MANILA, Philippines – Southbound passengers of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 may soon be able to try out the new contactless ticketing system currently undergoing its trial run at the LRT Line 2.
If tests go well, the Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS) for the southbound side of the LRT Line 1 may go live by September, AF Payments chief operating officer Peter Maher said.
Maher made the announcement on Wednesday, July 22, two days after the new scheme began its trial run at the Legarda Station of LRT2.
The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) are set to expand the new scheme to more stations of the LRT2 after receiving positive feedback from passengers.
On Friday, July 24, tests will be held at the Betty Go-Belmonte station.
Transport officials also said that they are working to resolve the “minor glitches” encountered during the testing period, such as the rejection of old crumpled peso bills at the ticket vending machines (TVMs).
‘Difficult’ implementation in LRT1
While the new system will be activated along other stations of the LRT2 within the next two weeks, it will take at least a month more before it goes live on the LRT1.
Maher said that implementing the new system at LRT1 stations won’t be easy because the small platforms make it difficult to install the new gates without disrupting operations.
“LRT1 is a difficult line to work on. The platforms are very small, and we don’t have the flexibility to add more gates and then wait to remove the old ones. We have to make arrangements to deactivate the magnetic stripe system and put in the chip system,” he said.
Testing is ongoing at the southbound stations, with the LRTA set to conduct their operational readiness testing “in the next few weeks” before opening the system up for another public trial run.
“By September, assuming the trials go well, it can operate on the southbound side,” Maher said.
Meanwhile, work on the northbound side of LRT1 stations will begin in August. Testing is also ongoing for the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3).
The goal is to have the AFCS live on all 3 train lines by September, Maher said.
During the press briefing, transportation officials welcomed commuters’ positive response to the new tap-and-go cards.
For the first two days alone, over 6,000 cards have been sold. The new cards are currently available only at the Legarda station, but may be used to exit any station along LRT2.
“We are pleased to see how our preparations have led to a relatively smooth transition to the first public trial. This event is crucial as it lets out technical team assess equipment performance for real public usage and traffic scenario,” Maher said.
“We were also able to observe user experience. Information like these will help us see what other improvements need to be implemented,” he added.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya also encouraged commuters to try out the new cards to help them identify and fix potential glitches in the system.
It will also help them assess overall passenger experience, he added.
AF Payments also announced “ambitious” plans for the new beep cards. In the future, Maher said cardowners will be able to use the cards to pay for other modes of transportation. They can even use it to pay for goods in convenience stores.
For senior citizens and persons with disabilities, a special card will soon be issued to allow them to take advantage of discounted fares, LRTA spokesperson Hernando Cabrera said.
DOTC’s first PPP project
The DOTC’s first public-Private Partnership (PPP) project made LRT2 the first Philippine commuter train to implement the smart card technology for its ticketing system.
AF Payments Incorporated (formerly Automated Fare Collection Services, Incorporated), is the consortium of Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC).
The consortium is supplying and installing a total of 731 gates, 138 ticket vending machines, 221 point of sale devices, and 44 station computers across the 3 rail lines. – Rappler.com