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On the continuing evolution of Uber and Lyft, and some thoughts on TNCs in the Philippines

Here’s a nice read about ridesharing/ridehailing/ridesourcing in the US:

Madrigal, A.C. (2018) “Will Uber and Lyft Become Different Things?”, medium.com, https://medium.com/the-atlantic/will-uber-and-lyft-become-different-things-2d0442472a15 [Last accessed: 6/13/2018].

It seems that companies like Uber and Lyft are evolving and that should benefit commuters. Meanwhile, the latest news on TNCs in the Philippines is on the issuance of a Department Order by the Department of Transportation (DOTr). The new Department Order (DO) effectively amends and supersedes an earlier DO issued in 2015 (DO No. 2015-011), wherein TNCs were allowed to set their own fares, subject only to oversight by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). This means more regulations for TNCs that might actually harm the new players more than the remaining big player – Grab.

Uber recently sold its Philippine operations to Grab in exchange for shares of Grab. One colleague quipped “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” And that seems to be the case here where Uber’s vulnerability was exposed when faced with a strong competitor together with a government bent on having a firm regulatory control of TNC operations. While I am for regulations in order to protect both the interests of commuters as well as the drivers-operators of TNCs, I believe too much regulations will weaken this mode while taxi services remain wanting (to use a kinder term). The DOTr and the LTFRB is again not addressing the root cause of a problem on taxi-type services and allowing generally poor services among taxi companies in Metro Manila to continue.

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.

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.

Some issues abroad on car sharing/ride sharing companies

There are two articles recently that are worth reading for those who are into ride-sharing/car-sharing. And I am not necessarily referring to those who regularly take Uber or Grab, or those who opt to use these whenever they need a taxi ride. There are many who are already studying these services being provided not by your traditional or conventional taxi companies or rental vehicle companies but by supposedly private individuals who supposedly have the spare time and spare vehicle that they can use to provide transport for other people. I use the word “supposedly” here because this is a big assumption and the premise by which transport network companies like Uber, Grab and Lyft have been able to go around the bureaucratic processes that taxi and other companies have to go through as formal public transport (i.e., public utility vehicles). These articles are along the lines of the discussions in previous articles I have posted here about ride-sharing/car-sharing, and are mostly based on the experiences in countries who have more developed and presumably better transport than us in the Philippines.

Denton, J. (2017) Two Federal Lawsuits Could Spell Big Trouble for Uber, Pacific Standard, http://www.psmag.com, April 10, 2017.

McGraw, D.J. (2016) How Lyft and Uber are Ignoring the Poor, Pacific Standard, http://www.psmag.com, May 12, 2016.

 

I leave it up to my readers (any researchers out there?) to pick-up the main points and perhaps look at the issues from different perspectives. I have pointed out before that the situation in Metro Manila could be very different from the situations in other major cities like Cebu, Davao and Iloilo. And so transport network companies may not necessarily succeed in cities where taxi services, for example, are significantly better than what we have in Metro Manila.

Grab at NAIA Terminal 2

Here is another useful post for travelers especially during this Holy Week and the summer holiday season in the Philippines. Many people usually look for a ride heading out from the airport. Not everyone would have someone to fetch them. There are several options now for those wanting to take public transport. Aside from the conventional taxis, there are also airport taxis, vans and the more recent airport bus service provided by UBE Express. Ridesharing or car sharing services are also available and the most visible will be Grab with options for either car or taxi available via you own app or through their booths located at the NAIA airport terminals. There should be a Grab booth located at the arrival areas of NAIA’s terminals. They also have a booth at the Mactan Cebu International Airport terminal.

You can easily spot the Grab booth and pick-up area as you exit the terminal’s arrival lounge.

You can book a ride with the grab staff at the booth if you don’t have a smart phone and the Grab app. You can also just call for a car or taxi using the app. This is the pick-up point for Grab Cars. Grab Taxis would have to use the driveways for taxis parallel and just to the left of this driveway.

Grab has become a game changer for taxis out of the airport. In fact, my own father found them to be a convenient and safe option for a recent trip from Terminal 2 to our home in Cainta. He didn’t have to negotiate fares and he paid a very reasonable fare while enjoying his ride on a recent model car.

The other TNCs – Wunder and Angkas

The Land Transportation Franchising & Regulatory Board (LTFRB) recently issued a couple of press releases pertaining to two Transport Network Companies (TNCs). The issuances were for Wunder and Angkas to cease operations. Copies of the press releases were posted at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Facebook page and are reproduced here:

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Prior to these press releases, both Angkas and Wunder have been aggressively promoting themselves in social media. Wunder is the more established entity and is actually based in Germany. Its operations are basically carpooling and match drivers with passengers traveling about the same time and along their likely routes between homes and workplaces/schools.

Angkas appears to be a locally developed app. The big difference here though is that it is for motorcycle taxi services. While it is clear that tricycles (3-wheelers = usually a motorcycle plus a sidecar) used as public transportation are under the jurisdiction of local government units, their operations are governed by national laws. These include tricycles supposedly being banned from operating along national highways. Motorcycle taxis are regulated along the same lines with LGUs having the responsibilities over their operations (refer to my previous posts on habal-habal and Skylab) and are generally tolerated in rural areas where there is a lack of motorized transport services available. As far as the national government is concerned though, motorcycle taxis are prohibited and this is due primarily to safety concerns.

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I don’t know where Angkas gets the “professional motor taxi” tag since it is most likely that riders offering their services are not at all trained or experienced to provide public transport services and on a 2-wheeled vehicles. Such operations are risky especially to passengers. Even in countries like Thailand and Vietnam where motorcycle taxis are generally legal, it is established that such transport modes are unsafe with motorcycles being involved in more crashes compared to other vehicles. Motorcycles also have a higher fatality rate compared to other vehicles.

I think Wunder is different and could actually be closer to the classic (or conventional) carpooling idea compared to ridesharing/carsharing leaders Grab and Uber. Wunder clearly states that its aim is to maximize the available seats for the two likely trips people make with their vehicles. These two trips are usually one in the morning (i.e., to the workplace or to school) and another in the afternoon or evening (i.e., to home). As such, the income derived from Wunder is limited to the 2 trips although a driver can maximize income by accepting multiple passengers. In contrast, many (not all) Uber and Grab drivers in the Philippines operate practically the whole day and are basically taxis. I would recommend that the LTFRB look into the operations and business model of Wunder and perhaps reconsider their decision against it.

Grab vs Uber: the ridesharing services battle for supremacy?

I have made it a custom to share articles here on my blog. One reason for me to do this is so I have an archive of sorts for articles that caught my attention that I have either read or not that I want to get back to. Here is another article on ridesharing, this time from a popular magazine:

Grab vs Uber: Who’s getting the riders and making money?

This is relevant material for ongoing studies we are doing about ridesharing. I am also writing a couple of papers on this topic that we intend to present and publish next year.