another comment. “If a commuter can’t pay their dues who will pay? The banks or the government?”
Some are suggesting that the government should just partner with e-wallet GCash or PayMaya for seamless topping up of BEEP cards.
“I would rather spend that 4.5B in building infrastructure that would actually make a difference. Heck, I would even spend that money for traffic management research at this point. Imagine how much would be better if the government used funds on stuff that actually matters,” suggested another netizen.
Yet others are urging the government to just continue building on the BEEP card infrastructure likening it to Japan’s IC cards used to pay for public transportation and retail establishments.
The general consensus is this: Credit and debit cards as payment for public transportation shouldn’t be the priority right now.
Perhaps it’s not the passengers that have a payment problem
Most Pinoys believe that we don’t need a new payment system — we need a better transportation system. One that won’t leave passengers stranded for hours, like what happened last July 18 when bus companies included in the Libreng Sakay program halved their fleet. This was after delayed payouts from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) amounting to P310 million. LTFRB paid the debt last July 20 hoping that operators will deploy all buses.
The answer seems clear after years of having the same transportation problems: Better compensation for operators and drivers and improving traffic issues. No passengers should be stranded with enough buses, jeepneys, and trains plying routes. An automated fare system sounds good, but will that address our transportation system’s most pressing problems?