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Some thoughts on the ridesharing vs taxi issues in Metro Manila

A lot have been said and written about the issues concerning ridesharing and taxis in Metro Manila. There are the personal posts you read and are being shared around social media. There are the obviously sponsored posts and articles going around. These are usually by trolls but may also include some personalities who are more than willing to lend their names to a cause they think is worth taking on. Unfortunately, the supposed victim here is also an oppressor if one tries to delve into their operations and practices. The real victims here, aside from the commuters who patronize ridesharing, are drivers and operators.

I stated Metro Manila because there seems to be no serious issues on ridesharing or taxis in other Philippine cities. Why is that? Is it because taxis provide better services in other cities like say, Cebu, Davao or Iloilo? Is it because public transport in other cities are better compared to Metro Manila? Or is it because ridesharing companies cannot compete with local, taxi-like transport like tricycles? Let me put it like this: Metro Manila public transport has deteriorated in the past decades. This deterioration comes in many forms including the very slow development of mass transit systems and the continued dominance of road-based modes.

Private vehicle mode shares have increased significantly over the last four decades. In the 1970s, the estimated split between public and private transport was about 75/25. In the 1980s, it was close to 70/30 but with public transport enjoying just about 70% shares. In the 1990s, the 70% had already been breached with public transport share estimated to be about 68%. The 2000s saw public transport shares to have been eroded further, with closer to 65% of trips using public transport. The last decade likely saw the further rise of private transport shares with the rapid increase in motorcycle ownership and use and the emergence of ridesharing such as Uber and Grab. This, despite the increase in population for the metropolis and also the increase in road public transport vehicles particularly UV Express.

These road-based modes are generally low capacity and require so many vehicles to transport so many people. And yet people choose them (e.g., purchase and ride a motorcycle, patronize Uber or Grab, etc.) because their options for their commutes are generally worse off. Motorcycles are not for everyone and not everyone can afford to or want to own a car. And yet, there seems to be a sizable population wanting (not necessarily needing) to be driven to and from their homes, workplaces, schools or other places of interest but not via conventional taxis; as evidenced from the popularity of ridesharing services.

Perhaps the only way to resolve the issue lies not only in the drastic improvement of conventional taxi services. Operators and drivers have had a lot of chances to do this but there seems to be little positive change here. Maybe, and ultimately, the solution is in the expedited development of mass transit systems like rail transit lines and bus rapid transit (BRT). And so the initiatives of the current administration along such infrastructure projects are most welcome and may stave off the decline of public transport mode shares (revival?). Better public transport should help make commutes more bearable. Commutes should be safer, faster and relatively inexpensive compared to owning and operating a car. And may I add that using conventional public transport should be more attractive than ridesharing.

TSSP 2017 Conference

The Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP) holds its 24th Annual Conference tomorrow, July 21, 2017. It will be held at the National Center for Transportation Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City. More than a hundred participants are expected to attend this 1-day affair.

The final program for the conference may be found in the following link:

http://ncts.upd.edu.ph/tssp/index.php/2017/07/17/tssp-conference-program/

The theme for this year’s conference is “Improving Quality of Life in Urban and Rural Areas Through Inclusive Transportation.” This is also the theme for the panel discussion in the morning. The afternoon will feature four parallel technical sessions where 18 papers will be presented.

The keynote lecture will be delivered at the start of the conference by Prof. Tetsuo Yai of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who is also the current President of the Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) under whose umbrella the TSSP is part of. TSSP is a founding member of EASTS and actually preceded EASTS by a year.

New ruralism, anyone?

I found this interesting article that tackles what to me is a new concept although it shouldn’t be. The concept of new ruralism to me is somewhat going back to the basics. While urbanization seems to be an unstoppable force, there is still the need to preserve rural areas and also the way of life as well as the industries that we need to sustain urban living. Food production, for example, is something that is being advocated or promoted in urban areas but hasn’t really caught on. Farming seems to have lost a lot of people as it is perceived as backward and yet it is essential.

New Ruralism: Solutions for Struggling Small Towns [by Jared Green in The Dirt, June 14, 2017]

What do you think about this concept of new ruralism? Is it something that’s also applicable to the Philippines or is will it be just a fad?

Give way!

Road courtesy can be a scarce thing in many Philippine roads. In many road crash incidents, it can be quite obvious even to the casual observer that one of the problems we have is drivers and riders not practicing common courtesy. Hindi nagbibigayan. This is the case in most intersections where no traffic signals are installed and operational. Congestion occurs as drivers and riders try to impose their right of way over others. The absence of traffic personnel, even those who have limited capabilities managing traffic, further exacerbates the situation as motorists tend to ignore traffic personnel. Based on my observations, the most guilty of ignoring traffic rules and regulations including the enforcer on duty are motorcycle riders, followed by public utility vehicle drivers.

Below is a scene that greeted me one morning during my commute to my workplace. Maj. Dizon is a secondary national road passing through a residential area in Quezon City and Marikina; connecting  C-5 with Marcos Highway.

Who had the right of way here? Did the private car have the ROW and the taxi driver tried to impose himself (cut into the path of the private car) thinking that the private car driver will slow down to give way? Or did the taxi driver have the ROW but then the private driver decided to accelerate so as to prevent the taxi from completing the maneuver? Either are likely cases and are often the cause of crashes like this.

Other situations that are common are vehicles maneuvering (e.g., backing or turning) but tricycle drivers and motorcycle riders proceeding despite the clear ROW for the maneuvering vehicles. In certain cases, large vehicles like trucks have blind sides and have resulted in their inadvertently hitting motorcycles who riskily and recklessly maneuver with respect to the trucks.

How do we address such behavior? It likely is rooted from how drivers and riders learn to drive or ride so its starts with that stage. Many people learn to drive or ride from peers or their seniors (e.g., parent, uncle, family driver, company driver, etc.) while others learn via driving schools. Do they learn courtesy from their ‘teachers’? Are driving schools imparting this or just teaching people how to operate a vehicle? Then there is the licensing stage. The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is also responsible for assessing whether those applying for licenses are qualified. Both the written and practical exams should contain elements related to the practice of courtesy. And then there is the enforcement aspect, which has the burden of educating drivers and riders by accosting and reminding (lecturing?) motorists about proper driving and riding etiquette. Of course, you have to have capable enforcers in the field whether they be traffic aides or police officers.

Some articles on walking, biking and transit for wellness

Here are a couple of recent articles on walking, biking and transit:

Walk, bike, and transit benefits boost people of all incomes [McAnaney, P. in Greater Greater Washington, June 13, 2017]

“Bikes are happiness machines.” Behind the Handlebars with cyclist extraordinaire Joe Flood [Maisler, R. in Greater Greater Washington, June 7, 2017]

I posted these partly for future reference but also to promote walking, biking and public transport. These are essential elements for mobility anywhere and governments should ensure that people have these as options for traveling about and not be dependent on automobiles for transport.

On distracted driving vs. other, more urgent, traffic issues

Much has been written and said about the new law against distracted driving. The people who crafted the law, Senators and Congressmen, are in agreement that their intention was mainly to address the rampant use of gadgets including cell phones by motorists. Yet, when the agencies in-charge of implementation drew up the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), their interpretation was the subject of a lot of complaints. Many opined that the IRR didn’t take into consideration actual vehicle dashboard designs or that the definition of the term “line of sight” was open to interpretation. This necessitated another round of consultations with stakeholders leading to the infographic below:

Frankly, I am more concerned about speeding, counter flowing and reckless weaving in traffic. These are equally if not more dangerous than many aspects of the distracted driving law. Quite serious would be the combination of distractions with any of the three behaviors mentioned. More disturbing would be the deliberate (definitely not distracted) or conscious acts of speeding, counter flowing and reckless weaving that are often the cases if one observes the incidence of these three driving behavior. We can only wonder about the likelihood of crashes due to these behaviors.

On slippery roads again

With the onset of the wet season, expect many roads to be slippery during and after rains. As such, extra care should be exercised by travelers especially motorists. It is easy to lose control of vehicles, especially motorcycles, when speeding or undertaking risky maneuvers like overtaking, counter flowing, and tailgating. Traffic enforcement units also need to be active in accosting motorists for risky behavior that may endanger the lives of not only the vehicle occupants but of other people as well like innocent pedestrians and cyclists minding their own business.

Following are a couple of photos of an incident along Sumulong Highway after rains in the area. Apparently, only a motorcycle rider was involved in what seems to be something that would be categorized as a “self accident”. No other motorists may have been involved although I suspect it could also be a case of a “near miss” where the rider lost control after almost hitting or being hit by an errant vehicle.