Traffic > Appraisal

SMC addresses traffic buildup at new toll exits on NAIAX

With words and data straight from Ramon S. Ang himself

SMC tollways recently have seen the buildup of traffic at the new exits. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Over the last few days, San Miguel Corporation’s infrastructure team has received very harsh criticism over the decision to move the southwest-bound tollbooths away from the NAIA Terminal 3 and Newport Mall section, to their respective exits at Macapagal Avenue, Entertainment City, CAVITEX, Terminal 1, and Terminal 2.

This caught motorists by surprise, causing massive delays that were supposed to be solved by the NAIAX as it cut across the very busy Villamor Airbase and NAIA airport complex.

It was no less than Ramon S. Ang himself, the head honcho of San Miguel Corporation, who presided over a press briefing to clarify these valid concerns of motorists who regularly traverse NAIAX and Skyway, and were severely affected by the traffic at the exits.

Damaged and swapped-out RFID tags are the main cause of traffic jams. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Despite a penetration rate of 96.7% of all cars passing through Skyway and NAIAX possessing SMC’s Autosweep RFID tags or stickers, a sizable number have insufficient load or damaged RFID stickers.

Particularly among commercial vehicles. There are RFID stickers that have been unscrupulously swapped out from Class 1 to Class 3 vehicles (which gives huge savings for truck operators) resulting in errors at the toll plaza, thus causing delays.

Ang, in particular, stated that in the period from May 1 to 7, there were a total of 115,785 transactions that had insufficient load, causing significant delays at the very busy tollbooths.

Getting a replacement RFID is extremely easy to do. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Together with vehicles that had damaged RFID and vehicles with no RFID tags, this accounted for 28% of the 408,290 total transactions (or the number of cars that entered, passed through, and exited the southwest-bound side of NAIAX in that period of time).

While these erring drivers who cause delays should be penalized for their failure to maintain their RFID account balances properly, the Toll Regulatory Board has a mandate to exercise maximum tolerance and temporarily delay the issuance of penalties, causing many drivers to be lax with their RFID account’s available load.

Bunched-up vehicles also tend to tailgate each other, leading to sensor issues. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The second complaint that was addressed during the meeting was the failure of the sensors to detect and read the RFIDs mounted to the vehicles, which caused much ire from the motoring public for a while.

SMC representatives said the following reasons often cause this: faulty/defective RFID stickers, which SMC says can be replaced for free; a very dirty RFID sticker; and RFID stickers mounted inside vehicles with a thick tint containing a metal substrate.

Additionally, tailgating of multiple vehicles can cause the sensors to momentarily encounter an error and stop functioning. SMC stresses the importance of vehicles to observe proper distance. As for their sensitivity, NAIAX’s RFID sensors are programmed to detect RFID tags from as far away as 5m.

There were supposed to be four tollbooths per exit, but issues arose. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Third was the most obvious complaint: Why do the new exits only have two tollbooths, causing vehicles to bottleneck at the exit lanes?

The tollbooths were fine at the original toll plaza, according to online feedback from users. SMC said it had planned to install a minimum of four tollbooths per exit.

The goal was to decongest the original toll plaza and speed up traffic. Unfortunately, liaising with a variety of both local and national government agencies has delayed SMC in securing the necessary permits to allow it to install more tollbooths at the exits.

Why? Because these new tollbooths will occupy public roads and impact traffic in that area by taking away road space for the additional tollbooths.

RSA says that there's no magic-bullet solution for all of this, and it will take time. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Ang and the rest of the San Miguel infra team apologize for the delays. The top executive asks for a little more patience and understanding because, he says, there is never a one-shot perfect solution that is 100% successful immediately upon implementation.

These things take time and fine-tuning, or in Ang’s own words: “Parang makina ng kotse ’yan. Kailangan din i-tono.”

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.