As the riding public awaits mass transportation to reopen, many wonder what changes would be in place to ensure health safety. What exactly are the new protocols and how would we take to these changes?
And who are allowed to take public transportation in the GCQ in the first place? According to government regulations, those who are discouraged from using public transportation are the following: those below 21 years old or are 60 years old and above (unless they need to buy essential items, or are classified as workers from operating industries); those who are COVID-19 positive; those who are immune-deficient, those who are mandated to remain at home, and those who are pregnant.
As for the rest who can go out and be part of the commuting public, here is what you can expect:
Ridesharing in the new normal
For their part, Grab Philippines will double down on its safety and hygiene standards for their GrabCar service to minimize the risk of infection. The company will implement a set of policies that are aligned with the government’s health and safety regulations as well as introduce a new initiative called GrabProtect. Features under this initiative include an online health and hygiene checklist, a mask selfie verification tool, safety, and hygiene certification, hygiene kits, and mandatory deep disinfection of vehicles.
1. Following the government’s mandate for cashless payments on all public transportation, Grab’s mobility service offerings will be simplified to either GrabPay or Credit/Debit Card.
2. Each GrabCar will only have a maximum capacity of two passengers, both of whom will sit close to the windows at the back of the vehicle.
3. Only public health vehicles are allowed to transport COVID-19 positive individuals;
4. Drivers and passengers are required to wear facemasks at all times. Both drivers and passengers can cancel the booking without penalty before the ride commences, by selecting “driver/passenger did not wear a mask” as their cancellation reason, should either party show up without a mask on. Grab will investigate accounts that have received such feedback multiple times. Grab’s new “mask selfie verification feature” will help verify that drivers are wearing a mask before they start receiving bookings and orders.
5. Driver-partners are required to keep their vehicles disinfected at all times, especially at the end of every trip. Each vehicle will also be required to undergo deep-disinfection every other day. This will be done in partnership with sanitation that have deep-disinfection capability. Once cleaned, driver-partners are required to allow for the chemicals to dissipate prior to boarding any passenger. Drivers are also encouraged to carry a hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays with them at all times so that they can keep surfaces and hands clean after every booking. Grab has distributed over 4,000 bottles of hand sanitizers and disinfectant to its partners over the last few months.
6. Each vehicle is required to have a non-permeable acetate barrier installed between the passengers and the driver.
7. Passengers are not allowed to book for others to allow for proper contact tracing when necessary. Passengers are required to show their booking code to their driver before entering their assigned vehicle. However, exceptions will be made in specific cases of emergencies. For example, a companion books a ride for someone incapacitated who needs to go to a hospital.
8. Driver-partners are required to open and close the doors for the passengers, and passengers are not allowed to touch the doors themselves.
9. Eating and/or drinking is not allowed inside the car, and passengers are required to clean after themselves.
10. Every time a passenger books a ride, they will receive a notification via GrabChat reminding them of the proper safety and hygiene protocol during the ride.
Dividers and barriers
As for public utility vehicles, contactless payments through virtual wallets such as Gcash, 50 percent passenger limit, and in-car dividers will be the way to go. Centro Manufacturing Corporation, for example, developed anti-COVID-19 dividers for the utility vehicles it manufactures. It is now also developing this for modern PUVs, and will be installed at any of its three production facilities in Novaliches, Cavite, and Marilao. These dividers will also be sold as ready-to-install kits, and may also be retrofitted easily on any existing UV or PUV as only clamps are used.
Centro’s Vic Belisario says that these dividers are fully compliant to the requirements of the Land Transportation Office for UVs and PUVs to operate during the quarantine period. “The divider material is non-permeable, transparent plastic and the dividers are installed conforming to physical distancing. They may be installed one seat apart or even at less than one meter apart." LTO guidelines allow PUJ operators to install impermeable barriers between seat rows that are less than one meter apart to maximize the 50 percent passenger load.
The anti-Covid 19 dividers were designed to separate the driver from the passenger at his right side and passengers behind him. At the rear, the dividers will separate the passengers from each other in conformance to social distancing requirements. Belisario adds that the design of the divider is simple enough to allow for regular disinfecting as they can easily be dissassembled.
Reduced train capacity
For train systems in the metro to effectively impose social distancing, car capacity, obviously, cannot be filled to the brim as they used to be. With this in mind, the MRT-3 will be ready for reopening next week according to its management. Trains will only carry up to 153 per trip, and barriers are also already in place between seats.
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As for the LRT-1, its trains can ferry 158 passengers or 12 percent of its capacity per trip while 160 passengers or 10 percent per train will be the limit for the LRT-2. The PNR will carry about 148 passengers or 20 percent of its capacity. The DOTr says that, prior to the COVID crisis, the LRT-1 serves about 500,000 passengers daily, the LRT-2 about 200,000 daily, and the MRT-3 line about 300,000 daily.
The entry of passengers into MRT-3 platforms will be limited, and everyone will be required to wear face masks and have their temperatures checked. The MRT’s 19 train sets will be disinfected twice every trip, at the North Avenue and Taft stations.
While the queue going into platforms are expected to be a test of everyone's patience, the MRT management announced last Tuesday that it was looking at doubling the running speed of trains by the end of the year. MRT-3 trains currently run at 30 KPH, but are expected to improve to 60 KPH by December if rail replacements are completed by September. Last month, work on the train system’s rails were allowed by the government.