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Some concerns about future rail ridership

Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue and Marcos Highway the past week, I both hopeful and worried about what happens after the Line 7 and Line 2 Extension finally becomes operational. Much has been said or reported about the potential of these two lines to change the way people commute; at least from the areas served by these two mass transit lines. However, how big an impact these would have in terms of actual reduction of private car use  remains to be seen.

Will there be significant decreases in the volume of motor vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue, Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard? Or will there be just the same traffic along these roads? The worry is based on the likelihood that those who would be taking Lines 2 and 7 would be people who are already taking public transportation and not those who have chosen to leave their cars (or motorcycles) at home.

Our students have been studying ridesharing and P2P bus operations the past few years and the conclusion has so far been a shift from one mode of public transport to what’s perceived as a better one. It’s somewhat a difficult thing to accept for advocates of public transport especially those behind TNVS, P2P buses and railways but it is what it is, and its important to accept such findings in order for us to understand what’s going on and come up with better ways to promote public transport and convince car users to use PT.

Traffic flows at the Masinag junction with the Line 2 Masinag Station and elevated tracks in the background

What is more intriguing is the proposed subway line for Metro Manila. The alignment is different from the ones identified in previous studies for the metropolis and from what I’ve gathered should have stations that serve a North-South corridor that should make for a more straightforward commute (i.e., less transfers) for those taking the subway.

Probable MM Subway alignment (from the internet)

It is another line that has a big potential as a game-changer for commuters but we won’t be able to know for sure until perhaps 5 or 6 years from now. What we know really is that there was a lost opportunity back in the 1970s when government should have pushed for its first subway line instead of opting for the LRT Line 1.

Incomplete rationalisation of public transport?

The current initiative to rationalise road public transport services is not as comprehensive as necessary or as some people want us to believe. The drive appears to be mainly on (some say against) jeepneys while little has been done on buses and UV Express vehicles. Most notable among the modes not covered by rationalisation are the tricycles.

A smoke-belching tricycle along Daang Bakal in Antipolo City

What really should be the role and place of tricycles in the scheme of themes in public transportation? Are they supposed to provide “last mile” services along with walking and pedicabs (non-motorised 3-wheelers)? Or are they supposed to be another mode competing with jeepneys, buses and vans over distances longer than what they are supposed to be covering? It seems that the convenient excuse for not dealing with them is that tricycles are supposed to be under local governments. That should not be the case and I believe national agencies such as the DOTr and LTFRB should assert their authority but (of course) in close cooperation with LGUs to include tricycles in the rationalisation activities. Only then can we have a more complete rationalisation of transport services for the benefit of everyone.

Local Public Transport Route Plan Manual – Philippines

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) recently shared the Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) Manual that was the product of the collaboration among government and the academe. While the date appearing on the cover is October 2017, this manual was actually completed in April 2017. [Click the image of the cover below for the link where you can download the manual.]

I don’t know exactly why the DOTr and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) were hesitant in releasing this manual. Perhaps they wanted to pilot test it first on a city? Yup, this manual has never been tested yet so we don’t really know whether it will work as a tool for planning public transportation.

With all the opposition to the government’s PUV Modernization Program, the DOTr and the LTFRB should be piloting the program first and show a proof of concept to dispel doubts about the program. The same essentially applies to this transport route plan manual. Only once these are piloted would we know first hand its flaws and allow us to revise or fine tune them. I would suggest that both the modernization program and the manual be piloted in cities that are perceived or claim to have strong local governance. Davao City comes to mind and perhaps Iloilo City. Can you think about other cities where the program and/or manual can be piloted?

On motorcycle taxis in Saigon and legalizing these in Metro Manila

Among the things I wanted to observe in Ho Chi Minh City were their motorcycle taxis. These are a popular mode of transport in Vietnam. They are so popular that ride sharing companies Uber and Grab have the motorcycle taxi as an option in their apps. They even have their own helmets for promotion and easy identification.

Uber moto is among the most popular options for the ride sharing app

Grab is also popular and the photo shows people wearing other helmets that may be about other companies facilitating motorcycle taxis

Uber has a motorcycle taxi option in its app in Vietnam. This is a screenshot I took as I loaded their promo code for our conference (Uber was a major sponsor.).

Grab moto rider browsing for his next passenger

Vietnam has shown that motorcycle taxis can be both popular while being regulated and relative safe (there are tens of thousands of motorcycles moving around their cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). Should the Philippines, particularly Metro Manila, also consider this at least while it is building more mass transit lines? Again, this is not for everyone and perhaps can help alleviate the worsening transport and traffic conditions in the metropolis. Of course, there are the expected implications if motorcycle taxis are legalized including a further surge in motorcycle sales and ownership and, more troubling, the likely increase in the number of crashes involving motorcycles (hopefully not the fatal ones). But then again, the reality is that there are already motorcycle taxis operating around Metro Manila with upstart Angkas operating against the wishes of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). It is more advantageous to recognize these and perhaps allow Grab and Uber to offer them as options. That way, LTFRB can formulate and issue the necessary rules and regulations covering these and be able to monitor as well as make companies providing them answerable to the public for concerns such as safety and fares.

Are ridesharing services paratransit modes?

Vuchic (Urban Transit Systems & Technology, 2007) defines paratransit as an “urban passenger transportation service mostly in vehicles operated on public streets and roads in mixed traffic; it is provided by private or public operators and it is available to certain groups of users or to the general public, but it is adaptable in its routing and scheduling to individual user’s desires in varying degrees.” 

Based on the definition and how paratransit modes have evolved over many years, then we could say that the current ridesharing or car sharing services like Uber and Grab are essentially paratransit modes. They definitely fit the definition as do conventional taxis.

On e-tricycles again

This is also another late post. I was driving in Tagaytay when I spotted these electric tricycles near the junction of Aguinaldo Highway and the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road. It was the first time for me to see these e-trike models that obviously got inspiration from the tuktuks of Thailand.

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Counterflowing, racing, or maneuvering just about anywhere their drivers seem fit mean these e-trikes are operated just like their more conventional relatives. While their deployment are supposed to ease air pollution attributed to the exhausts of conventional tricycles, these likely will not contribute to easing traffic congestion in Tagaytay. I wonder though if these e-trikes are replacing the conventional ones. Many LGUs seem to have embraced e-trikes but as additional units to the current ones comprised of legal and illegal (colorum) trikes. Too often, LGUs are too careful in phasing out the old tricycles fearing a social backlash that can affect votes whenever there are elections. And so they could not properly address public transport issues directly pertaining to tricycle operations leading to worsening transport and traffic conditions especially in the CBDs.

On motorcycle taxis becoming the “new king of the road” (cont.)

This is a continuation of the yesterday’s post on motorcycle taxis. The feature appearing in Sunstar Philippines also focuses on the case of Cebu City where there is a rising demand for motorcycles and issues on public transport have given rise to a motorcycle taxi use despite their being basically illegal under current laws/guidelines. Habal-habal as these motorized 2-wheeler taxis are known have been in service in many cities and municipalities but are mostly tolerated in rural areas where conventional public transport services are scarce.

Part II of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part II

There are three articles in Part II:

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Motorcycles on the rise, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from: http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ramirez, J.A.C. (2017) Habal-habal drivers form group to ‘professionalize’ services, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Hailing a motorcycle taxi with your smartphone, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

 

Part III of the feature by Sunstar:

New King of the Road – Part III

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Even with BRT, motorbikes still needed in Cebu City, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from www. sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

Ilano, M.V. (2017) Will Cebu City lead the way?, Sunstar Philippines, Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph, April 4.

I hope these articles on motorcycles and motorcycle taxis will generate meaningful discussions pertaining to their applications and perhaps their regulation. One issue, of course, that should definitely be on the table is safety. That is non-negotiable and assurances by motorcycle taxi transport providers should not be enough to persuade their becoming formalized as a public transport mode. The basis for mainstreaming these should be evidence-based including assessments based on crash (accident) data. Here is something that can be studied by the various schools around the country especially universities that have the capacities and capabilities to conduct such studies in aid of policy formulation at the national and local levels.