Home » Jeepney
Category Archives: Jeepney
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 4: impacts and implications
What was supposed to be a week-long transport strike by jeepney drivers and operators was called off yesterday. Frontpage news showed a photo of representatives of protestors with government officials. Government official statements also declare that the government will be talking with the transport sector to sort out issues and to try to address these in relation to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP). One day earlier, government was quick to state that the strike had no impact on transport. Were there really no impacts?
I think the fact that schools went back to online mode and offices allowed employees to work from home show the impacts of the transport strike. If you haven’t noticed, the government has been using the tactic of cancellation of classes for quite some time now. To reduce the impacts of transport strikes on commuters, classes on all levels were canceled, thereby reducing transport demand. The only difference now is that there is capacity for online classes due to adjustments made during the height of the pandemic. So instead of cancelling classes altogether, schools reverted to online mode. Meanwhile, for those who needed to go to their workplaces and did not have their own vehicles, there were various free rides (libreng sakay) services provided by national and local government agencies. Cities like Quezon City already operated their own bus services so people could take these instead of their usual PUV modes for commuting.
What are the implications of the shortened strike? The shortened strike has various implications. One is that it showed the protesters did not have enough resources to sustain the strike. It also showed that transport leaders appear to just want some attention from government. A colleague commented about this being something like a show or the strike being part of a game of “bad cop, good cop” among government officials and agencies. If you haven’t noticed, this has been going on for some time now. Government already knows how to reduce the potential impacts of protests like this. Suspending classes in schools significantly reduces the travel demand on a typical weekday. Offices giving their employees the option to work from home during the strike also adds to the reduction in travel demand. And libreng sakay vehicles are easier to deploy as agencies and LGUs have vehicles for this purpose. Meanwhile, the continuing rise in motorcycle ownership also contributed to people being able to still commute (i.e., having the motorcycle taxi option). At least for Metro Manila, once the railway projects are completed, there will be a railway option for commutes. Barring a simultaneous strike with buses and vans, protests from the jeepney sector will surely be diminished.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 3: advocacy and bandwagon
You see a lot of posts on social media stating people supporting the current transport strike. There are cartoons and memes that dramatize if not romanticize the plight of drivers. One cartoon I saw has a girl asking her driver-father if he will join the strike. The father replies he is unsure as they won’t have any income to cover their needs. One panel shows the driver’s cash box with graduation photos of what appear to be his other children. Of course, this suggests that the jeepney driver was able to support his children in their education while also suggesting about the uncertainties for the other child (who is in the comic). The comic obviously appeals to the emotions of the reader. It is a fallacy but one that is very close to and appeals to the psyche of the Filipino.
Another cartoon appears to be comparing modernization with replacing office computers. It states that the government’s modernization program is like an office requiring its employees to replace their old notebooks with high end ones. Only, the office is not paying for the new units and will have these charged to the employees’ salaries. I thought that was an oversimplification. Jeepneys are public utility vehicles and not private. There are rules and regulations governing PUV acquisition, franchising and operations, unlike your typical office computer.
I think we should draw the line between advocacy and simply jumping onto the bandwagon that is supporting a transport strike without knowing and understanding the details about it. Otherwise, we end up giving unconditional support to what others will refer to as a backward public transportation system. There are always two sides to a coin and while there are good stories about the jeepney and how it has supported many families, there are also bad ones that have allowed them to remain practically unchanged over so many decades. The same applies to the opposition – those who call for a phase-out or outright modernization without understanding the terms given to drivers and operators and the overall context and situation regarding the modernization program. It is easy to take sides. The question is if you are aware and understand the details about the issues here.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 2: reasons for a strike
The current transport strike is not about fare hikes or the rising prices of fuel. Those are the most common reasons for jeepney drivers and operators going on strike. It’s quite simple for these reasons: Drivers protest when government refuses to increase fare rates amidst rising costs of operations and maintenance. And they don’t when fares are reduced as fuel prices are going down.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) through its Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is tasked with evaluating operations and maintenance costs of public utility vehicles and prescribe the minimum and incremental fares for these services. Fare hikes (and reductions) are the consequence of fuel price increases (or decreases) but are not set as dynamic or automatic. Fuel prices, as can be observed, can fluctuate and currently change every week. Fares are not automatically adjusted whether fuel prices are increasing or decreasing and are heavily regulated by government in part to supposedly protect the interests of the riding public. As such, fare matrices or the structured fares according to the various routes and the distances covered by public utility vehicles
The reason for the current transport strike is generalized as a jeepney phaseout. The term ‘phaseout’ actually refers to the PUV Modernization Program (PUVMP) of the government that seeks to replace all conventional jeepneys with ‘modern’ or ‘modernized’ units. The latter include mini-bus types as well as those that retain the conventional jeepney form but usually larger and with newer engines and interior layout. This is not necessarily a phaseout like the one I described in Part 1 along the LRT Line 1 corridor.
Again, much of the opposition cites the high cost (and therefore unaffordable) of a modern jeepney. The financing schemes currently available as well as the requirement for jeepney operators and drivers to be part of a transport cooperative to avail of these financing schemes are still considered unacceptable by many. And yet, government seems unwilling to extend resources in order for operators and drivers to be able to afford a new vehicle. The old jeepneys would still have some value but definitely not near a substantial down payment needed for low monthly payments. These monthly payments cannot be covered by the typical boundary (basically rent) for operators or the daily income for drivers.*
What is the cost of replacing conventional jeepneys with new, ‘modernized’ vehicles? Well, let’s assume that a new vehicle costs 2.4M pesos. Also, perhaps cover only the ones operating in the urban setting (i.e., exclude for now those serving provincial routes especially those used also for freight (e.g., top loads)), say 50% of the estimated 250,000 units need to be replaced. That goes up to 300 billion pesos. If we were to replace only Metro Manila jeepneys, that will be 132 billion pesos. These numbers can be compared to the cost of major projects like the Metro Manila Subway (488 billion), the Bataan-Cavite interlink bridge (175 billion) and the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan (735 billion). Would it be worth it (benefits-wise) to invest in new jeepneys?
*Of course, this also indicates a flawed business model for jeepney operations. But that’s another story.
A brief history of transport strikes – Part 1: introduction
A nationwide week-long transport strike by jeepney operators and drivers From a CNN news report yesterday, it was stated that an estimated 4 out of 10 or 40% of jeepney drivers will be going on strike and halting operations for a week. These are supposedly members of the group Manibela, which claims to have over 100,000 members nationwide (Aren’t you curious how many jeepneys there actually are nationwide? There are supposedly more than 250,000 public utility jeepneys operating across the country with about 55,000 in Metro Manila.). The other 40% are certain that they will not be going on strike and these include members of the more established groups like PISTON, ACTO and Pasang Masda as well as those who belong to the many transport cooperatives that were formed the last so many years in part for the purposes of modernization. The remaining ones are undecided and include those also affiliated with those groups and those who claim to not have any affiliations.
If media companies like GMA, the defunct ABS CBN and even government station PTV have archives dating back to the 1970s, they will probably see that similar interviews have been conducted of jeepney drivers. Libraries like the National Library or perhaps those of leading universities like the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University would likely have archives of newspapers from way back. I remember UP Diliman having microfiche facilities but I am unsure to what year they have archives. You will likely read similar reports and interviews about jeepney operations during those times. The idea and initiatives for phasing out the conventional jeepneys is not a new thing or topic. It has been out there for quite some time but in different forms and contexts.
For example, there was a proposal to phase out jeepneys along the corridor of the LRT Line 1 in the Feasibility Study for the railway line as well as in the Metro Manila-wide studies that were conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Jeepneys plying the Monumento-Baclaran and Monumento-Harrison Plaza routes were among those identified for phasing out. Careful reading of the reports though will also show that ‘phase out’ actually meant ‘rationalizing’ or ‘rerouting’ the jeepney services so they will complement the mass transit line. That never happened and the jeepneys still operate today (probably many are still the same jeepneys from the 1970s and 1980s!). Do passengers ride them from Monumento to Harrison (or vice versa)? Probably not as the travel will be too long compared to riding the train. They survive because of the short trips, usually less than 4 kilometers, by passengers who probably should be walking or cycling instead if we were in a Japanese, Korean, Singaporean or European city.
Fast forward today, the call apparently is for a phase-out in favor of the “modern” jeepneys (many are actually mini-buses). Jeepney operators and drivers are also being called to join or form cooperatives under which they can be part of programs that will replace their conventional jeepneys with a ‘modern’ unit. One issue here are the terms for the replacement or the acquisition of a new vehicle. The cost of a new vehicle varies and can be more expensive than a new SUV (e.g., more expensive if not as expensive as a new Montero, Fortuner or Everest) depending on the model and the size of the vehicle. This is apparently the most significant concern among others that is being cited by those opposing or resisting modernization, which they equate to a ‘phase out’.
One of the ‘modern’ jeepney models currently operating in Metro Manila
More in the next article for this series…
Why not rationalize other routes now?
There is an enduring discussion in various forums and platforms about the lack of supply of public transportation. I can’t help but notice though that many discussions consciously or unconsciously leave out the part of public transport rationalisation that calls for phasing out lower capacity vehicles in favour of higher capacity ones. I have written about this and explained the necessity particularly along corridors with high transport demand. Delaying what is required (not necessarily what is inevitable) means we fall short of transforming public transport services in this context.
There are definitely missed opportunities here but the current discussions and proposed resources for 2021 including funds for service contracting seems to suggest a status quo in terms of vehicles with the exception of the modernisation part. Perhaps this is because we are still in pandemic mode and survival is still the name of the game? Nevertheless, there should be initiatives and continued dialogue about ‘graduating’ from lower capacity vehicles to higher capacity ones. Of course, this discussion is more urgent for highly urbanised cities than smaller ones.
Tinkering with decentralization of public transportation planning, franchising and regulations
I recall an informal discussion my colleagues and I had about the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) more than a decade ago. We were comparing the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s and DOTC’s structures. DPWH has regional offices but also District Engineering Offices (DEO). These DEOs were practically mini me’s of the DPWH with the District Engineer calling the shots. Under him were a Design Engineer, Planning Engineer, Maintenance Engineer, etc. who were the equivalent at that level of the Bureaus. DOTC didn’t have the equivalent even though there were Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional offices. So if there were regional development council (RDC) meetings, the DOTC’s representatives are usually from the regional offices of LTO and LTFRB plus other offices of agencies under DOTC – Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Air Transportation Office (ATO now CAAP) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA).
I mention these because perhaps one vision for the future is to have something like Metropolitan, City or Municipal Transit Authorities similar to those you’ll find in other countries. And these should have the capacities for route planning and assessment that are currently centralized in DOTr (i.e., Road Transport Division). But perhaps these transit authorities should not only have road based public transport under them but also rail, too. This is especially applicable to metros like MM, the loosely defined Metro Cebu and Metro Davao and other HUCs that maybe ripe for some form of urban rail transport. In some cases, I would even dare include maritime transport as well since modes like the Pasig River Ferry should also be included.
This idea of decentralization is something worth considering as local government units build capacity and capability for public transportation planning, operations and management. Some are already capable though mainly concern themselves with tricycles and pedicabs. These two modes are not under the LTFRB but are arguable the most in number around the country. There are already best practices about their management including those that have been documented in past studies on sustainable transport (e.g., San Fernando, La Union, Quezon City, Olongapo City, Davao City, etc.). Many of these cities are highly urbanized and would need to deal with all public transport and might just be the most knowledgeable and experienced in their jurisdictions. National government should at least identify pilot cities where bus, jeepney and van transport planning, franchising and management (including operations and enforcement) can be devolved or delegated. That is so we can already have an idea how these local transit authorities can be operationalized. Many already have their Local Public Transport Route Plans (LPTRP) so that is a good starting point for LGUs to establish their transit units around.
Modernized jeepneys in Marikina
Passing through Marikina City on the way home, I chanced upon these versions of the so-called modernized jeepneys plying routes in the city. Marikina has some of the oldest routes I’ve known including those originating from Parang and SSS Village. These were at the edges of the city and back in the day were bordering on rural as compared to the urbanized areas what was then still a municipality. The opportunity presented itself so I took a few photos of the mini-buses posing as jitneys or modern jeepneys.
Unlike the old, conventional jeepneys, these are closed, air-conditioned vehicles. While there exists concerns about virus spread in such configurations, one cannot argue vs. the improved comfortability of these vehicles over the old ones especially when the Covid threat is already addressed. The vehicles seat 20+ passengers on average with more room for standees, if required and allowed in the future.
These vehicles are operated by transport cooperatives, which are encourage by the government in their PUV modernization program. Cooperatives have many advantages compared to the old set-up of individual operators. These include the personality or modality to engage financing institutions for acquiring fleets of PUVs. As such, modernization (or the replacement of old PUVs) is expedited. Note the logos along the side of the vehicle? These are DOTr, LTFRB, LTO and DBP. DBP is, of course, the Development Bank of the Philippines, which is one of the underwriters of the modernization program.
More on these vehicles, modernization and rationalization in future posts.
On the plastic barriers for jeepneys
The minimum requirements for conventional jeepneys prior to their returning to operations include the installation of barriers so as to have physical separation between passengers. Ideally, such separation should be a distance of at least one meter, which was initially relaxed to ‘one seat apart’, and then further relaxed to just the barrier separating passengers. You see various designs installed in jeepneys. I posted a couple in an earlier post showing examples of customized and DIY barriers. Here is another that looks like there was more effort involved in the making of the plastic barriers:
Jeepney drivers are obliged to reject or unload passengers not adhering to the protocols including those refusing to wear face masks and shields while commuting using public transportation modes. I assume that they are really doing this for their and their passengers’ safety and well-being.
Public transport along Route 8: Cubao-Montalban
I had to go back to my usual commuting route to my workplace via Tumana as Marcos Highway is usually congested in the mornings. As such, I had the opportunity to take some photos of public transport modes along the way.
Bus plying Route 8 – Cubao Montalban along the Marikina – San Mateo – Montalban Road (J.P. Rizal Avenue in Marikina City). Montalban is the old name of the Municipality of Rodriguez in Rizal Province.
A Beep, a modern jitney that is actually a minibus plying to Parang-Stop & Shop route that used to be dominated by conventional jeepneys. That is, of course, a conventional tricycle on the other side of the road. By conventional I mean a motorcycle with a side car, which is the most common type of 3-wheeler in the country.
Recently, I saw G-Liner buses along Route 8. That means the bus company’s fleet is now distributed along 3 routes serving Rizal province and connecting it to Metro Manila. While, capacities are still limited due to physical distancing requirements, these buses should be able to carry a lot more passengers once the situation ‘normalizes’ so PUVs are able to maximize their seating (and standing) capacities.
The return of the conventional jeepneys during GCQ and MGCQ
I spotted more jeepneys along my commuting route yesterday and took photos while we were stopped in traffic (yes, roads are again congested as they were before the lockdowns). Here are the photos showing the barriers required for the vehicles to be allowed to operate. Most jeepneys also have signs at the doorway vs. passengers not wearing face masks and shields. These are required for public transport users, and drivers have to reject people not wearing masks and shields.
Plastic sheets dividing the seating spaces and serving as physical barriers between passengers
Plastic sheets attached to wood frames on this jeepney
Another example of plastic sheets defining the passenger spaces.
Some jeepney seat barrier configurations seem more sturdy or offer more physical separation or protection from others. I have seen versions with metal (wire) and wood frames. And then there are the customized “trapal” types similar to the window covers that are folded for air to flow in the jeepneys and unfolded when it is raining. Instead of passengers being one seat apart though, they are practically beside each other with only sheets of plastic dividing them. For precautions sake, this does not seem to be the recommendation of the medical community. While the open windows allow for better ventilation and air flow compared to the closed, aircon vehicles, the physical distancing is not practiced as it should be, with or without the face masks and shields required when riding public transport. This may pose a problem considering we are not over the hump, so to speak, in as far as COVID-19 infections are concerned.