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On the arguments vs. free transit

Here is a quick share of an article discussing about the idea of free public transport (no fare or minimal fares):

Grabar, H. (June 1, 2021) “The Problem with Free Transit,” Slate, [Last accessed: 6/16/2021]

Apparently, “better transit, not cheaper transit” should be the mantra for both providers (operators including government) and users (commuters). It is a very sensitive topic for regulatory bodies though since higher fares are generally unpopular to the commuting public. One transport official recently stated that fare setting is a political issue. I tend to agree with this but only because the riding public is currently still largely ignorant or unappreciative of the benefits of efficient public transportation. Perhaps this is also because we’ve really had no efficient public transportation such as the ones we see in other countries including Singapore and Hong Kong? In Singapore, for example, the road pricing policies have educated people about the true costs of transport and that convinces most to take public transportation over private cars.

On payment schemes for public transport services

Here is a nice article about paying for your fares:

Weinstein, Z. (2018) “Why do so many public transit agencies make it so difficult to… pay for public transit,”,¬† [Last accessed: 11/28/2018].

This is interesting for us as we are just starting to come up with more efficient and innovative ways for paying for public transport services. This is in the form of the Beep card that is now being used for rail transit services as well as for some buses and jeepneys (electric?). Still, we have a lot of catching up to do in the Philippines compared to, for example, Japan and Singapore where it’s possible to go cashless in paying for public transport. We don’t even have a pass (e.g., there’s a monthly, quarterly and even annual pass that Japanese railway companies sell to students and employees that gives them a substantial discount for travels between their home station and work or school station) for regular transit users. Hopefully, the use of Beep will expand and perhaps other modes of payment may be introduced for the convenience of public transport users.

Tricycle fares in Antipolo City

Tricycles in Antipolo City practically have no defined or restricted areas of operations. Unlike other cities, say Quezon City or Manila, tricycle operations in Antipolo is practically free ranging. You can get a tricycle in Mambugan and ride it directly to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Simbahan ng Antipolo); a distance of 8 to 10 kilometers depending on the route taken. As such, there has been a tendency for tricycle drivers to overcharge passengers even though fares were subject to negotiations and there have bee established average or usual fares for certain trips. Nevertheless, there have been and are still lots of complaints about tricycle fares in the city. This is evidenced from the queries posted on the city’s social media accounts.

This situation begs an important question on whether Antipolo City has official tricycle fare rates. The answer is yes, it does have official rates and this is stated under City Ordinance No. 2009-316. I assume that ‘2009’ here refers to the year the ordinance was signed into law by the City Council. Here’s a graphic from Antipolo City’s Facebook page showing official tariffs and warnings against negotiating fares as well as the maximum number of passengers a tricycle can carry.


Antipolo tricycle faresTricycle fares based on official tariffs under City Ordinance No. 2009-316

Those two other ordinances seem to be among the most abused by tricycle drivers and likely very difficult to enforce considering the ranges of tricycles. According to netizens, many tricycle drivers still tend to negotiate fares for long trips and tricycles carrying more than 4 passengers is a common sight in the city especially tricycles that are used as school service vehicles. I tend to wince myself whenever I see a tricycle overloaded with school children negotiating Ortigas Ave Extension or Sumulong Highway. These are unsafe and put a lot of young lives at risk.

Below is an example fare matrix for tricycles posted at the New Public Market along Sumulong Highway and across from the new Robinsons mall in the same area:

2015-11-02 11.02.35Illustrative fares to/from the New Antipolo Public Market

I think there should be similar information posted in other areas around Antipolo City. This is so that people will not be confused about the tricycle fares and so as to minimize the instances when tricycle drivers take advantage of passengers not familiar with trip distances and the fare rates.

The Antipolo City Government is working towards improving transport and traffic in this highly urbanized city. I think this should include regulating tricycle services so that the city could reduce their numbers along national roads like Marcos Highway, Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. Tricycles have become a nuisance in traffic and not just for motorists but for cyclists and pedestrians as well. They shouldn’t be traveling long distances and along rolling and mountainous terrains. They tend to be noisy and, perhaps most problematic, are smoke belchers. Hopefully, this can be addressed in the next years as the city continuous to grow and become more progressive. This only means that the city should strive towards a modern, efficient and people & environment-friendly transport system.

SuperCat trips from/to Cebu

I noticed a recent surge in interest in inter-island ferries as people continue to ask us about schedules and fares. Most of these were on past articles here about my trips to Mindoro using a typical RORO ferry (Batangas to Calapan) and a fast ferry (Calapan to Batangas). I have taken ferries along two other routes before (Iloilo-Bacolod and Cebu-Tagbilaran) and have written about the trip between Cebu and Tagbilaran quite a while ago. In a trip to Cebu last June, I remember picking up some brochures while going around and checking out hotels for a conference we are helping organize this September. Among the brochures were information on ferry services to and from Cebu.

IMG11954-20150710-1556Information on SuperCat fast ferry services between Cebu and Ormor (Leyte) or Tagbilaran (Bohol).

IMG11955-20150710-1556Regular RORO ferry trips between Cebu and many other destinations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao

Public transport fare hikes

Bus and jeepney groups often demand for an increase in the fares every time there is an increase in the prices of fuel. The latest one is mentioned in this article via Rappler, where a jeepney group is to hold a protest caravan as they seek a discount on diesel for all public utility vehicles. The reaction from readers is an overwhelming “Annoyed.” And rightly so because while these protests appear to be noble and are often linked by jeepney groups to petitions for fare hike increases (i.e., asking for fare increases if they cannot be given fuel or petroleum product discounts), closer scrutiny of operating costs will reveal flaws in their arguments for fare hikes and discounts. These same flaws also reveal why government agencies charged with public transport franchising and regulation (i.e., DOTC and LTFRB) should have the data and tools for a fair assessment of fares (pun intended).

Data from field surveys conducted quite recently (NCTS, 2012) show us that jeepneys typically average around 3 to 4 km/L on diesel fuel. This is a very low value that is comparable to the income from passengers for one trip over a distance of say 4 km. A fully-loaded jeepney with an average of 20 passengers (9 on each bench plus 2 beside the driver) operating a 4-km route will 160 pesos. However, there are limited reliable information or data on other costs such as maintenance costs and other items including “boundary” and “dispatching.” The boundary is basically a rental fee for the use of the vehicle while jeepney groups charge a fee for dispatching vehicles from the terminal or stop. In a day’s operation, such costs could easily accumulate into a significant total that would eat up a day’s income, usually leaving the driver with just enough to bring home to his family.

This brings us back to the argument against transport being treated as livelihood rather than a service. Many operators or owners of public utility vehicles, whether they have one or more units, tend to scrimp on the maintenance of their vehicles. Poor maintenance manifests in the form of smoke-belching and frequent breakdowns. While smoke-belching contributes to the deterioration of the environment and health costs, breakdowns often lead to road crashes (e.g., tires flying off, problems with brakes, etc.) like the recent bus crash in the Mountain Province where faulty breaks were blamed for the crash.

Jeepney groups often raise issues on the plight of small operators who are usually the drivers of the jeepneys themselves. Many of these people should not even be operating or driving jeepneys in the first place because safe and efficient service is not their priority. Service is second only to the desire to generate income, to earn a living, which makes them drive the way they currently do (i.e., recklessly) and improperly and haphazardly maintain their vehicles. There is seldom serious talk and little done to protect the interests of people who take public transport. These are the same people who are often shortchanged with the poor quality of public transport in our cities and have long suffered for this. Let us hope that the LTFRB will be guided as they decide on this matter of fares and furthermore for the agency to study the state of road public transport franchising in order to weed out people and groups who do not deserve to be operators. I believe there is more than enough data or evidence against such operators if the LTFRB truly wants to reform the system.

Pedicab fares

Tricycle and pedicab fares are set quite variably depending on the service areas and those regulating the services. In many cases, it is the pedicab association comprised of drivers-operators who set the fares, which are then supposed to be approved by local officials like those in the barangay or municipal/city hall. I say “supposed” here since most rates are not formally regulated in the manner like how the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) sets fares for buses, jeepneys and taxis. While the principles of “willingness to pay” is applied to some extent, pedicab and tricycle fares are usually imposed (to use a strong word) by tricycle and pedicab associations with very rough estimates of operating costs or, in the case of NMTs, the equivalent of physical effort, required to convey people.

In residential subdivisions or villages, associations may have a say in the fare rates. Where I live, the association sets the standard rates and these go to the extent of differentiating between day time and night time rates. There is even a rate for when streets are flooded! There is also a definition for regular and special trips and rates are according to the general distance traveled by pedicab. That is, fares to Phase 2 are generally higher than those for Phases 1 and 3 because Phase 2 streets are generally farther from the reference origin/destination, which is the village gate. Given the effort of pedicab drivers to transport passengers, I think the rates are just right. The only part there that seems unusual is the rate of PhP 1/minute for waiting time, which to me seems to high. Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop passengers from showing their appreciation for hard work in the form of tips. And there is no limit to the generosity of some passengers who choose to pay more to the (pedi)cabbie.

IMG06634-20130827-0853Tariff sheet displayed inside the sidecar of every pedicab of our village. The information is useful especially to guests or visitors who are not familiar with pedicab rates in the area.