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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.

On tricycle capacity in the time of COVID-19

With the current rationalization and modernization of public transport vehicles and services being implemented by the national government, many jeepneys, mostly the conventional or traditional ones, have been unable to ply their routes again. Along some routes, buses have taken over but have been limited in the number of passengers they could carry due to physical distancing restrictions. But these are mostly for routes and roads that carry people between their residences and workplaces that typically are longer distance trips (e.g., more than 4 kilometers one way). For shorter distance trips, the more relevant mode of motorized transport is the tricycle. The conventional trike in the Philippines is one involving a motorcycle with a side car. Side car designs vary around the country with some seating 4 people (e.g., back to back with 2 facing backward) but usually with only two seats inside the cab. one or two passengers can be accommodated behind the driver on the motorcycle.

New model trikes include the models endorsed by the Asian Development Bank for the e-trike project that is laid out like a small jitney with benches seating 3 to 4 people on one side (total 6 to 8 passengers) and the popular tuktuk designs that seat 3 people at the back. With the quarantine restrictions in place, conventional trikes can only take one passenger inside the sidecar and none behind the driver. Tuktuks can seat 2 behind the driver but with a barrier (usually a plastic curtain) between the passengers.

 

Conventional or traditional trike with plastic sheet between the driver and the passenger (in the side car).

Tuktuk-type trike with plastic sheet between the driver (in front seat) and passengers in back seat. The back seat allows for 3 people seated together but due to distancing requirement

I have been informed by a former student that certain e-trike models (e.g., BEMAC model e-trikes) are allowed to carry 4 passengers, 2 each on the benches behind the driver who is on the front seat. That still means less passengers than they could usually carry. This would seem to be part of the new normal and will be the set-up for the foreseeable future until perhaps a vaccine for COVID-19 is approved and people get vaccinated. Then, health protocols may be eased to allow for the full seating capacities of public transport vehicles.

Public Transport Recommendations of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team

Here are the recommendations of UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team: “Effective Reactivation of Public Transport Operations for the New Normal through an Information Exchange Platform for Collaborative Governance”

On public transport services during the pandemic

I’ve read a lot of discussions and recommendations pertaining to public transportation services (mainly its lack thereof) during the Enhanced Community Quarantine aka lockdown in most parts of the Philippines. Problem is, a lot of people had their mobility curtailed as most people did not have their own private vehicles (cars or motorcycles) to do essential trips (i.e., for groceries, market, drugstores, hospitals, etc.). These include so-called frontline workers, most especially those working in hospitals or clinics. Even the use of tricycles on a limited basis while adhering to physical distancing guideline was not allowed in many cities and municipalities. What do we really need to do now and in transition to address the lack of public transport services?

Here is a concise yet very informative article on transit:

Walker, J. (2020) “Cutting Transit Service During the Pandemic: Why? How? And What’s Next?”, Human Transit, https://humantransit.org/2020/04/cutting-transit-service-during-the-pandemic-why-how-and-whats-next.html [Last accessed: 4/23/2020]

Most of the points discussed and recommendations presented are applicable to our case in the Philippines. We should also accept the fact that we cannot go back to the situation prior to the ECQ, and that the new normal calls for a reduction in car use. Meanwhile, we still have to address the pressing issues and come up with a plan or maybe strategies for public transport that involved not just buses and trains but other modes as well like the jeepneys, vans and tricycles.

Modified sidecars for tricycles

I googled the modified tricycles that I remembered was featured on TV before. Here’s what I’ve found from a news program of ABS CBN.

Credits to Bandila for this image of tricycles in La Union province.

Here’s from another internet source showing a rather sporty sidecar and a motorcycle that comfortably seats 2 people.

There are many tricycle sidecar makers around the country. Many of these are home industries or small shops that make and sell few sidecars. At times, the products are on-demand. As the first photo showed, it is possible to come up with sleek designs from our local shops.

During this quarantine period and sfter we get through this COVID-19 challenge, perhaps we should rethink how transportation system should be to ensure not just road safety but also safety from other health hazards as well. Of course, that is something we should take on together with other issues (e.g., employment, city planning, housing, health care systems, etc.) that are now so obvious we have no excuse of not taking notice of them.

Use and modification of the tricycle for the quarantine situation

With the whole country practically in quarantine to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, transportation has become very difficult to many people requiring services as the commute mainly between their homes and places of employment or work. First and priority are the frontline workers – medical personnel like doctors, nurses, technologists and other health and allied workers battling to detect, test and treat people with COVID-19. Our uniformed personnel in the armed forces and police as well as barangay officials and tanods are also doing their part in containing this virus. And then there are many who need to go to their workplaces to earn a living – not all have the luxury of working from home despite its necessity in these times. While there are vehicles to shuttle frontline workers, there are fewer for those who don’t have their own (private) vehicles. Mayors have taken the reins, it seems, for managing the situations in their respective areas and many have stepped up in trying to bridge the gaps including those for transportation.

The subject of this post is the contention by national government officials that tricycles cannot be permitted for public transport because the desired social distance cannot be attained for the trike. Many, including me, have opined that it can, given some modifications (or add-ons), and subject to the driver and passenger (one passenger only!) exercising caution and wearing the required protective gear. I picked up the following drawing showing a modified tricycle:

[Credits to Jini Maraya for her idea and illustration]

The set-up could also be applied to pedicabs or padyak – the non-motorized version of these tricycles. Operationally, too, I would suggest that only a limited number of tricycles be allowed to transport people per day. The purpose of the quarantine will be defeated if we had hundreds or even thousand of tricycles roaming our streets with their drivers looking for fares. Perhaps a system can be devised to determine the optimum number per day. Perhaps LGUs can even take control of the trikes and pay their drivers so as to make their services free to those needing it (e.g., people going to the market or grocery for food, people going to drugstores to purchase medicines, etc.). And so the idea of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto can work. It is not so difficult after all to refine his idea so it will comply with the requirements of the situation. As they say: “Kung gusto gagawa ng paraan. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan.” [Very roughly – there are so many excuses for stuff certain people don’t want to try out.] This also shows we need to use more brain cells during these challenging times. Promise, it won’t hurt! 🙂

Take care and keep safe everyone!

Jeepneys? No, they’re buses

I spotted this vehicle along my commute earlier today and couldn’t help but state that this is not a jeep or jeepney as DOTr or LTFRB seem to be marketing it to be. By all indications, this is a departure from the jeepney design and should be called a bus or mini-bus. Perhaps it can still be considered a jitney but that is a stretch. It wouldn’t hurt efforts towards route rationalization and public utility vehicle modernization to call this a bus or mini-bus. In fact, that should be a conscious effort towards changing mindsets about what vehicles are most appropriate or suitable for certain routes.

Premium Jeep beside a conventional one somewhere in Bayan-bayanan, Marikina City

On the safety of e-scooters

There’s recent news about the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launching a smart scooter system in Cauayan City, Isabela. This should be considered a positive thing in light of the scooter’s sudden popularity as a mode of transport. There are, however, much to be determined in terms of this vehicle being a safe mode of transport. Singapore, for example, has released guidelines for its use in its streets while there have been mixed reactions among American cities on how these vehicles should share spaces with other modes including walking and cycling. Here is a nice article about scooter safety that should point the way towards how we should go about in assessing safety:

Chang, A.Y.J. (2020) Demistifying e-scooter safety one step at a time, https://medium.com/@annieyjchang/demystifying-e-scooter-safety-one-step-at-a-time-956afcf12d75 [Last accessed: February 3, 2020]

As a parting shot in other cases, I have always asked: Would this have been an issue or a popular mode if we had good public transportation as well as decent pedestrian and cycling infrastructure? The answer could be a simple ‘no’ for our case in the Philippines where much is to be desired in terms of PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. But e-scooters seem to have attractive quite a few in developed cities including those with good PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. The jury is still out there if this was just a fad or perhaps, as some claim, part of the evolution for improved mobility.

Motorcycle taxis in Cebu

The recent controversies, and issues raised vs. motorcycle taxis (habal-habal) have captured the attention of a lot of people including those who don’t use this mode of transport. I will be writing about this and more of my opinion on motorcycle taxis in another article. For now, I am sharing these photos of habal-habal in Cebu.

Off-street motorcycle taxi terminal at SM City Consolacion

The terminal is located on the sidewalk at the corner of the SM lot. I assume it is tolerated by SM though it blocks the pedestrian way to the mall.

Another herbal-habal terminal near SM Consolacion but serving a different set of barangays from the previous terminal of habal-habal I mentioned.

   Fair matrix? Habal-habal minimum fares to specific destinations 

Motorcycle taxis are a popular mode of transport in many Philippine cities and are generally tolerated by local government units. I guess the treatment they get from LGUs show the role they play as a mode of public transport. It is unfortunate and disappointing that the TWG that’s supposedly evaluating motorcycle taxis in Metro Manila cannot give a favorable assessment when it is clear that these habal-habal provide people with another choice for their commutes.

Statement of the Philippine Competition Commission on Motorcycles as Public Transport

Here is the link to the press statement of the Philippine Competition Commission on Motorcycles as Public Transport:

I will just leave this here as it stands on its own with the details and discussions provided by the PCC. I will comment on this in another post but in essence I agree with the statement, which I think is a better document in terms of provisions and clarity compared to what the TWG has released so far.