A colleague was saying that he has not seen the Comet, a jitney-type vehicle currently plying the SM North – Katipunan route via Mindanao Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, for quite some time. I shared the same observation and this is based on my regular commute that includes travel along Katipunan Avenue. The Comet is becoming, if it is not yet, a rare sighting even considering its relatively long and apparently convenient route. The route passes through residential and commercial areas and would be a direct, single ride for students in particular of three major schools in the Katipunan area – UP, Ateneo and Miriam. It also connects to 2 large malls, SM North and Trinoma, and 2 rail stations, LRT 2 Katipunan Sta. and MRT 3 North EDSA Sta. Despite these traffic generators along its route, it seems that the Comet still has less than the desired ridership. I say ‘seems’ because I currently don’t have the hard statistics on ridership but only observations from those who have seen the vehicle along its route.
I saw this one on my way home last December in heavy traffic as our jeepney approached the Katipunan – C.P. Garcia intersection. It had few passengers considering its long route from SM North EDSA to Aurora Boulevard via Katipunan Ave.
An almost empty Comet spotted one morning this January along Katipunan
What is the future for the Comet? It is unclear so far despite the hype and claims that this is supposed to be the vehicle to replace the conventional jeepney. (To be fair, this is what was also said of the e-jeepney that precluded the Comet.) The DOTC does not have a clear and firm policy or commitment to making this work. Its pronouncements have so far been towards deploying the Comet along new routes instead of replacing existing jeepneys on existing routes with this low emission vehicle. I believe that the only way for the Comet to work is for it to be mainstreamed as a replacement for the jeepney and along suitable routes, of course. The DOTC could and should review jeepney franchises to determine how the Comet and other similar low emission vehicles can be phased in over a realistic period in order to modernize public transportation currently being supplied by conventional jeepneys.
I recently noticed that there are jeepneys along Katipunan bearing tarps on their sides stating “No to additional jeepneys.” Underneath are the names of three jeepney groups supporting this call but with the exception of a major jeepney group that’s supposed to be supportive (even owning several units) of the Comet. Are the signs a form of resistance to change? Do the groups know or understand what they are saying and what they stand for? Or are these indicative of disagreements among jeepney groups, operators and drivers regarding the future of their operations using conventional jeepneys?
There will surely be resistance from these sectors if there are changes to be made that will affect their sources of income. It is a very daunting and sensitive task to decouple transport and livelihood in the Philippines. However, the issues coming out of such changes to improve public transport services should be met head on rather than skirt them, particularly in the case of the agencies responsible for these services – the DOTC and the LTFRB. Only then can we have the transformation we need for road-based public transport in this country.