By Cheng Ordonez
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY
A top official of the Office of Transportation Cooperatives (OTC) has lauded the implementation of 100 percent “cashless transactions” by modernization-compliant vehicles of two transport cooperatives.
OTC Executive Director Eugene M. Pabualan said cashless transport operation will provide ease for both the drivers and commuters, even as he congratulated South Metro Transport Cooperative (SMTC) and Libra Jeepney Operator Transport Cooperative (LJOTC), which recently began implementing cashless transactions, enforcing the “No Card, No Ride” rule to passengers availing public transport rides.
“OTC would like to commend and congratulate Metro South (SMTC) and Libra (LJOTC), both operate as transport cooperatives, for advancing the vision of the program. Good Job,” Director Pabualan exclaimed.
Both transport cooperatives (TCs) are implementors of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), and adopting the collectively-owned and controlled PUVs through fleet management system. This operational scheme modifies traditional ways of operating public transport that includes the provision for an automatic fare collection system, among other trip monitoring technology applications.
Pabualan said, “In the PUVM program, it is often misconstrued that modernization is only all about the units of jeepneys, buses, taxis and other types of modes. That idea is incomplete. The program actually gears towards overhauling the uncomfortable system. Essential part of it is the payment method.”
SMTC, which operates 15 Class II PUV units (electric-powered), plying the route Star Mall (Alabang) – Zapote, Las Piῆas, started implementing 100% cashless transactions in July 2020.
Meanwhile, LJOTC started the same cashless transactions on August 19, 2020, using its 19 Class II PUV units (Euro IV-compliant) within the route Punta, Sta. Ana – Quiapo.
Both TCs offer green cards to their passengers priced at Php 30 to 40 each. Passengers can buy and reload their cards in their respective terminals, designated drop off points, and from drivers.
LJOTC Chairwoman Estela Buensuceso said they strictly implemented the “No Card, No Ride” policy not only to comply with the PUVMP requirement but also to protect their drivers, members, and passengers from contracting COVID-19.
She also added that this type of transaction can help address “mal-practices” in transport financial operations because they can easily monitor their income.
For his part, SMTC Chairman Jun Saw expressed optimism for an increase in their income through cashless transaction, assuring, too, of drivers who are more focused on passengers’ safety instead on collecting of fares.
Traditionally, cash payments were facilitated by the drivers themselves while driving the unit. In the initial stage of the operation of the modernized PUVs, the cooperative hired public assistance officers (PAOs) to accept both cash and non-cash transactions and ensure passengers’ comfort and safety. In the case of 100% cashless transactions, LJOTC ensured that their PAOs would not lose their jobs. Buensuceso explained that some PAOs were assigned to be cashiers in the terminal, while others have assisted in selling and reloading cards.
The implementation of a 100% cashless transaction came not without difficulties but the two transport cooperatives came up with ways to address them.
To help passengers purchase their green cards and further incentivize cashless payments, SMTC conducted a promo that provided cards for free, which already carried an initial Php30 worth of load per card. LJOTC, meanwhile, lowered the cost of each card to Php20 to make it more affordable.
Saw pointed out that even though they started cashless transactions last February 2019 yet, there are still passengers who preferred paying cash.
Buensuceso also mentioned that they are continuously educating and informing passengers on how to use the cards, as their passengers are still adjusting with this type of transaction.
On the other hand, Saw said that they rely on CCTV to make sure that their passengers tap in and out, aside from conducting random inspections during trips.
Despite the challenges, Buensuceso said they received positive feedback from their passengers.
Saw added that some passengers who commute everyday preferred the cashless transaction. He said that some opt to reload higher amounts on their green cards for longer period of use.
“Magiging maayos siguro lahat kung 100% ang implementation ng government na lahat ng PUV dapat wala nang tumatanggap ng cash (Cashless transactions will be properly implemented if the government enforces all PUVs to refuse cash payments),”Saw said.
Both TC heads encouraged other TCs to also implement 100% cashless transactions for public health and safety amidst the pandemic. With additional reports from Marianne Palle and Alna Marcel